In the midst of debates concerning the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and attempts to improve the functionality of the website (www.HealthCare.Gov) for the Health Insurance Marketplace, there is another way to reform the medical industry and achieve immediate savings for health care providers and consumers.
This solution, which is also a metaphor for streamlining operations and improving communications between companies and their respective clients, is both straightforward and effective: It corrects existing inefficiencies involving the haphazard way doctors or office managers set appointments, and the equally erratic response by patients, who suddenly cancel previously scheduled checkups or exams.
Fixing something that simple, as opposed to attempting to reform approximately 18% of the U.S. economy and process online applicants without any technical problems, is both wise and substantially more remunerative because it means more income for doctors (and dentists and chiropractors, and other wellness professionals) and less work (by assistants) on otherwise unproductive tasks.
Innovate at the Micro-Level for Impactful Change
I write these words from experience, as the Co-Founder of Notif.ly, which is a new and convenient way for business owners to reduce or eliminate no-shows, so I understand how innovation at the micro-level can yield significant returns without requiring a massive change in behavior or the adoption of an additional program.
In fact, the point about reducing no-shows – which, as stated previously, is a metaphor for achieving impressive results – is this: Rather than attempting to achieve something momentous, it is far easier to improve existing services people already understand and use than trying to upend the status quo. Also, this comment is free of any bias for or against the Act (or its alternatives) because it applies to any extensive undertaking by the government or private enterprise.
For, human nature is predictable – we resist change – which should be a reminder to any CEO with grand ambitious, but a narrow understanding of individual behavior. Acknowledging the predictability of our collective actions, our tendency to avoid anything new or our proven frequency to cancel or reschedule already calendared events — to recognize these facts is not an indictment against us.
On the contrary, it is a helpful admonition – a combination of caution and instruction – upon which businesses can prevent mishaps and thrive. So, while change is a good thing – a necessary thing – it is also best achievable through incremental forms of innovation. Meaning: If you make something simpler to use, people will (not surprisingly) embrace that change.
Institutionalize Innovation: Make Your Actions Transformational
Now, if you also make something easier to use and enable business owners to earn money – to increase their sales by decreasing their no-shows – then you have an ideal example of incremental innovation, with revolutionary implications.
Put another way, a simple change in communications – from issuing cards, sheets and receipts to customizing an SMS text message, which people can immediately accept, confirm or use to reschedule an appointment – can produce, on average, a 20% increase in revenues by reducing the number of no-shows.
That basic change, from “analog” (paper) to “digital” (a convenient reminder, sent to a person's mobile device), can lower no-shows by 65% a year.
The overarching theme to this study of human behavior and the need for incremental innovation is something I can both verify and quantify. The broader metaphor, which is the takeaway point for all CEOs with an interest in accomplishing practical results, depends on a degree of personal humility and professional responsibility.
In other words, a CEO must forsake the allure of popular acclaim and absolute power – he or she must suppress their ego – for the good of consumers and the rewards of positive word-of-mouth marketing.
Let us, therefore, return to the importance of incremental innovation or revolution-through-evolution, where effective change starts by identifying (and improving) inefficient or costly services.
Apply the Notif.ly principle – about the predictable unpredictability of people, their overbooked commitments and easy-to-forget appointments – and the conclusion is clear: Stress and scheduling (or the lack thereof) can come at the expense of health, leadership, client relations and a coherent way to increase revenues.
Find and Fix Existing Inefficiencies
My recommendation to CEOs is to follow our example, and look for the inefficiencies a company has, such as: Poor technology, bureaucratic delays, mediocre conversation rates and limited repeat business from consumers, and resolve these matters by simplifying everything, period. The solution may depend on complex, proprietary technology, but the user experience – what he or she sees and can do, in three easy steps – should humanize the way many of us think about and overcome various challenges.
Let us seize this opportunity, so we may succeed by communicating with – rather than passively responding to – consumers. From these small changes emerge new ways of leading and inspiring others.