Healthcare Division of Motion

Innovation where it’s needed most

Remedy president, Carol McCarthy, talks with Crain’s Chicago Business about her thoughts on research, and, our largest pro bono initiative to date: tackling infant mortality in Chicago.

Health care’s diagnostician
By: Lisa Bertagnoli
February 18, 2013

Carol McCarthy is no longer a fan of paper questionnaires hospitals mail patients weeks or even months after they’ve been discharged. She’d rather get their feedback on video while they’re still in the hospital, maybe even in bed wearing a hospital gown.

Playing these no-time-to-think-about-it comments to hospital administrators is one way Ms. McCarthy, president and founder of Remedy, a health care brand-strategy firm, helps clients assess the health of their organizations and thus improve patient care.

Her approach worked for Sparrow Health System, a 57-facility nonprofit chain based in Lansing, Michigan. Eighteen months ago, CEO Dennis Swan watched a video interview Ms. McCarthy conducted with a Sparrow patient. The patient raved about the care he received at a satellite facility but was dismayed at the mound of paperwork waiting for him when he moved to a Sparrow hospital. “It felt like starting over,” the patient griped.

On Dec. 1, Sparrow launched an electronic medical records system—it cost “in the tens of millions,” Mr. Swan says—to enable record-sharing among its facilities, eliminating the need for patients to start over each time they enter a Sparrow facility. Ms. McCarthy’s research underscored the need for the investment. “With her you get the facts, unvarnished,” he says.

Ms. McCarthy, 60, went into consulting in 1980, after earning a master’s degree in nursing from Rush University. A decade later, she went into business on her own. Despite her experience and education—she also has an MBA from Loyola University Chicago’s Quinlan School of Business—Ms. McCarthy was unable to get a business loan or sign an office lease on her own. Her father, an entrepreneur, gave her a startup loan and signed and guaranteed a lease.

She landed her first client, Edward Hospital in Naperville, two months after setting up shop.The firm now has 18 employees and 10 active clients nationwide, including Chicago-based Presence Health.

This year, Ms. McCarthy will take on a pro bono project: lowering the infant mortality rate in Chicago. At 8.1 per 1,000 live births, it is among the highest in big cities in the country. The rate is 4.9 in both Los Angeles and New York; Washington D.C. is worst, at 11.97.

Almost one-quarter of infant deaths in Chicago are sleep-related, and the problem, Ms. McCarthy says bluntly, is huge among poor, black families whose homes have no place for an infant to sleep. “This is wrong,” Ms. McCarthy says. “You have African-American babies dying because they don’t have cribs.”

So far, she’s enlisted the Sinai Urban Health Institute at Mount Sinai Hospital in Lawndale, an area plagued by infant deaths; Illinois SIDS, a nonprofit; and Quinlan in the three-year project. Among the goals: finding funds to buy cribs for new parents in high-risk areas and getting high-risk pregnant women to visit doctors more frequently and thus improve prenatal health, which will result in fewer premature births.