Monday, December 21, 2009

Here's some Government Health Care Efficiency for Ya

Years of aircraft noise and wearing headsets caught up with my ears some time ago. The hearing loss is not severe, but the tinnitus can be excruciating. It can make it hard to get to sleep and is especially annoying when it wakes you up at night. It's a sound you can't turn off.

One of the treatments is sound-masking, usually with white noise. Luckily for me, the Veterans Administration provided me with a prescription and sent me a special sound generator that provides a choice of masking sounds, from white noise to babbling brooks.

So far so good. Well, almost. The treatment I got from the VA was great, but I noticed a little inefficiency, that if it exemplifies the system, adds up to some of that "waste" that the new government healthcare plan counts on eliminating.

When I got my sound masking device in the mail, I noticed that it was in the manufacturer's shipping box, but the box had been opened. The box was postmarked locally, with the local VA hospital as the return address. This means that the supplier shipped the box to the VA, where someone opened it (maybe to verify the contents?), then taped it closed, and paid to ship it to me.

There are two kinds of waste here, the obvious one of the VA paying twice for shipping, and the other waste of the extra transit time while I was without my treatment. (Maybe the inspection is necessary, but that's only because they haven't put other controls in place. Any six sigma white belt or first year industrial engineer can tell you that inspection is not a value adding step.) A small thing for me, yes, another 6 bucks for shipping and a two weeks extra time waiting for treatment. But it adds up. When all healthcare is run like the VA, it will add up big.

And we'll be paying for it.


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