Flu vaccination rates are bad enough, so why are large health systems trying to make them worse?

I recently my two daughters and a friend to get our annual flu shots. We normally go to Target (for adults) or to the kids’ private practice pediatrician. But since moving back to California we elected to try the flu clinic run by a large Northern California health system.

That was a mistake, and this video tells why.

Not mentioned in the video: we’ve since received surprise bills for those flu shots…at $85/PER SHOT. Looks like they got our insurance info wrong on top of it all. Multiple calls later and we’re still not sure it’s straightened out. Guess what uninsured patients would have paid? That’s right: $85 for a flu shot.

Is this just one sad doctor and his family bitching about a bad experience? Maybe. But more likely it represents a failure of our large health systems to make vaccination cheap, convenient, and accessible, and to consider the experience of their patients (AND staff). Target and Walmart are gonna eat your lunch, folks.

Hey guys, it’s Zubin Damania. Okay, this is a message for you, hospital system CEO. Okay, the other day, me and my family got flu shots and we went, okay, every year I go to Target and this year I went to my local, big, huge California health system because that’s where pediatrician is.

When we went there, we immediately were treated like crap. We were treated like cattle, we were herded through a process, the person at the front was suspicious about,” Oh did you have your address right? “Are you trying to fool?” I’m like, ” What is this?” “Like I’m a patient here.” So, already I’m on edge, my kids are nervous, I’m there with a friend who’s scared of needles. We get processed through and that’s the word “processed” and then cattle called into an open space where grumpy nurses are giving us these injections.

Apparently, they’d rather be somewhere else. So the whole experience was terrible and it’s public so my friend who was afraid of needles, is getting an injection publicly and she’s scared, she’s gonna cry or pass out or vasovagal. I mean, it was a horrible experience and I never even got what I really needed which was the proof of vaccination I needed for the hospital. This is a multi-billion dollar system that’s supposed to pride itself on keeping people healthy and we wonder why we have a 50% rate of flu shot uptake.

We make it as painful as possible. Now, here’s the thing. Last year and the years before that, I went to Target. This is how that went down, you walk in, there’s holiday music playing. It’s well-lit, you stand in line for like a minute, there’s a pharmacist they say,” Hey, you wanna a flu shot, great fill out this, great.” Okay, we’ll bring you back here in this private space, go through any questions you have, give you the injection in a smooth painless professional way and off you go with your receipt saying, ” Here’s what you got.”

And we wonder why Target is gonna eat your lunch, Mr. Hospital CEO. If you’re not scared of the Targets and the Walmarts who value cost, convenience, and experience, okay, when we’re supposed to be the big health system so the ones we’re supposed to do is like,” In the old days it’s not like you went to Woolworths to get your health care.” You went to your family doctor, right? So, what happened? How is it that now our experience in these big health systems is miserable? And I’ll tell you, Target has figured out how to apply the lessons of business processes actually effectively to the delivery of something like flu shots.

Why can’t you? You have an MD and an MBA? What are you doing with it? Nothing, you can’t even get a flu shot clinic right and I’m getting angry now because this is why people don’t get their flu shots because they’re treated like crap by people that are supposed to care about them. So, where should they go? I’m gonna tell them,” Go to Target, go to Walmart get your flu shots there.” Because they do a great job and they’ll at least seem to care about you. It was a very different experience so the call to action is this. Wake up, do your job, you’re a leader, lead. We ought to own this.

I do not wanna end up working for Target, doing liver transplants at some point in the future because they’ve eaten your lunch and they will. Get it together, we can do cost, quality and convenience better while taking care of the caregivers and that’s where Target will never beat us because I don’t think those pharmacists could ever be as happy as a real team based physician led organization like you’re running. So run it right. All right ZDogg out.