Healthcare’s Conundrum: (IN)Decision by Committee – Good at Making Friends, NOT at Making Progress

I should start by mentioning the fact that I clearly hit a nerve on my last blog post about the huge cost “Decision by Committee” adds to the healthcare system. People agree with me, yet are hesitant about being as straightforward as I was….so be it.

Having said that, I should be straightforward about my next point – “decision by committee” impedes progress. If you know Moore’s law, or have seen the new Best Buy commercial about the “outdated world” (which I must admit is funny) you know that technology advances very quickly. Not just in retail or gaming and entertainment, but in almost every industry. Therefore, healthcare executives are inherently doing themselves a disservice by delaying their technology upgrade and new purchasing decisions. This problem isn’t restricted to just hardware and software either, but integration technology (SQL Server), business rules engines, data warehousing, knowledge management sites (SharePoint), patient relationship management applications (Microsoft CRM), patient portals, etc. By the time an organization identifies the need for new technology they have a short window to capitalize on the benefits without sacrificing some of the downsides of waiting to implement. Whether the driver is to achieve a competitive advantage, meet the demands of an evolving market place, comply with regulations, or satisfy individual stakeholders, they all would benefit from a faster implementation schedule. So why does everything take so long?

Everyone knows time is money. The problem is no one is cognizant of the opportunity cost associated with delayed and prolonged decision making. They think the money clock starts ticking once the project starts. What an outdated way of managing! The clock starts ticking as soon as you’re organization has agreed that the need exists and you need to find someone or something to meet it! This isn’t rocket science people.

“Progress” in the context of this blog is when healthcare finally starts to achieve the efficiencies from utilizing IT that retail, banking, and even life sciences did 20 years ago. The main point we should all agree on: “healthcare should be run like a business” and the last two blogs I’ve written speak directly to this. If for some reason you think this is a bad idea because “it takes away from the focus on the patient” then stop reading because I know you don’t work in healthcare or understand where the inefficiencies in the system lie and we shouldn’t be talking anyway.

Unfortunately, efficient and appropriate decision making is an important organizational component that is not characteristic of large committees in healthcare organizations.  There is typically a concern that too much risk may be made that could compromise patient care or safety.  However the opportunity lost with indecision may be as much or more costly.

4 thoughts on “Healthcare’s Conundrum: (IN)Decision by Committee – Good at Making Friends, NOT at Making Progress

  1. Pingback: 5 Large Committees Blogs | Tweet Gazette

    • I understand that the risk to patient care must always be considered, but I would argue that most of the time it is. The problem is not whether it’s considered, rather who has the title, experience, and fortitude to make the decision to move forward given the risk with an appropriate plan. If healthcare will always be a decision by committee structure, why are executives paid big dollars if they aren’t responsible for any decisions? Are they simply trying to cover their tracks? Scared of challenging the conservative mindset of most clinical leaders? What? I’d love to hear more about your experiences…

      • Thanks for your comment. There are a few problems I think permeate this discussion. The first being the unsaid “power of the physicians” – very few organizations have the type of leadership required to push back on physicians. Most of the time, it’s because senior leaders don’t have the data/evidence to counter any of the physician claims.
        Second would be the idea that “running healthcare like a business is risky or counter to the traditions of medicine”. The current state of the industry needs an injection of pure business principles like data element/documentation level accountability, justifying higher costs (of say one surgeon’s preference for a joint implant that is 2x the cost of his colleagues in the same organization), and higher levels of staff productivity.

  2. Pingback: Why EMR’s Are Not Panacea’s for Healthcare’s Data Problems | Edgewater Technology Weblog

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