: Divide and Conquer : Divide and Conquer

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Divide and Conquer

There are many parents today who can closely relate to the term “Divide and Conquer”. This moment in time (most likely on the weekends) typically happens when two parents, who are often outnumbered by their own children, are forced into going separate ways to deliver their children to all of their weekly sporting events, activities, birthday parties, sleepovers, etc. With regards to sports, we live in a time when we encourage our children to be active, healthy, competitive, and learn to play well with others. Parents also realize that beyond the countless benefits of being an athlete, it minimizes downtime and keeps our children away from the all too common “electronics”. We as parents do whatever needs to be done to accommodate their often crazy, conflicting schedules….why?   Because we love them and want to see them succeed, grow, develop, and be the best that they can be.

My wife and I have four children, two boys and two girls, who are all participating in many sports, such as dance, hockey, lacrosse, soccer, and ski team. As much as we enjoy the endless travel time taking our children to and from games and practices each week, we quickly realized how much all of the travel was costing us in fuel, tolls, time, and wear and tear on our vehicles. It was not uncommon to jump in the car and run them back and forth each day of the week for all of their practices, and then drive an average of two to three hours to get them to their games on the weekends. After many years, and with our family growing, the number of activities began to multiply. My wife and I sat down and decided we needed to manage our time and travel more efficiently. First, we arranged a family calendar so that amongst all of the chaos, we would not miss anything along the way. This significantly reduced stress and helps to keep everything in an organized manor. Second, to assist in the overall expense of these activities, we needed to create a carpooling schedule for both practices and games. This appears to be common sense and we were already carpooling with other players and families for long distance away games on the weekends, but what about mid-week practices that are only 15-20 minutes away from home? Here is an example of how these practices were adding up:

We calculated that between all four of our children’s activities, they had an average of 3 practices/activities each per week (some weeks more). With some events closer to home and some further away, we decided that the average round-trip distance was 20 miles. Currently, as I write this article, the IRS calculates the overall expense of operating a motor vehicle to be $0.58 per mile. We calculated the cost this way: 3 (activities per week) x 20 (miles round trip) = 60 (miles per week/child) x 4 (children) = $139.20 (per week) x 52 (weeks in the year) = $7,238.40 per year in mid-week travel expenses. My wife and I were excited to see an immediate opportunity to save both time and money not only for our family, but for other families as well.   In true “utilization” terms, minimizing waste (time, wear and tear, fuel, expense, etc.) and doing more for less!

With a little planning, we created a mid-week carpool schedule on a separate calendar. To organize the calendar, we first had to reach out to 3-4 other families that live in close proximity to where we live to see if they would have an interest in carpooling each week. Once we discussed the plan with each family and identified which days and times would work best for all, we created a monthly hardcopy calendar for each family. We decided on a hard copy calendar vs an electronic calendar because they could be hung in each home and be visible to the parents as well as the children. Simply by dividing up the number of trips each week, we easily cut our annual expense at least in half ($3,619.20), thus allowing us to save for vacations, holidays, unexpected expenses, and yes, college for four children!

In healthcare today, everyone is focused on improving the quality of care for their patients at a much lower cost. As in my example, we focused on the “practice” of getting our children to their individual events, not the price of gas, tolls, tires, and brakes. I like to refer to this as “utilization standardization” or simply, driving down the cost of best practice. Due to the change in practice, we uncovered much greater savings than what could ever be realized by trying to find the cheapest gas station in town. Healthcare systems are no different. By examining where there is variance in both product and practice across each hospital, much greater savings can be both identified and realized beyond just looking at the price of individual items. The time has come to focus on “utilization standardization” NOT “product standardization”.

Read Week 3: Breakfast with a Two Year Old.
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