Healthcare and Scrum - dummies

By Mark C. Layton

Scrum can help with many of the issues plaguing the American healthcare system. Over the past few years, healthcare and its evolution within the American landscape have been at the forefront of news and talk. Efforts to make healthcare affordable and accessible are often considered a basic tenet of a civilized society.

Yet soaring costs, pressure to decrease development time without sacrificing quality, wasted spending, and increasing avoidable deaths have all led to massive changes in the way Americans pay for and receive medical attention.

In 1970, healthcare spending in the United States was estimated to have been $75 billion. In 2012, the figure was $3 trillion, and if current rates of increase are sustained, that figure will be $5 trillion by 2021. As of the publishing of this book, that’s just six years away.

Added to this is a healthcare culture where insurance reimbursements are increasingly linked to customer satisfaction. Healthcare technology has an expanded and important influence on clinical outcomes and patient satisfaction. New paradigms exist, and new methods for meeting their needs are required. It should come as no surprise that scrum is being used more and more frequently to address healthcare issues than ever before.

Some of the highest-priority challenges facing the healthcare industry today are

  • Procedural mistakes during healthcare delivery are now the third highest killer in America, just behind heart disease and cancer. A recent Forbes articles states that more than 500 people die each day from “errors, accidents, and infections” in hospitals.

  • Wasted money on unnecessary care. The Institute of Medicine Health claims that a whopping one-third of the billions spent on healthcare each year is wasted money. The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology states that elective deliveries alone cost $1 billion annually.

  • New and increasing regulations require speedy and thorough adaptation.

  • The demand to convert to electronic healthcare records is monumental, yet processes for achieving this are sorely lacking.

  • Research and development into new treatments and medicines need continued funding and creative innovations.

  • Concerns that new medical devices and systems have not been thoroughly reviewed for safety risks, and many of them are designed using traditional methods where design is up front and testing is left for last.

Scrum can help with each of the preceding issues. Remember, improving healthcare is about saving lives. There’s no room for error here, and processes that help can and should be implemented. In general, scrum brings the following benefits to the table.

  • Rapid and regular feedback: Crucial in determining what’s acceptable and what’s not. This is even more important when the development cycle involves adherence to a regulatory framework. Scrum actually accelerates the point in which internal auditing can happen to better ensure regulatory compliance.

  • Accelerated time to implementation: It’s about saving lives first — although competitive advantage can be an added benefit.

  • Faster monetization: Making quality healthcare profitable will make changes quicker and more likely to stick.

  • Increased talent retention

  • Fewer product defects

Scrum is needed in the healthcare industry to help foster changes that support clinical decision making within highly effective patient care and business administration. All of this exists while also continuing to be in compliance with the ever-changing demands of regulatory agencies.

Development time for new administrative and clinical systems and products needs to be shortened, and quality and efficiency need to be increased. The current healthcare environment is in flux. Regulations and laws are being changed and refined. Therefore, a high degree of flexibility and transparency is necessary to survive in these turbulent waters.