18 May 2012


A phone bank I toured was staffed by several nurses. The nurses' job was to fulfill a legal obligation that an insurance provider placed on their corporation: to call certain patients annually, to ask them a lengthy set of questions, and then to generate a detailed health plan. The nurses estimated that they spent an average of half an hour on each patient. A medical assistant spent her days organizing databases that catalog these annual health plans. Much of her workload (such as removing the leading zeroes from medical record numbers) could have been automated with a simple computer script that would have taken me a couple of hours to write.

Once the detailed health plans were generated, who saw them? Because of a change in policy, almost no one. Most simply were filed away. A small number were sent to the patients' primary-care physicians, who usually ignored them.

Two thoughts:
1. How would you feel if you spent each day dutifully generating products that you knew that virtually no one will ever use?

2. 18% of our country's GDP goes towards health-care spending. This is shockingly and unsustainably high, especially considering how we haven't even insured all of our citizens. Our health care system is filled with inequities and inefficiencies, and I got to see this one tiny inefficiency close-up.