October 6, 2010

How is healthcare like pizza?

I stumbled onto this (I think I clicked an ad on accident), but found it pretty interesting:

The very first line is what hooked me:

Even my pizza place stores my information digitally, so why do I have to fill out the same medical forms over and over?

The numbers on everyone are little freaky, but the idea is worthwhile considering.  Think about why the pizza place stores your information?  One of my first jobs during high school days was at Papa John's Pizza.  At one time I won the fastest dough slapping contest in the state Utah - there was only one store in Utah at the time, but I digress.  We opened the first Papa Johns in the state of Utah, so when we first opened taking orders over the phone usually meant taking the time to get all the information from customers: name, address, phone number, etc.  Order taking was a slow process and it required lots of people on the phone and queues built up fairly quickly.  Often the bottleneck was the order taking process and not the pizza making, the dough slapper and pizza assembly workers would often look over the shoulders of the order takers and get a head start on making the pizza.  After several months - maybe even a year - the store had developed a healthy database of most of regular customers that called in and ordered.  Order takers just had to confirm customer's information and could even ask if they wanted the same thing they ordered last time.  Now the bottleneck shifted to pizza making and delivery - the actual value added parts of the service.  We needed less people to handle phones and customers got their food faster.

So how does this apply in a health care system?  Apart from no longer annoying  customers with endless forms to fill out,  a data driven approach to patient health records certainly will have the same effect, mainly that a bottleneck and resource hog that used to be the check-in process can be shifted to a more value-added process like, I don't know, actual health care.  Additionally,  doctors should be able to review quickly the history of patients without having to rely on the patients memory.

Poke around on United Healthcare's new Numbers site and tell me what you think.

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