Systems Failures – wasting our time and wasting our lives

Please, stop wasting my time. Stop wasting my life.

– Jess Jacobs

So much of healthcare’s inefficiency is captured in a recent post by Jess Jacobs, a rare disease patient who, after a year of healthcare encounters (including continuing treatment for postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, a kidney infection, shingles, pneumonia, a pulmonary embolism, and four blood transfusions this year), took apart the value for time spent seeking care.  And her findings were eye-opening.

To say the least, the value for each encounter was not what it should be. And as I suspect, and Jess may expound on later, it is in part due to total systems failures in healthcare.

By total system failures I mean that in every part along the way in part and in whole the healthcare system is not a system.  From the health IT to each doctors office to coordinating care to hospital care to research – each level fails and in concert the consequences are not only a waste of time but can be life threatening.

System failures are what sent the first US Ebola patient home when he first presented in the Dallas emergency room.  System failures are what led to my worst nightmares in February.  Systems failures happen every day in and out of hospitals, plaguing every patient whether getting treatment for a small dog bite or suffering from multiple chronic rare diseases.

If doctors truly spent time coordinating care and valuing patients’ time as much as their own, if ER doctors and hospitalists listened to patients, if health IT systems actually held and transmitted useful information that each provider would in fact read, if nurses and techs were properly trained, if each entity within the healthcare system took responsibility for their part in the system failure and truly looked for process improvement – not only would patients’ time be saved, but many lives too.

No one should have to “spend two solid months (1540 hours, 64.2 days) of this year waiting instead of healing” with only “4.75% of outpatient visits and .08% of my hospitalizations are spent actively treating my condition.”

It is truly a waste when these systems failures occur and as they accumulate – particularly when considering the value (which, can often be negative). It is a waste of more than time.  It is a waste of a life that could be better spent in countless ways. Imagine what Jess could do with her nerdy brain in those 64 days, instead she waits.

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