Snail mail is alive and well at Children’s Hospital

Early in my consulting career I complaining to my manager about the level of bureaucracy at a big client. It was like nothing I’d seen before. My manager agreed it was bad but told me about an even more extreme example; when he consulted to the World Bank it routinely took 5 days for a fax to be delivered. After all it had to be picked up off the fax machine, logged into the system, sent through inter-office mail and so on, all of which took time. This was in the days before email and voicemail.

But super slow document delivery lives on, at least in health care. A friend has a child whose speech is delayed. She made an appointment for an assessment at Children’s Hospital in Waltham, MA –and had to wait six months for the appointment, even in our capitalist system! A couple months beforehand she received a “parent intake questionnaire.” Here’s what it said at the top of the first page:

Intakes often take up to three weeks to be delivered to the appropriate department/clinician. To ensure your intake is received, please completed [sic] and mail back to us as much in advance of your appointment as possible. If we do not receive this intake before your child’s appointment, you will be asked to complete it in the waiting room before your child can be seen. Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.

I found this appalling. After all:

  • The form should have been electronic and distributed to the “appropriate department/clinician” instantly
  • If the form can be filled out in the waiting room, why bother sending it ahead? It doesn’t sound like anyone will read it in advance anyway?

Children’s should be ashamed of itself for such poor service.

February 12, 2007

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