On the web recently I came across a presentation by Allison Hunt, a marketing executive from Toronto. She gave a remarkable presentation while on crutches, explaining she was recovering from hip replacement, courtesy of Canada’s national health service.
Let me set up the story by saying that Allison Hunt seems a youthful and successful person, near the height of her professional potential. But she was in pain from a diseased hip, and she had already endured many months of pain waiting for an appointment with a surgeon.
At her exam the surgeon gave her a good, bad news scenario. He would schedule her surgery right away, but the first available slot was 18 months away.
While leaving with the disappointing news, Hunt noticed a sign in the hospital’s gift shop asking for volunteers. She signed up for a half-day a week, hoping through proximity to somehow move her name up the waiting list. To speed the story up . . . she was successful. She networked her way to the OR table.
Hunt joked her actions were un-Canadian. They were also very un-American. Can you imagine any American reacting calmly to an 18-month wait for anything? Can you imagine an American volunteering as a way to care, even free care. I think most Americans would call a lawyer.
As Americans contemplate reform of our health system, it is prudent to think about how American consumers will respond. For the last 40 years we’ve been a “health industry.” We churn it out–mass producing access to every type of service. Our customers generate “demand.” Even those who depend on public health, have an expectation of service that can be measured in hours and days, not months.