Thursday, August 18, 2011

Healthcare Lessons For Our Broken Educational System

Rising costs outpacing the rate of inflation.  Grumpy taxpayers unwilling to pay even one penny more.  Government meddling with unintended consequences.  Anecdotes of complete system breakdowns. Vouchers used by right-wingers as a panacea.  Business-types circling like vultures ready to make a quick buck. And in the middle of it are the innocent victims.

The Disease Management Care Blog is certainly out of it's depth at the above description our nation's K-12 school system, but that doesn't mean it can't draw some health care parallels and offer up some lessons:

1. Teachers are shocked at turning from heroes to zeros in surveys of public opinion. Physicians pine for the old days also, but they've adapted.  Get used to it. 

2. The politicians' narrative that schools have turned into bloated overpriced and unresponsive bureaucracies is eerily similar to the early criticisms about hospitals.  What did the hospitals do?  They learned about measurement and used their own data about costs and outcomes to fight back.  Some even got better at serving patients..

3. Speaking of measurement, "testing" is a travesty that fails to capture the real work and value of education, you say? Well, students who apparently can't read reminds the DMCB of reports of patients not getting basic immunizations.  With that kind of damning data, physicians learned that measurement and testing will not go away. A better response is to shape the testing that does capture what's important.  In other words, docs figured out that it's better to do it to yourselves before someone does it to you.

4. It's breakdowns in home discipline or declines in social order that are the real problem in the class room? People unreasonably expect teachers to fix all that ails America you say?  Welcome to our world of dangerously overcrowded emergency rooms and hospitalized patients who are unable to go home because they have no home, say the docs.

5. Hate vouchers and home schooling?  Well, docs are leery about insurance vouchers and home births too. Yet, in our increasingly consumerist society, people have a right to make bad choices.  Do a good job of educating and exceeding expectations and they sometimes chose correctly.

The DMCB is not suggesting that any of the lessons above are a panacea for our teachers, that they're easily adapted to the classroom, that there are affordable solutions or that School Boards or parents would understand.  That being said, the commonalities between health care and education are remarkable, and some of the insights above may help.

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