Ah, Labor Day… a short work week for many, time to put away the white shoes and for most kids, back to school. As a mom of three kids, I know that one of the most important events leading up to the first day of school is the day when the teacher letters arrive in the mail. This is the envelope every kid feverishly rips open to see who new teacher will be, and then starts the frantic emailing/texting/facebooking to see which friends may or may not be in the same class.

It seems, at least based on my somewhat limited experience with this process, that each year there is the ‘odd kid out,’ the one who winds up in a class with little to none of his/her close friends. When this happened to a family friend’s fourth-grader this year, it made me think about the teacher assignment process.

Assignment is defined as, ‘the attribution of someone or something as belonging.’ We at MedAptus talk about assignment a lot because we believe that aligning a patient to a provider based on specific attributes is the best path forward to a positive health outcome. Now applying this to student distribution process, it might be typical for a school district to divide up the number of students by the number of teachers, taking into account reasonable classroom sizes as the key input. But to me, it seems that there are or should be many more factors that go into this process…

  1. Who are the child’s friends? Who are the child’s foes?
  2. Gender
  3. Academic capabilities, academic challenges
  4. Previous relationships with the family

Applying the above to teacher assignment might reduce the number of students that feel alone in school and I can see many benefits from ensuring a positive social experience around the 200 or so days a child spends in school, and rather closely with another 20 or so kids – better attitude towards school, easier morning rituals, better grades and so forth.

This is exactly how MedAptus views the benefit of optimal doctor-patient assignment in the acute care setting. A hospitalist team may have five providers on shift to cover 62 patients and the fastest way to initiate daily rounds may seem like a fast math problem – but that is just back-loading potential issues. We believe that looking at a number of salient factors about the patient – previous episodes of care and relationships, acuity, community PCP – are important aspects that should drive the best assignment. And just as importantly is the notion of workload. A patient is not a patient is not a patient – so my 12 patients are likely very different than my peer’s 12 patients. This is why MedAptus takes workload balancing very seriously – understanding the relative work or effort involved in managing each patient’s care not only helps groups more effectively manage resources, but the literature is clear: the higher the workload, the longer length of stay.

When I talk to friends in different verticals about our emerging care coordination platform, it’s interesting how many areas of professional life suffer from weak assignment. Take call centers. Every call center has metrics upon metrics around wait times, resolution speed and so forth, yet how many actually can or do route a call to the best rep based on past performance around a specific issue? I guess that is the core of improving assignment processes everywhere – taking action on data.