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Are Cell Phones Causing Process Delays?

It’s the beginning of a new year.  OK so we are almost two months into the year.  Being the start of the new year, it means checkup time for me.  Dental checkup, physical and any other routine checks to be sure I am still healthy…preventive maintenance for the body if you will.

Needless to say, I have been spending a lot of time in waiting rooms at the doctors’ offices.  Usually, the first thing I do is get out my smartphone and start reading updates from blogs or checking email.  Then at my last doctor’s appointment I noticed a receptionist.  She looked in the direction of a person who was on their smartphone playing a game or reading.  I’m not sure.  She started to say something then stopped.  Saw the other receptionist wasn’t busy and started talking to her.  After 3 or 4 minutes she called the person that was on the smartphone over for some questions.

That got me thinking about delays.  Before smartphones, a person was lucky to have a magazine in a waiting area to read or even a TV with looping with the same news over and over again.  People found this to be a painful way to be spending their time.  Time that could have been used running errands or doing something enjoyable.  Now people have a way to stay connected and do things that pass the time in a way each individual finds enjoyable.  Whether it be reading a blog, playing Angry Birds, or even watching a video on our smartphones.

Because of this, are people becoming blind to delays and the amount of time they sit and wait?   Do service providers take extra time or delay because they know people are preoccupied with their smartphones?

I like to think not, but after what I saw at the doctor’s office maybe in some cases it is.  Maybe a mechanic takes a little extra time in returning the keys after the repair because a person is preoccupied?  Maybe the DMV is even slower in their responses knowing people are looking at smartphones?

It may only be a few minutes here and a few minutes there but I know I have witnessed it at least once.  Plus, on several occasions I can recall getting lost in my smartphone and before I knew it 40 minutes or so has passed.  When I realize it I have gone up to ask what is going on and within a minute or two I am taken care of.  Why wasn’t I taken care of earlier?  I know my timing isn’t always that good.

The delay may not be a conscious decision but I believe it is happening.  Would you consider this a waste of your time?  Or is the smartphone helping you to multitask so you are doing work in parallel?  What do you think?

One Reason Our Healthcare Costs Are Increasing

One industry that lean is starting to penetrate is the health care industry.  After experiencing a story of a relative last week, it made me sick to hear how insurance companies don’t help the situation of increasing cost.

The person is on a medication that is extremely hard to get approved for by the insurance companies.  Approval from the insurance companies is a must because most people can’t afford the medication without it.

A few years back the person was approved for the medication after a 4 month process.  When they started the medication the expectation was they would be on it for at least 15 years or so.  It basically is part of their life at that point.

Fast forward to present day.  The person has responded incredibly well to the medication.  In fact, they responded so well, there is thought that the person may not have to take it anymore, but the doctors can’t take the patient off of the medication because if they do and the patient does need the medication the doctors will not be able to get the patient approved a second time.  At least it has never happened yet.

Because of the pain and inflexibility of the insurance companies, the patient and the doctors are in a tight spot.  Do they keep the patient on the medication even though they may not need it or do they go a few months without the medication but still filling the prescriptions and holding on to the medication so the patient doesn’t loss eligibility?

Either way, it is money out of the patient’s pocket that could be saved.  Plus, additional cost to the insurance company of a VERY expensive medication.  In either of these cases, more costs will be added causing insurance premiums, medications, the whole health care system to increase.

This just isn’t right.  The system has made it nearly impossible to do the right thing and extremely easy to do the wrong thing.  As a country, we have a long way to go to fix some deep rooted issues with our health care system, which I believe is still one of the best in the world.

Collaboration Paradigm

I am a big fan of Fox’s TV show HOUSE.  As I was watching, I couldn’t help but think the medical team was participating in a kaizen event.  The concept that struck me was watching the doctors collaborate in the diagnosis of a patient and how this is just like breaking down the functional silos in a business environment.

Reaching across functional silos and collaborating has become more prevalent in today’s manufacturing world.  Manufacturing must collaborate with procurement and transportation in order to create a better total cost system that delivers value to the customer.  It has not been easy and it has not been the norm in the past, but there is still an abundance of examples to point to showing the benefits.

Why don’t more doctors work in collaborative teams?  The team on House all have different backgrounds and specialties.  This gives them all different perspectives on the situation (like transportation, procurement, and manufacturing) with one common goal…… the patient (deliver a quality product to the customer when they want it).  At some point, if you put different doctors in one room and have them discuss the issue with you, it would seem that you would get to a true root cause quicker and I would suspect the cost would be lower instead of doctors working in their specialty silos.

Have you ever gone to the doctor when something is wrong and they sent you to a different doctor that is a specialist?  Then Specialist A runs all his test and claims nothing is wrong, so he sends you to Specialist B.  Specialist B runs his test and says your are fine and this goes on for what seems like an eternity.  Finally some doctor tries something and it maybe it works and maybe it doesn’t.  Is it just helping the symptom or is it the root cause?

Having doctors work in collaborative teams would seem to have the patients best interest in mind and create a stronger health care system.  I know we wouldn’t want to set up the  health care system to do this for every problem.  We could develop standardized work that would state when to call together a team of doctors and when to have doctors work individually.

We have torn down a part of the collaboration wall in manufacturing.  Can we start to tear down that wall with doctors?