Hospital PDC: Your Cinnamon Challenge?

Posted on May 7, 2013


The Cinnamon Challenge.  If you have not heard of it, plug into pop culture for five minutes and hit YouTube.  It is the modern-day version of A Christmas Story’s tongue-meets-freezing-flag-pole double-dog dare.  Why is this relevant to hospital planning, design and construction (PDC)?

Last week, the Advisory Board noted doctors have issued a message on the Cinnamon Challenge, via a white paper in the peer-reviewed medical journal, Pediatrics.  The verdict:  don’t do it.  Surprising?  Not in the least bit.  Based on the health risks, this kind of dare cannot be condoned by anyone.

But this is common sense.  What is noteworthy about this condemnation?  It took 18 months too long to get the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to take a formal stance on this teen stunt.

The Cinnamon Challenge has been around about two years.  The white paper acknowledged hospital EDs were seeing admissions from this stunt in 2011.   It’s 2013.  If you see a health trend emerging in 2011—particularly a negative one that involves youth and ED visits—and your business is youth health, it is time to caucus, comprehend and take a position—in 2011.  Two years later…why bother?  Kids have already experimented, parents have educated themselves, made up their own minds without you.

I believe most hospital planning, design and construction (PDC) strategies mirror the AAP’s Cinnamon Challenge effort:  not reacting quickly enough to a chancy risk.

The risk?  The landscape of healthcare, and what is relevant to a hospital on a planning and design level, is changing quickly—not monthly, but I wouldn’t take six months off.  And I’m not talking about PPACA mandates.

The issue at hand?  Most hospitals are still debating RFP execution and project delivery methods, when the rest of the market has moved on to operations maximization through data—for a single department, hospital, and on a multi-facility, system-wide spectrum.  The trickle-down from those important discussions means a renovation here, or new clinic over there.  Hospitals are talking about simulation and Lean principles.  How the project is delivered—DBB, CM, DB, IPD—or who is doing it—what 80% of PDC project chatter is centered on—is irrelevant.  “Scoop of chocolate, scoop of vanilla—don’t waste my time.”  (City Slickers reference, kids).

In this time of viral messages, social media, and under-the-radar teen contests, organizations must be prepared to understand, discuss and announce.  The hospitals you compete against are moving quickly.  Lead, or be quiet and learn something.

When an organization is too late to the party, they risk being seen as slow to react, out of touch, and therefore, irrelevant.  After-the-fact ‘me, three’ attention might only bring ridicule.

Regardless of your industry, the Cinnamon Challenge is an important lesson:  find reliable information to stay abreast of trends, and be prepared to provide leadership in action.

Healthcare PDC is not a serial on HBO; you don’t need to see every episode in order.  Throw away those last nine months of your favorite trade publication; they’re in the past, old.  If you missed the smart phone revolution, don’t buy an iPhone 4 from 2011 for 99 cents—wait two months for the latest-and-greatest of today.

At some point, if you have not brought yourself up to speed on the topics of last couple years, abandon them.  Move on to the pertinent discussions of tomorrow.  Have an opinion on what hospitals will be building next year, next month.  Be relevant by staying current.