Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Let's Play Pretend

Pretend you're the CEO of a major international airline facing cut-throat competition in global markets. Your airline has a long history of transporting people to multiple destinations yet you're constantly forced to do damage control.

Why? Your passengers' luggage keeps getting lost.

You know how much the problem is costing in downtime, insurance, public relations, lost clients, and financial compensation. What's more, you have pinpointed the exact cause of the problem: your baggage handlers don't always throw the passengers' luggage in the right direction, and if they miss, they don't even care what happens!

The simplest solution would be to come down hard on your airline's baggage handlers. But their union is so strong (and its leaders so intoxicated with their power) that no one dares to criticize the baggage handlers for fear these workers will take offense at the mere thought of anyone telling them how to do their jobs and retaliate by calling a strike -- thus grounding your airline.

Essentially, you're stuck with a conspiracy of silence that keeps costing you money and customers. If you were Susan Powter you'd be screaming "Stop the insanity!"

Substitute the term "dictating physician" for "baggage handler" and you will get a painful insight into a problem that continues to plague the health information management (HIM) industry. Over the years, doctors have developed some very poor work habits which cost the HIM industry substantial sums of money. While doctors are quick to criticize others, and complain about the lack of quality work being performed for them, they are rarely called to task for their own sloppy work habits and poor dictation skills.

How can the problem be fixed when the guilty parties are in such a strong state of denial that they refuse to admit a problem even exists?

Most people would be shocked to discover how many doctors are unable to express their thoughts in a clear and coherent sentence. Most would be appalled to learn how many doctors are such terrible spellers that they could not get hired by a temp agency to work as a file clerk. Like O.J. Simpson's attorney, Johnnie Cochran, the chairmen of most Medical Record Committees would be outraged to discover how many doctors (who speak English as their first language) have such horrible grammar that they would flunk a seventh-grade English exam!

[Cartoon #12 ]

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