The Business of Health Care

Consumerism is the answer to health care? Maybe not


After 3 days at the Health 2.0 conference, everyone is agreed with Jane Sarasohn-Kahn that more consumer choice and better transparency and an “Amazon like shopping experience” would improve health care. In fact in her wonderful book, HealthConsuming, Jane talks a lot about the dark side of putting this much pressure on consumers, but I just had an experience that revealed what might go wrong. Bear with me, this does get back to health care…

The short answer is that BestBuy‘s home appliance service delivery and fulfillment seriously sucks. It has gone off the rails in a massively bad way. You’d think they’d have a multi-platform CRM that worked but it’s a disaster

The story. The washer in an apartment I used to live in but now rent out broke after 9 years–fair enough. And I spent a long time on a customer IM chat with Best Buy figuring out if there was an available washer that would stack under the still working dryer (which was stacked on top of it). But the answer was no.

So in the same IM chat the Best Buy agent suggests a replacement washer and dryer, and all the stuff required to put it in, and added installation and delivery. And he gets me a page where I can fill in my details, credit card and buy it all, then return to the chat to set a delivery date. Pretty snazzy BUT apparently the agent forgot to add removing the old ones to the order (even though most of the conversation was about the old ones!) Remember that for later…

I couldn’t be in the apartment on delivery day (a Thursday) but the person who lives there now could be. No delivery showed up. I later found that the delivery crew put a note in the record that they had called and left a message saying the truck had broken down and they weren’t coming. I got no such voicemail.

So that night I call Best Buy to complain and there is an 86 minute estimated wait time. So I go online to look at my account and the appointment is already cancelled. I set it for the next available time which is four days later on the next Tuesday). On the Monday night I have a brainfart and realize that they only have my number, not that of the person waiting. So I get on the IM chat on the Best Buy website and have a long IM adding that number to their system (Note you can NOT add it to your account page or the appointment page at @bestbuy

The next day my tenant waiting tells me that they haven’t shown up. Bear in mind, I was at the Health 2.0 conference all day and unavailable. (I later found a voicemail on my number–not his–from Best Buy‘s delivery crew saying that they were outside). My tenant calls their hotline and they rescheduled for two days later. That afternoon I get a call and it’s Best Buy again outside the apartment. I tell them to call the person inside, and finally they connect and the crew gets inside

You know what’s coming next!

The crew have come to install the washer and dryer but they didn’t bring it with them!

So at least they can take the old/broken ones away, right? Uh, no.

Remember back to the original order? My IM agent had not added “remove the old ones” Next I call customer service. The agent says that they can reschedule the drop off & install. But taking away the old ones has to be a separate appointment. Again on a separate day! I’m getting a bit heated by now. 

Here’s the convo:
Me-Why cant we just add a “remove” to the order?
BB-Well we have to cancel and reorder.
Me- OK when could a new order be scheduled?
BB- I can’t tell you that without doing a new order. But it’ll be later than doing a reschedule of this one
Me- But that will mean my tenant having to wait at home on 2 days not one. So start a new order to tell me when that delivery would happen.
BB- But then I have to enter all these SKUs again? 
Me-So do it
BB-But we have to cancel your current order?
MeWhy? I may not confirm the new order if the delivery date is too far away?
BB-OK putting you on hold
<5 mins later>
BB-Oh I found out that my supervisor CAN add a “remove old washer & dryer” to the order, so I did. But it’s going to cost you $19.99 each 

There is some chance on Tuesday (next available date) that @BestBuy will deliver & install the new washer/dryer and take out the old ones. But there is a higher chance that this becomes a business school case study in how not to integrate multi-channel customer service 

And for health care peeps who think I’m just ranting here (which I am)….remember that Best Buy bought Great Call with the goal of creating a seamless customer service experience putting medical monitoring equipment in the homes of seniors! Good luck to them! 

And as a CODA to the Best Buy experience this morning I got an email from The Doctors TV show advising people on how to avoid those huge surprise medical bills. It is quite the list:

  • Triple check everyone involved in the surgery is in your network. Just because your hospital is in network does not mean that everyone on staff is.
  • Confirm their in-network status in writing with the billing department
  • Ask your doctor for breakdown of estimated cost beforehand
  • Triple check the insurance summary that you received when you first enrolled
  • Get a detailed plan for the surgery from your doctor and go over it with your insurance.
  • Ask if anything will require pre-authorization or pre-approval

Did you get all that? Do you think that the average patient going into surgery–even if it’s elective and they are conscious–can deal with that?

How do you think my Best Buy agent would do?

4 replies »

  1. The answer might be in keeping it simple. Multi platform CRM is not always the best solution. My recent experience with insurance company here in Canada was similar.

  2. Why didn’t you have it all handled by Geek Squad? See you went down the DIY path, which is never going to work in healthcare. The facilitated process is Best Buys’s Special Sauce. Stay tuned on BestBuy Health. (No, I am not kidding…who do you think is going to hook up and integrate all of the biometic devices that consumers are going to be given by the array of widget carve outs to resolve telehealth connectivity and the like for the poly-chronic 75-year olds?)

    Further, I think Jane or anyone using the Uber or Amazon metaphor for health care doesn’t mean it literally. There is as much to dislike about both metaphors as there is to like. What EVERYBODY gets is that their approach was disruptive to a complacent industry that forgot the simplicity of their purpose.

    And, BTW, your example is n=1. DIY healthcare is not the solution either, irrespective of the chat App you get advice from.

  3. On the news tonight. Man with herniated disk causing severe pain, can barley move – after x-ray, doc says urgent operation required or man will lose use of his legs. Emergency surgery performed, man has private health insurance.

    Later man gets bills for about $250,000 as insurance company said surgery not necessary and denies payment.

    I wonder how the Doctors TV show IDIOTS would comment now on their 6 points to avoid surprise bills.

    Trump and Republicans – “Party of health care”

    Yes, Medicare for all would so much worse.