In 28 February, 2011 National Post, an article titled: “Doctor prescribes technology fix for patient care”, page FP3 considered how increasing technology related investments was essential if we are to manage healthcare costs and improve system performance.
This post explores how we might consider this effort from a TM perspective.
As readers know, my approach to TM pays particular attention to the pivotal roles within a system. So my first thought is we would benefit from ensuring we made investments to improve these roles performance in the healthcare system. These roles have disproportionate impacts on the performance of other system roles, so any investments in pivotal roles would have performance improving benefits across any specific healthcare system.
We can also look at this opportunity from a different perspective that is familiar to anyone who has been exposed to linear programming.
Linear programmings concludes that maximum system performance is achieved when we reach an intersection between two variables (conceptually more than two variables could intersect at the same point. It is common that a system has several operational constraints and there can be several intersections between any two of them. The linear programming approach is to examine the performance at each and every intersection and determine which intersection point provides the greatest performance.
What does this have to do with TM?
- Removing a constraint (ridding it or easing it) from its current location allows us to potentially find other intersection points that provide superior benefits. A simple example: removing/easing/changing administrative activities from a critical specialist may enable that person to do more within the standard timeframe (e.g., shift, work day). Does the doctor in this case work harder – not likely, are they better utilized, yes. Lesson – ensure your scarce/constrained/limiting talent is well utilized on their most important contribution areas.
- Making investments so that a constraint, is shifted to a higher level. This enables performance in increase along at least one variable until another intersection point is reached. Here is where technology investments can often assist us. In many cases our current technology sets the limit on volumes and even quality concerns. In the volume area technology limits the number of times a transaction can take place in any given time frame (e.g., once every half hour). Obviously increasing the frequency by which a specific technical system can re used over and over improves performance. On the quality side, no matter what technology is used – there is always some risk of error. This means that due diligence efforts must be made to ensure a critical subsequent use of the information is not made. Investments in superior quality technology have two benefits in that they can reduce or speed up the due diligence needs and they free up these resources for other useful tasks. Lesson – insightful targeted investments have tangible primary and secondary benefits.
As readers know – I pay particular attention to the performance of pivotal roles and I use this linear programming like approach to see where the opportunities lie that if acted upon can increase these roles performance. In other situations where the role is a constraint (say due to short supply markets – e.g., nurses) I would approach this in much the same manner. I look at performance gains that achieve dramatic benefits but not a the cost of further suffering (e.g., more overtime). This makes the roles more effective, reduces the TM issue and supports being a great employer goals.