As anyone in sales, or consulting, or technology, or materials management, or vendor hardware, or you name it will tell you, the healthcare industry has a ridiculously long sales cycle. It takes months and even years to get approval on even the most basic goods and services. Bedpans, paint colors, implants, EMRs, servers, everything! Why? Because everything (and I really mean everything) is decision by committee. Good for fostering relationships, getting everyone’s buy-in, and singing “Kumbaya”….Bad for business.
Recent headlines and national debates have centered on the “rising costs of healthcare” as the Baby Boomers start and continue to retire in record-breaking numbers. Yes there are ways to cut costs in almost every facet of healthcare. Why not start with the continuously rising cost of making decisions? The average American will never hear about this cost because they are not exposed to the inner-workings of the healthcare industry. But ask anyone who actually works in healthcare, and they’ll be the first to admit that it simply takes way too long to make decisions, at every level in the organization. Everyone in the industry is a culprit – IT, doctors, researchers, nurses, administration, finance, and of course let’s not forget procurement. Talk about the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing. If I had a nickel for every time a business or IT executive told me to avoid procurement at all costs, well I’d be broke because I would’ve invested it in the stock market, but that’s another story. I would estimate that the time it takes, on average, to get signature on contracts in healthcare adds anywhere from 10% to 40% of an additional cost to the actual project. This is not chump change; this is hundreds of thousands of dollars!
So, why does this inefficient, ineffective process persist? Well for some it’s simply job security, but for the industry as a whole, I’m not sure. Why is it that healthcare provider’s pay executives, top managers, and other leaders tons of money only to limit their ability to lead? It is not difficult to identify the most qualified person in the room. Let him or her make the decision. Yes, supporting details are needed and blah blah blah…my point is this – it should not take 4 monthly steering committee meetings, 12 operational committee meetings, hundreds of back and forth emails and spreadsheets, and a few executive or board presentations sprinkled in to determine what should’ve been obvious within the first few days (maybe weeks depending on the complexity of the decision). If you can’t make a decision, find someone that will. And then stop asking for more time, more “phone calls to discuss”, or a delayed start date. Why? – because it’s wasting your money and my time.