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Friday, January 19, 2007

No Pain No Gain

Anyone with management experience will know that there is seldom a painless way to reduce the cost of doing anything – particularly if it involves a number of functions performed by different people. Reducing cost requires changing the way the process is carried out. As a result some participants may gain a larger role, others a smaller one and some get eliminated altogether. Those who lose out will understandably not be happy about it; i.e., will feel the pain.
Some weeks ago friend and erstwhile colleague Peter Geilich mailed to me a copy of a long editorial on reforming health care (Washington Post, December 13, 2006), including restraining cost. The editorial reviewed the usual list of defects in the current system and commented on financing alternatives like single-payer and health savings accounts.

Its only recommendation was for the adoption of electronic (i.e., computerized) medical records. It suggested that doctors would order fewer tests if their computers told them which ones would be useful and which ones not, thereby saving money.

Would that the remedy could be so painless. More realistically, the article would have challenged the health care provider establishment to find and implement its own ways to improve efficiency, recognizing that some interests would be pinched in the process.

A common saying among those in training for athletic endeavor is “No Pain No Gain.” It applies to health care reform as well.

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