In elementary school during the 1950’s I started to learn about the metric system. I wondered why. Ounces and inches seemed to work well. In high school we were told by science and math teachers that this pain-in-the-anatomy metric system was important because it was the standard for serious measurement. The pesky metric system kept cropping up in undergraduate courses and nursing school. That was then, 2 ½ generations ago. This is now and it’s the apothecary system that’s pesky.
Wasn’t it smart for America to create the world’s first decimal system of dollars and cents? Wasn’t it smart for former railroad lawyer President Abraham Lincoln to standardize track gap at 4’ 8.5”? He needed to improve efficiency during the Civil War and there were more than 2 existing track gauges from which to choose. How smart is America for having 2 systems of measurement? W. Edwards Deming wrote, “Not!” The Fahrenheit scale is named for a man from a place that switched. The United States government could actually choose and switch.
Apothecary versus Metric. Let’s make a decision and pick one. What is the cost of having 2 systems of measurement? How much does the overlap and duplication cost? It costs an undetermined amount of money. What would it cost to standardize? Does anyone know?
Meanwhile, health care is not the only industry burdened by the apothecary system. Every enterprise in the United States measures something. Manufacturing? Military? How about a plea for a national Lean process to improve efficiency?
This essay may seem simplistic. How about a few other topics? How about standardizing a national electronic health record, or a complete patient financial accounting system that interfaces with all payers, or a healthcare quality indicator reporting system? Time is money. Duplication costs money. Let’s make a decision.
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