A friend of mine just had the misfortune of chest pains on the Friday before Christmas. He went to an emergency department, where a physician admitted him. He spent Saturday and Sunday lying in bed waiting for a one-hour test on Monday. Ultimately an arteriogram revealed no blockage, no heart attack, no problem . . . except for a huge hospital bill.
I could truly relate to my friend’s experience.
A few years ago I ate a $10,000 burrito. Actually the burrito was $10, but the Sunday morning trip to the emergency department it led to ended up costing $10,000, half of it out of my pocket, almost all of it unnecessary. After the triage nurse gave me an antacid, I felt fine. Blood work showed no elevated enzymes. I wanted to go home and said so.
But the emergency room doctor, seeking to minimize his liability, essentially scared my wife into insisting on my admission. He told her there was a good chance that if I went home I could be back at the ER in a few hours dead. He said the safe thing to do was to admit me and let a cardiologist run some tests on Monday.
This particular hospital was known for its cardiac program. It has a much-promoted heart-attack rule-out protocol that sounds good in the marketing pitch, but in reality does not work. It offers all the cardiac bells and whistles, but not on Sunday.
Hospitals and health systems are always looking for meaningful ways to position themselves against competitors. Here’s a winner–be the hospital that is truly a 24/7 hospital. What you do Monday through Friday, do it on Saturday and Sunday. Do it efficiently and effectively. Save your customers money. Provide unique value.
Airlines perform full service on weekends and holidays. Police do it. Firemen do it. Utilities do it. Emergency crews do it. Even restaurants and shopping malls do it. Why not hospitals?