By Greg Miller, Chief Growth Officer, Lumeon
There is a lot to be said for a machine that does one thing really well.
For my money, switching on my Roomba is far preferable to grabbing a broom and dustpan
to sweep the floor at my house… and more effective.
Then there’s the matter of making my morning coffee. I have two options:
• I can scoop beans into a grinder. I can grind the beans. I can place the ground beans
in a filter. I can wait for the water to drip through the beans. I can froth the milk. I
can pour the resulting mixture into a cup.
… OR …
• I can go to my coffee machine, push one button, and it can make the same (or
better) coffee, froth the milk automatically, and pour it into my cup – 100% reliably,
100% of the time. And I can do something else while it’s making that cup of coffee
In these two scenarios, I’ve either manually coordinated the activity of doing all the
individual steps required to accomplish the task, and I own the result, for better or worse; or
I’ve delegated responsibility for that sequence of events to a machine that will bring me
back an excellent result, consistently.
In healthcare, so much of what we do is still like grinding beans and frothing the milk
manually. These manual touches are unnecessary, since many clinical decisions are
evidence-based, and the correct course of action is knowable and doesn’t change often. If
we want to make sure these things happen 100% of the time, we should delegate the
manual tasks to an automated system, because automation allows us to scale the work with
consistency and reliability.
One major reason healthcare hasn’t done that is the relationship between the
reimbursement model and optimal care delivery. In our fee-for-service system, providers
get paid for grinding the beans and frothing the milk versus receiving a price for a perfectly
prepared cup of coffee. But let’s be honest: just because you get paid for doing something
doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.
Most industries that are digitized have reinvented their processes, so work is amplified and
enhanced through the use of technology. In healthcare, we’ve computerized existing
processes. The result is we’ve effectively given people more tools to use, and in some cases
made the situation worse – generating more work, more fragmentation, and more need for
communication, producing more stress on severely limited professional staff resources.
Take care coordination, for instance. Typically, various care team members may handle
(often manually, and with incomplete information) one or two aspects of a complex, multi-
step process. Because care coordination tends to get dispersed among care providers, they
often execute the same tasks differently, creating an inconsistent care experience for
patients. Also, the lack of integration among health information systems makes it easy to
miss or not record steps. The process cries out for an automated approach – a dedicated
system that delivers consistency across care teams and sites of care while ensuring all
providers are aligned and informed about what needs to be done for each patient at any
Healthcare leaders should step back and admit, “You know what, care coordination is
broken and there’s a better way. Let’s borrow automation best practices that other
industries already use to eliminate wasteful and expensive manual tasks and lighten the
load for our overburdened clinicians.”
It’s time to serve care teams and patients a better cup of coffee.