#Covid Crisis: Can Efficiency Kill?

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Ever since I have entered the corporate world, the one word that is most used in defining the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), system designs, process engineering, product definitions, marketing campaigns, departmental achievements, manufacturing processes, capacity planning, corporate targets and almost every aspect of economic activity is Efficiency.

It has been playing both the role of a key driver and ultimate target for defining progress and measure of success for individuals and enterprises alike.

The classical definition for efficiency is –

(of a system or machine) achieving maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort or expense.’

‘(of a person) working in a well-organized and competent way.’

Many companies project it as their competitive advantage and even make significant effort in communicating the same to their customers. To the extent that there are companies that have made efficient means of making this communication as their core business.

Efficiency is good to achieve as it brings us to a point of deriving maximum impact with minimal (or shall we say optimal) expense of resource.

Consequently, we have many operational and business best practices, to name a few –

  • Just-In-Time Manufacturing
  • Lean Principles
  • Business Process Management with Six Sigma
  • Optimal capacity building and utilization

Its good business and makes a lot of sense.

The privately managed healthcare ecosystem is no exception to this drive for achieving greater efficiency. Many of these institutes have revenue and profit targets. Consequently, we have seen care providers such as hospitals and clinics running highly efficient systems with forecasting models for bed utilization, testing facilities design, resource planning of doctors, nurses and other care providers. Similarly, we see pharmaceutical companies running highly efficient mechanisms to build the next successful cure or vaccine. These have helped to derive significant profitability for these entities.

The state-managed healthcare ecosystem, on the contrary, has similar aspirations but is way behind in the journey. Currently, it pedals on adversely affecting inefficiencies.

But what happens when a highly efficient and extremely effective opponent attacks an efficient ecosystem?

The Covid-19 mutant B1.617 has demonstrated a significantly high level of efficiency. It is contracting the humans it is contacting. It deploys itself silently in the sinus region before making its way to respiratory tract of the affected humans. It is doing this without fail, at a large scale. It is efficient, precise and non-compromising in its attack. One lowers the guard of the behavorial protocol and chances of getting infected increase multi-fold.

The spread has wreaked havoc and the healthcare ecosystem has been put to an unprecedented test. Shortage of beds, medicines, and even oxygen derailed the whole care process, putting it under tremendous stress. Insufficient care led to many people either being permanently affected and in more acute cases losing their lives.

The situation demands a review of some of the driving factors of designing of this ecosystem.

  1. Has the lack of sufficient redundancy in hospitals forced us into economically hurting alternatives of lockdowns and curfews?
  2. Do we need to tweak our capacity planning models for both the care providers and care establishments so that they are more liberal than efficient?
  3. Were the more efficiently produced medicines favored over the required ones leading to a crisis of required medicines in the market?
  4. Did the efficient just-in-time models for essentials like Oxygen contributed adversely to the situation?
  5. Are the efficient global supply chains leading to delayed development and deployment of vaccines, as the raw material is not even distributed; and so, it’s not easily available?
  6. Has an efficient opponent in form of the virus with adopted efficiency in medical ecosystem has led to a situation where efficiency kills?

The answers to these questions may give us permanent lessons in the need of building redundancy (and so helpful inefficiency) in the care ecosystem. A holistic evaluation is needed to mandate the right set of inefficiencies that we should allow in the care ecosystem. It’s a challenging task as inefficiency can prove extremely counterproductive if wrongly adopted, as we see in the state-run healthcare ecosystem.

Unfortunately, the cost for even this discussion is proving to be very high.

(Views expressed are personal).

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