Nobody likes a micromanager.
You know the type: the boss who has to hound his employees over every bit of business minutiae. The parent who has to supervise every nanosecond of his child's life.
Or the managed-care company that has to conduct an inquisition over the smallest healthcare bill and wage a military-style holding action over every request to see a specialist.
Managed-care executives who profess bewilderment when their poll ratings come in only slightly above Saddam Hussein's ought to reflect on this natural antipathy. There are levels of attention people simply don't want.
That's why it's refreshing to see that more companies are embracing a kind of attentiveness that's rewarding for both the patient and the insurer: disease management. As managed-care reporter Chris Rauber noted in his March 29 cover story (p. 48), the industry is increasingly turning to disease-management programs to control the costs associated with chronic medical conditions.
This is all for the good. By nickleand-diming every enrollee and provider, managed-care companies have squandered much of the goodwill they might have enjoyed. But we know that a minority of patients with chronic diseases racks up the majority of healthcare bills. Programs that target these people for early diagnosis and preventive care could save some enormous acute-care bills in the future and keep the patient healthy.
Humana, for instance, has launched a program to expedite care and customize treatment for 1,250 of its sickest patients with chronic conditions. So far, Humana says, it has slashed inpatient days by about 38% by using disease management.
Let's hope that such promising results nudge other companies into experimenting with disease management. Who knows what might happen? Maybe managed-care companies can learn how to manage care intelligently and use resources most effectively. Then they won't have to alienate customers over routine matters.
Managed-care companies of the world: If you want to manage, manage something big and don't sweat the small stuff.