March 2008

The word "efficiency"

I guess most people don’t find the word “efficiency” very inspiring. Unlike caring and compassion, it seems to evoke just the business end of things—important for our financial health, but not something you’d aspire to as a fundamental part of our mission. But for me,
efficiency is a core issue.

If you have ever been on the receiving end of inefficiency—waiting for service on a line that isn’t moving, or being put on endless hold (“your call is important to us!”), you know that efficiency, or the lack of it, has very real human consequences.

In a hospital or a doctor’s office, when you have to spend a long time waiting for the help you need, you don’t feel valued as a human being. That is what we are trying to address when we redesign a process, restructure a service, or apply new technology.

Let me give you an example. We are working to develop new computerized ‘order sets’ for various inpatient diagnoses, instead of ordering each medication, test, or treatment one-by-one as we do today. These order sets would save our doctors a lot of time, help ensure that nothing vital is left off the list, and get the patient into treatment faster.

Initiatives like these are not about efficiency for its own sake. They are about improving quality and safety, and making personalized care possible.

For me, efficiency is important because I equate it with respect.