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More with Less

If you've been in healthcare long enough, you are familiar with the concept of doing more with less. We could discuss where it all came from, or why we have to do more with less, but the reality is we are here now. Healthcare practitioners must embrace doing more with less; it's not going anywhere anytime soon, particularly since other similar high-risk industries have proven it to work (e.g., Airline industry).

In a talk by Jan Denecker (see link below) on doing more with less, Jan talks about the increased cost of healthcare services in developed countries, such as America and Europe, in comparison to developing nations. He points out that despite the fact that the United States has doubled healthcare costs per person from 1990 to 2010 (20 years), it's life expectancy merely rose from 75.4 years to 78.7 years, respectively. In essence, a remarkable increase in cost yields a little rise in quality. What then must we do to increase quality while reducing cost? Jan says to do three things.

First, look for alternatives to safe and cheap healthcare delivery. Jan suggests learning from developing countries who are accustomed to doing more with less. He sights examples of healthcare providers in India who have to be innovative to deliver the needed care at a lower cost.

The second recommendation is to keep it simple. Jan says the complexity of healthcare is likely a significant factor in the increased cost and decreased return on investment where it matters. Again, he encourages adoption of simplicity that third world countries are accustomed to, to reduce cost.

Lastly, Jan says looking right under your nose is a strategy in doing more with less. Sometimes, what we need to improve quality and reduce cost is a simple process already in place. An example presented is the use of barcode scanners for patient safety; he encourages using the same barcode scanners/concept for supplies in the hospital. He shared his personal experience in a hospital, where caregivers rarely scanned supplies. Granted, most supply closets are away from patient care areas, but Jan's point should be well taken as finding innovation within your existing resources.

The road to fixing the complex healthcare system is long. We have to retrain our minds to do more with less. Accepting this reality is key to embracing change. The time for change is now.

Watch the TEDTalk here.

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