A couple of years ago (it really doesn’t feel that long) I referenced a comical video I came across looking at if the airlines operated like healthcare. There were references to an outdated paper-based system of getting your documents to the appropriate airline carrier for different flights and coordinating with baggage services to handle those services separately. The analogy was different insurance carriers for different providers, all requiring essentially the same information for these transactional events stored securely on acid-free paper off of fax machines and the like and stored in fire-resistant file cabinets for safe keeping.
I have been fortunate to have minimal issues navigating the healthcare system for the most part with fortunately good insurance with a wide range of providers I am comfortable with to provide the services at convenient locations for me.
The comments and criticisms from the post a few years ago ranged from agreeing with how well the airlines coordinate different flights to destinations all over the world and for the most part get you there on time with minimal issues given the number of passengers. Some mentioned that one cannot compare flying machines and a tremendous understanding of aerodynamics and flight patterns to the uncertainties of biology and the human condition.
Weather and mechanical issues aside, I personally think the airlines do a great job. Albeit it is a little frustrating when the water bottles run out, there are no gate personnel to get you to the last 30 feet after traveling 2,000 miles or the landing gear has an issue from the previous flight, disrupting your plans but who wants to fly on that plane anyway?
That being said, the host of member “rewards” programs with “points” and “miles” I am finding is getting more difficult to navigate. My hometown airline, US Airways is now American Airlines, sort of. The merge is still going on so some flights require you to check in at US Airways for “American Airlines flight served by US Airways” and American Airlines agents cannot book travel on US Airways or vica-versa. They can however, in some cases, see a new combined frequent flyer program miles balance and then tell you what flights on their respective airlines may be eligible for redemption. If they do not have any eligible flights, it is possible and probable the other may have eligible flights and/or lower number of miles required for travel.
In this case, you essentially call back the same number and try to get to the “frequent flyer” representative on the phone tree with the respective airline to find out those seats are available but they are 1,000,000 miles and one should consider checking with their “partner” airlines. Meaning, you do the same thing you just did if you want to keep going. Unless of course you catch on and think to use some miles or points from a credit card with a participating airline or hotel, if they are on the credit card company “preferred” list without exclusions or blackout dates or some crazy premium of 100 “points” for 1 mile or something. And if you use the phone to ultimately book the air travel using “miles”, “points” or “rewards” then you are assessed a charge for calling them and not doing so online yourself if one can figure this out after all the transfers, exclusions, black out dates, restricted flights, seats & departure and/or arrival dates and/or departure and/or destination cities…
Nonetheless, fortunately or unfortunately for the current healthcare system, the airlines still get you from point A to point B with a very, very high success rate overall.
Imagine if certain doctors and nurses could only do certain examinations/procedures at certain locations with certain payers for defined periods of time and find a way to get home for a few days before doing it again. And again. And get to/from different hotels in different cities and all times of days to different airports to get to work and end up in a different time zone multiple times a day. Over and over.
Pilots and airline crews do it all the time. Pilots are rated or in healthcare lingo “credentialed” for specific aircraft, airports, travel routes and times within a defined period of time and you need two of them. The crews have to train and increasingly cross-train on different aircraft with the number of airline mergers over the past several years.
Can healthcare operate more like the airlines even with its idiosyncrasies? Could the consumer/patient benefit more if the efficiencies of air travel provided some lessons learned for healthcare? Watch this video again if you have any doubts.