Besides turkey and thanks, this year we anticipate a big football weekend. Pardon, please, a sports analogy even though they are against corporate policy.
A beautiful part of football is punt, pass and kick. As integral as they are to winning in football, they are a big part of losing in healthcare.
A punt is described as the most expeditious way to dispose of the football. Performed when failure is imminent such as the fourth down and 8 yards to go, it relieves the offensive team of its responsibility. After the football is sent far away (the record is 101 yards) and after four or five seconds in the air, the responsibility for the control of the ball is transferred to the defense.
A punt in healthcare is the same. The patient, unfortunately, becomes the football. The patient is quickly turfed to someone else, often faster than the hang time of oblong football. All that is needed is: "Call Plastics." Malpractice is side-stepped, the office is cleared, the throughput is hastened. The patient, similarly, can get the some same bad bounces. If not lost out of bounds, the patient may be left on the field, with no one to pick her up -- in other words, a dead ball. Sometimes this is literally true.
The pass, while having a different strategy on the field, is as equally effective as the punt. Said simply: "I'm not comfortable with this." A pass to no one. That declaration is hard to argue with, but how does it help the patient? It is slightly more passive than the punt, but still abandons the patient equally well. The patient's hands are stretched out hoping to catch some help. The pass is predestined to be incomplete.
The kick is being seen more and more. In football the kick starts the game and follows a touchdown. In healthcare, as the provider punts and passes more, and has too much regulation and work, he elects, having won the coin toss, to kick. Generally this is more kick out rather than kick off. He kicks out non-paying patients. He kicks out Medicare, he kicks out bad insurance. The unfortunate consequence is the patient has less access to care. It is hard to blame providers given the current state of affairs. The loss of a few patients, the provider figures, can be offset by the gain in care of the others who are left. We are in the midst of new explorations such as concierge medicine and retainer medicine. While raising an eyebrow when first discovered, at least someone is trying something other than to punting, passing or kicking.
Telemedicine solutions may be an answer. With a telemedicine solution, a fourth down can be converted to a first down. Healthcare collaboration propels the team ahead. With a telemedicine solution, the pass is unnecessary because the provider feels comfortable, because the provider is supported. With a telemedicine solution, the kick is less necessary because the provider is more efficient and cost effective.
Enjoy your turkey and your football, and give thanks that we still have answers for the challenges of health care.