Humanity: A Free Tool For Improving Care and Reducing Costs

Don’t Wait to Innovate by Dev Patnaik and Peter Mortensen of Jump Associates is a short column about increasing profitability at a disability claims processor that appeared in the online edition of Business Week on April 27. It was touted as an example of the potential power of innovation for enhancing performance in an already successful business. How could this be relevant to real health care? Well, I saw it completely differently. It was really all about how injecting humanity into a business resulted in decreasing resource use and liability – thereby enhancing customer satisfaction, decreasing costs, and increasing margin. Sound like outcomes we could use in health care?

Talking to Customers is an Innovation?

This article is the story about how Industrial Alliance Insurance and Financial Services changed its approach to disability claims processing by making a radical innovation – instructing claims analysts to actually speak to claimants about their circumstances rather than simply have them fill in the blanks on claims forms. The stunning result was that the company learned that claimants were real human beings with real problems and real motivation to overcome them and get back to work:

It turns out that the company’s system for processing claims, though efficient and rational, was missing the real stories of the people seeking disability. The forms contained important information and were necessary, but they were ultimately too constraining. Essential information was being left out. That’s because the process was strained out firsthand information in favor of provable facts. When analysts actually spoke to the people they were evaluating, they learned far more, and it led them to better solutions:

By simply connecting claimants (now seen as people), their complete stories and appropriate medical advisors, modest investments in therapies and equipment increased returns to work, decreased benefits and litigation cost, and increased the satisfaction of both the claimants and the analysts.