One of the beauties of e-sourcing is that it is so efficient and time-saving, especially when it's combined with effective supplier management. So much data is only collected once, through a web browser, disseminated between multiple users, stored, and is available for validation, use and reuse. It can be so elegant when it's done right. Quick too -- users can typically zip right through the process, expending time and effort to provide only the data points that are relevant to them.
Switching to the world of healthcare, we walk straight into the opposite scenario. Reams and reams of forms to wade through, repetitive data entry, and poorly documented need for the information requested. Nothing is entered online, everything is collected via paper forms. I shudder at the thought of the resources needed to rekey or otherwise organize the handwritten information.
Thankfully I'm not often confronted with the healthcare sector. It wouldn't be good for my blood pressure. But when I recently wound up with severe back pain, I just had to visit the local orthopedic clinic. Dealing with the healthcare bureaucracy gives one an idea where the word "crazy" must come from.
Here's a quick recap: before setting up an appointment, despite stating that I'm willing to pay in advance, the clinic still "had" to prequalify me. So, after wading through various pre-validation questions over the phone, I managed to arrange an appointment. Mind you, I was asked to be there 30 minutes prior to the stated time to deal with more paperwork. Naturally, despite arriving early, and after filling out a dozen documents, I still had to wait another 45 minutes for the doctor. What a waste! If we think that healthcare costs are too high, imagine the aggregated value of the time wasted before medical professionals even get involved.
No wonder my father-in-law, a surgeon, told my wife and her brothers at an early age to stay away from the medical field. When he retired, he went to Southeast Asia (places like Cambodia and Mongolia) and volunteered as a doctor. The first postcard home said: "It's great here -- no paperwork!"
Far be it for me to tell the doc what's up once the patient is being examined -- but it is clear that the machine surrounding the doctors has to adopt modern technologies if we are to receive any actual care for all the resources spent. Here are a few pieces of fruit that are touching ground:
ID integration – since social security numbers are validated by the IRS, and in turn used by health care providers, as well as DMV and other ID-issuing government agencies, identities should be managed by scanning a driver's license, passport, or other validated form of documentation.
Technology – if I can file my tax return electronically and manage my banking activities and investments securely online, healthcare providers should be able to adopt some level of front-office technology – save the trees!
Billing – to avoid the seemingly never-ending passing the buck around game between insurance companies, the billing department at healthcare providers and us unwitting participants having to call and mail documents to all parties involved, repeatedly, to address billing and reimbursement "discrepancies." Can we please get modern requisition to purchase order with three-way matching thinking built into the process – and handled electronically of course!
CRM – customer relationship management. If you can send out an inane "customer satisfaction survey" you can set up a proper two-way CRM solution where our allergies, medical details, food preferences, significant others, phone numbers and so on and so forth can be securely managed. Again, save trees, and send fewer files to Iron Mountain!
It's not rocket science. And if there are government regulations that somehow make it impossible to implement any of the above steps, then those regulations need to be modified – ASAP.