Taking on the "old guard" at work (longish)

Recently a problem has arisen at work (hospital insurance billing department).

When we get EOBs (Explanation of Benefits), they are posted to the patients’ accounts and then the hardcopy is scanned into the imaging system. One particular insurance company’s EOB can run as many as 180 pages with 4-5 accounts on each page. Up until the end of April, the person keying in the information would note the page number for each account. This made is easy to find when you had to research the account (which happens all the time for various reasons).

Starting in May, this practice was stopped. The reason? They didn’t want to do it because it took too much time.

Now, like I said, it can run as many as 180 pages, but the majority are less than 20 pages. I guess the person in charge of that department (and she’s been there for quite some time) decided to save her team members a little bit of time. However, they never have to look up the EOBs. There are at least 20 people who do. Without the page number, it takes quite some time to locate exactly the page we need.

Several of us were discussing this today at a meeting and I asked why this person was allowed to do this. The answer was, “Well, that’s just the way she is.”

I called bullshit. She’s causing a lot of people to waste a lot of time so that she can save 2 or 3 people a little time.

I e-mailed her supervisor, but have gotten no response. A co-worker went to her supervisor’s supervisor (the head of the department) and explained the situation and she is supposed to see what can be done.

My major complaint is that, if we are all on the same team (something they are keen to emphasize), they no one should be exempt. It shouldn’t (shouldn’t, but does) matter whether the person has been here 1 year or 25 years, right?

The department head doesn’t usually screw around. In fact, at our monthly meeting last week, she told us that, if we have a problem that effects everyone, we shouldn’t stop until the problem is resolved.

Well, this is one of those problems. I refuse to accept that someone is allowed to cause problems for a lot of people just because of senority.

Anybody else have to battle the old guard at work?

If so, how did it work out?

Well, when “battling” the old guard, the first thing you need to learn is which battles to fight.

At some point, you realize that there are always going to be people with more power than you and that decisions are often made based on who is advocating which side rather than what is right or wrong. When you go up against someone with more power, you often end up frustrated at best–but sometimes the results are much worse.

That’s not to say never go up against someone higher up, just make sure you’re fully prepared to do so and that you can handle the consequences.

In your case, you need to decide if this is worth fighting. Will the person who mandated this change really resent you for going against her? Will that have negative consequences for you? Are they worth it?

If you decide to go forward, you really need to build a strong case. Perhaps you can document exactly how much time is spent by your group looking for this information and what things aren’t done because you’re too busy looking up page numbers. Put it in dollar terms if you can. In other words, show them the costs of the decision. It may be that those costs are greater than what you’d incur if her group where to bring in someone (possibly even part time) to help with their workload.

I’ve also got to tell you that companies I’ve worked for have never, ever gone back to the way things were done before, even after a disasterous change was made. For some reason, even if the new way is much worse, there’s a taboo about going back to the old way. Perhaps it’s seen as “not embracing change” or admitting that a bad decision was made and leaving the person making that decision with egg on their face. The best thing to do is to come up with a suggestion that doesn’t go back to the old way but still addresses your issues. Suggesting they bring in help with their workload so they can enter those page numbers may be a solution. There may be others.

I don’t believe this person could cause problems for me specifically unless I need her to research EOBs or payments that are missing. This doesn’t happen often.

I know I’m right in this case and have several other co-workers in different departments who are on my side.

If this were just me being having a problem, I would let it go, but it isn’t.

They had been logging the page numbers since the imaging system was implemented in 2002. It’s never been a problem before.

Gah! Hit enter too soon!
As for time wasted. We are the ones who bring in the money. We are supposed to bring in $34 million a month. That 5-10 minutes wasted looking up a page number could be better used following up on a claim (or several in that time span). In our department, time really is money.

This is the first place I’ve worked where I even had the chance to challenge anything and I certainly wouldn’t waste my time on something if it wasn’t worthwhile.

In fact next week, I get to sit in on a meeting with the rep from the software company who sold us the junky program we are forced to use to process claims. My supervisor is on vacation and has asked me to take her place. I, along with another co-worker, have been logging serious issues with the software and feel that one of us should be there to give our side of the story.

