Customer Service

Flying First Class Medical Care

January 6, 2014

We’ll begin boarding in a few minutes.

Although airlines have a lot to learn about customer service, they do serve as a model for pricing strategy in healthcare.

You’re on your way to Cleveland. The plane seats 300-plus people and everyone will get there at the same time. Yet passengers paid remarkably different prices to get there.

Obviously, the fact that different aggregators receive, and pass along, different pricing to passengers is akin to the various prices that payors, from Medicare and Medicaid to the Blues, pay for the same care.

But let’s focus on something else – those who willing pay for a different level of quality, for a different level of service.

On most but the shortest commuter flights, there’s first class and there’s coach. Some of us are very happy to pay more for more room to work or relax, for better service and for coffee in china, not in expanded polystyrene.

In healthcare there’s concierge medicine, but the analogy can be carried to much greater lengths. Why not a spectrum of true concierge care, of greatly improved service, of better trained staff?

Some will take umbrage at the notion of different levels of care. But they already exist. Witness most, if not all, county hospitals. And I’m not suggesting that some get bandages that are less sticky or scalpels that need sharpening.

Instead, the challenge is that for all of the hoopla about paying for quality, it’s largely window dressing. Receiving $x dollars per unit from one and all creates no real incentive to provide extraordinary service and extraordinary care.

Not everyone will want that level of service. The safety’s the same if you’re flying coach or first class. Some will say that they paid just to get there. Others will pay to get there is a bit more comfort. Why not provide that level of service and get paid for it?

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