Last week I spent the morning in Chicago at the Blue National Summit of the national Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. This conference was unlike any previous conference that Blue Cross Blue Shield had put together. In the past, each separate entity of the Blues- the account people, the marketing people, the information technology people- would have their own separate conference. This year, however, the Blues decided to mix it up. They decided to bring everyone together- 1,100 executives from varying backgrounds all under one roof for a three day conference.

A few months earlier I had been asked to be one of the conference’s keynote speakers. I was hesitant to accept. This was not my usual hospital group of doctors, nurses, CEOs. How could I make a difference in the way health insurance executives think about patient safety?
In my efforts to answer that question, I simplified it, as I sometimes have to do in order to understand something. I began to see more clearly that these Blue Cross Blue Shield executives were just a group of people who wanted to help their clients- people like me and 100 million other people: they help pay our bills when we are in the hospital; they don’t want us to receive a hospital-acquired infection; and they don’t want us to be put into harm’s way by medical errors, because these things lead to longer hospital stays or even death.
These executives don’t want any of this to happen to their clients because it will cost them more money AND because they are good people. They want their clients to receive quality care, which is what we deserve and what they are paying for- nothing less.
BCBS is a big, powerful company. If I could somehow inspire them to put added pressure on the hospitals to prevent central line bloodstream infections or other medical errors that kill 98,000 Americans annually, then my job and that of the Josie King Foundation could possibly be made easier. They could come at this patient safety work from a different angle.
I decided I would miss Jack’s soccer game and Eva’s hockey game and I flew to Chicago. Usually when I am asked to address an audience I choose to stand behind the podium because it gives me a little sense of security. But this time I stepped away from the podium and moved closer to the edge of the stage, closer to the audience. I had only one chance, forty minutes to make a difference. I shared Josie’s story and I asked the audience for their help. I flew home after the conference hoping that Josie’s story had moved them.
That afternoon, the Josie King Foundation began to receive emails from people who were in the audience. They told us that they would remember Josie’s story, and that they planned on using the story along with some Josie King Foundation programs to transform their work. That was all I needed to hear. I knew that the trip had been worth it. There would be many other soccer games, but not many opportunities like the one I had been given in Chicago.
Thank you to all of the wonderful BCBS executives who gave me forty minutes of their time last week. Thank you for letting Josie’s story into your hearts. Thank you most of all for taking that story and letting it be more than just inspiration. Thank you for your work in encouraging hospitals to provide us with safe care. Please keep up the good work and know that the Josie King Foundation is counting on you.