Seems like the first step might have been to go directly to the person who changed the policy and talk about it. She may not have clearly realized how her decision affects other people. Or maybe she is getting pressure from someone higher up to get stuff out of her office faster. In many large enterprises people don’t really know what the people in other departments do. Going to her directly gives her a chance to solve the problem, even if she doesn’t acknowledge making a mistake. Going to her supervisor means that she will now have to try to prove that she’s right and you’re wrong. On the other hand, if one particular insurance company’s paperwork is causing the problem, maybe *they * should be the ones to change how they operate. Maybe they do it that way because no one has asked them to do something different. If the stuff comes to you in order by, say, date or account number, maybe you could ask them to provide it in alphabetical order by patient name. There should be a quick way to call up a file by name or account without a manual search for a page number.

As to the software stuff, document everything every time as it happens. Send a daily report about foul-ups to the bosses. In my experience people who design computer systems will smugly answer “user error” to every complaint, until the complaints pile up too high to be ignored.

I had emailed her when I first noticed the problem. She said she stopped doing it because it took too long.

This is the point (the only point in a business environment) for you to emphasize with the brass.

However, you had better be prepared to demonstrate that you are not just “feeling” this delay. If someone takes the time to document the delays and you come up with one man-hour lost per week across three departments and the data entry manager can show that her staff is losing three man-hours per week, you are going to come across as a whiner.

You need to be able to demonstrate to management that there is a genuine loss of productive time hunting for pages.
(You might also want to consider a compromise: perhaps they number all pages on documents exceeding 21 pages and continue their current practice on shorter documents.)

Alternatively, can the scanner be hooked up to do some OCR operation that extracts the page numbers (and, perhaps, eliminates the need for the whole data entry department < eg > )?

I wholeheartedly agree. Part of my job is to fight these battles, and in my experience nothing sells your arguments better than facts and figures, and maybe a couple of nifty charts.

For instance, if you decide to fight this battle, you might try something like this: Time your co-workers a few times using the old method, then do the same for the new method (I’m sure they’d be willing to participate if they thought a payoff in less work might result). Create a calculation for dollars per minute you earn for the company. You can now perform the calculation ([New Method Time] - [Old Method Time]) * Dollars/minute. You now have a real number. Estimate the same thing for the people entering the data, and so on.

I’m sure you can come up with a better scenario, but people are generally impressed with hard data (even if your numbers are wrong), and that the fact that you put some real thought and effort in making your argument. It’s much more effective than arguing “This takes too much time.”

Our IT guy was trying to sell me that we needed a new server because ours was too slow. I told him to show me the numbers, and how a new server would benefit us. He took about a day, showed me the documentation, and convinced me.

Of course, the next hurdle is knowing the political landscape well enough to pitch it to the right person. I can’t help you there.

Good luck.

Well, Monday is going to be a big day in reference to my second problem (the crappy software we are reuqired to use).

I get to present the problems to the IS person in charge of fixing the problems (which she hasn’t) as well as her supervisor and a representative from the software company!

I don’t believe the supervisors are fully aware of the magnitude of the problem (claims dropping off the workstation for no reason). When she sees the amount of money these claims represent, she’ll likely give birth to a large bovine.

It is not my intent to get anyone in trouble, but their inability to fix this problem adversely affects not only me, but everyone else in my department.

Wish me luck!

Again, go in with facts.

Do not attempt to sit in a meeting and get into a he-said-she-said battle in which the most articulate (or loudest) speaker “wins.”

Take along the claim/customer/vendor/whatever numbers for actual claims that are missing data. Go to an active terminal and have the IS person find the data (or not) while the supervisor and vendor watch. If you have a (long) list of damaged claim entries, so much the better.

(I have been in situations where the user insists up and down that we are losing data–all of which I found because they were refusing to use all the paths available after they had miskeyed one of the numbers at entry. I have also been in situations where the software was actually losing data. There are no automatic good guys or bad guys in these situations. Sometimes IS is staffed by arrogant incompetents and sometimes the users are all suffering from ID-ten-T errors. The only valid way to determine the problems is to check real data in a real system and find the real problems–everything else is personality nonsense.)

(Good luck if the crappy software is PeopleSquish.)

I have a file over an inch thick. And that’s just for July!