In the wake of Ted Kennedy’s death, it seems appropriate to discuss health care reform. But rather than debating the merits of universal coverage or single-payer options, I want to point to a more fundamental problem: Inefficient hospitals.
There’s an excellent article in today’s Boston Globe called No Waiting that examines research and consulting work by Eugene Litvak, a professor at Boston University. Here’s an excerpt from the article:
If hospital executives concentrated on moving patients smoothly through the hospital the way that the local Applebee’s restaurant moves diners, he [Litvak] believes, they could make hospitals better places to work, safer environments for patients, and cheaper to operate.
Litvak applied some of his operational principles to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital which estimates that these and other streamlining measures…
will allow the hospital to generate an additional $137 million in revenue this year from treating more children with the same levels of staffing in surgery and other departments.
My take: I completely agree with Litvak. The lack of focus on the operational flow through hospitals causes delays, requires rework, and introduces quality risks. This is very similar to the quality problems that the US auto industry faced in the 1980s. The auto industry learned that a focus on operational efficiency (and effectiveness) can improve quality AND cut costs. Take a look at a few of my previous posts:
- My Manifesto: Great Customer Experience Is Free
- Health Care Needs More Empathy
- Great Lessons From Aravind Eye Care
No matter what payment options the country adopts, healthcare will always be far more expensive than it needs to be unless hospital systems go through an operational makeover. While politicians continue to fight over health care coverage, let’s honor Ted Kennedy’s memory by collectively demanding better, more affordable treatment from hospitals. Who can argue with that?!
The bottom line: Hospitals can (and must) deliver better, lower-cost care