If a business problem cannot be explained by looking at something from Monty Python, in my opinion, it is not worth solving.
My go-to film for explaining all things related to healthcare is Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Just to get the juices flowing, let’s set the stage with a few lines from the movie:
King Arthur: I am your king.
Peasant Woman: Well, I didn’t vote for you.
King Arthur: You don’t vote for kings.
Peasant Woman: Well, how’d you become king, then?
[Angelic music plays… ]
King Arthur: The Lady of the Lake, her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite, held aloft Excalibur from the bosom of the water, signifying by divine providence that I, Arthur, was to carry Excalibur. That is why I am your king.
Dennis the Peasant: Listen. Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.
Arthur: Be quiet!
Dennis the Peasant: You can’t expect to wield supreme power just ’cause some watery tart threw a sword at you!
I am healthcare’s Dennis the Peasant, and, yes, you can become a consultant by having strange women in ponds throw swords at you. At least it worked for me.
Staying with our theme of mediaeval British oppression of the working class, in the 14th century, the part of Ireland ruled by the English had various forms of demarcation. One of those forms was a castle moat that separated the castle. The separation was called the English Pale. Going to the other side of the separation, away from English Rule was referred to as going beyond the Pale. So see, if nothing else, you’ve learned something new today.
Is it beyond the pale to think that the business of healthcare can handle words of three or more syllables? Words like engagement and consumerism and innovation? Although the word innovation starts with the letter ‘i’, many times there is no ‘you’ in innovation.
Permit me the chance to try to explain what I mean by using the following example. If you’ve ever bought a pair of reading glasses, you know that you do not need to know your prescription. Al you have to do to find the right pair for you is to stand a foot away from the sign with themes sages printed in various sizes of lettering, and keep trying on different powers of glasses until you can read the text saying, “If you can read this, you have found the right pair.”
Pretty simple. Until you get your eyes examined. That is when you learn that you see differently from each eye. That tells you that the reading glasses you just bought with the same strength for each eye are no what you need.
The quick solution is not always the best solution.
And so it is with healthcare consumerism and patient and customer access. Almost every health system in the US has opted for the easy solution to deal with patient access and engagement.
• Business problem: people call us
• Business solution: build a call center
Problem solved. Not so fast Skippy. And this is why you find yourself searching your deleted emails for the one from Dennis the Peasant. Moi.
If you think having a call center is the solution to your patient access problem, stop reading this and call your health system and try to schedule an appointment. And it only gets worse from there. Access begets engagement. And engagement begets experience. And bad experiences are why patient leakage on the front end of patient journeys is a hundred times greater than it is on the back end.
Your call center does more to degrade patient acquisition, patient retention, and care management than almost any other business process in your organization. But it’s an easy solution to a complex problem, and it allows you to check the ‘problem solved’ box and it frees you up to wrestle with all of the other gnarly problems you have.
And so, to complete the circle of life analogy from Monty Python to the English Pale to healthcare, I am listening to Pink Floyd as I am writing. And the Floyd are British.
Guard: Who goes there?
King Arthur: It is I, Arthur, son of Uther Pendragon, from the castle of Camelot. King of the Britons, defeater of the Saxons, Sovereign of all England!
Guard: Pull the other one!
King Arthur: I am, and this is my trusty servant Patsy. We have ridden the length and breadth of the land in search of knights who will join me in my court at Camelot. I must speak with your lord and master.
Guard: What? Ridden on a horse?
King Arthur: Yes!
Guard: You’re using coconuts!
King Arthur: What?
Guard: You’ve got two empty halves of coconut and you’re bangin’ ’em together.
King Arthur: So? We have ridden since the snows of winter covered this land, through the kingdom of Mercia, through…
Guard: Where’d you get the coconuts?
King Arthur: We found them.
Guard: Found them? In Mercia?! The coconut’s tropical!
King Arthur: What do you mean?
Guard: Well, this is a temperate zone.
King Arthur: The swallow may fly south with the sun or the house martin or the plover may seek warmer climes in winter, yet these are not strangers to our land?
Guard: Are you suggesting that coconuts migrate?
King Arthur: Not at all. They could be carried.
1st soldier with a keen interest in birds: What? A swallow carrying a coconut?
King Arthur: It could grip it by the husk!
Guard: It’s not a question of where he grips it! It’s a simple question of weight ratios! A five ounce bird could not carry a one pound coconut.
King Arthur: Well, it doesn’t matter. Will you go and tell your master that Arthur from the Court of Camelot is here?
Guard: Listen. In order to maintain air-speed velocity, a swallow needs to beat its wings forty-three times every second, right?
It may be easier to teach a coconut how to migrate than to make it easy for your patients to access your health system.