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Five ways to start fixing the health care industry

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I must start this post by telling you I am a Fairview employee and these remarks and comments in no way reflect the thoughts, opinions and policies of Fairview Health Systems, Inc. I should also tell you that my doc is part of the Allina Health System.

I think the health care system is broken. There, I said it. Obviously, I’m not alone. I say this because I had a health care “experience” earlier this week (physical). For the most part it went OK. I like my doc–he’s thoughtful, professional and takes extra time to make sure I understand the advice he’s giving. But, around that visit, were problems. Lack of organization. And poor customer service.

I’m not one to complain and not offer solutions, so here goes. Five ways we can start to fix the health care system:

1–Get rid of the gowns. Please. How can I feel comfortable in my clinic or hospital when my backside is hanging out of a gown? I know they give you robes in the hospital, but we just need to get rid of the gowns altogether. It carries a negative stigma and would be an easy fix. Why not give out nicer, warmer robes? Make it an advantage and an extra comfort instead of a negative takeaway for patients.

2–Make it easier to navigate hospitals and clinics. It’s getting borderline ridiculous with all the additions clinics and hospitals are making these days. Like navigating a maze. Over at United, I need a tour guide to get around the place. Admittedly, I am a little directionally challenged, but it shouldn’t be this hard. Why can’t each hospital have a customer service counter the minute you enter–from any entrance. Most hospitals have some form of this (Fairview and United do, but not from every entrance), but others do not. I shouldn’t have to spend 20 minutes searching for my clinic or provider.

3–Improve customer service. The health care industry could learn a thing or two from restaurants and retailers. Just simple customer service lessons, for example. Why not give patients pagers while they wait so they can walk around the clinic/hospital instead of being stuck in the waiting room (again, Abbott does do this in their cardiology department–great idea)? Why not incorporate customer service training into medical and nursing programs? After all, isn’t half the experience the degree to which you relate to the physician or nurse you’re dealing with? My wife and I have had numerous negative experiences with health care professionals–and it wasn’t because they didn’t know their health care xs and os. It was because of poor customer service and poor communication.

4–Make the insurance/cost side less complicated and more transparent. We’re getting there–just not fast enough. With HSAs becoming more popular every day, consumers need this information to make informed decisions. Now. As consumers, we don’t care how it happens, we just need it to happen. Why can’t providers and insurance companies get together and figure this out ? For example, I go in to see my doc for a chest pain issue. She recommends I head down to the cardio department to get a stress test. OK, how much does that cost? I have an HSA–this is coming out of my pocket. Are their other alternatives? How much do they cost? Do I really need to take this test? This is the kind of scenario that’s playing out across America. I know the information’s out there–it’s just hard to find. We need to make it easier for the consumer.

5–Make provider information more accessible. I’m not talking about their specialties or where they went to school, although that it helpful. I’m talking about how Joe in Minneapolis rated Dr. Matthew during his last visit. I’m talking about how many colon surgeries Dr. Hanson does in a given year and out of those, how many involve adverse health events? This is the information consumers want and expect in today’s world. More so than almost any other industry, health care operates on word of mouth. So, we know this information is out there–it just needs to be easier to get to. Some organizations are already heading down this road–healthcarescoop.com and carol.com. Again, we need to get their faster.

This is just a start. What are your thoughts and ideas?

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Five ways to start fixing the health care industry

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