May 26

Healthcare Value Analysis: The Best Formula for Good Questions


At the heart of any investigation, such as healthcare value analysis, is good questions. One of the best formulas (2 + 6 over F x 4) for doing so was devised by James O. Pyle, a veteran army interrogator. The Pyle formula is as follows:

The Best Formula for Healthcare Value Analysis

Question with the curiosity of a two-year-old. It is important to have a value analysis project manager who has no ownership over the product or service they are investigating, since they then will be more curious about how a product or service works. For instance, yesterday one of my staff members was explaining to me how a DaVinci Robot’s instruments only have a very limited number of times they can be used before they should be discarded. I was curious why this was recommended by the manufacturer since numerous instruments can be reprocessed a greater number of times. This is how you can ask questions with the curiosity of a two-year-old.

Use the six interrogatives (who, what, when, where, why, and how). These are the six classic open-ended starter questions to get people talking. For example – WHO are the customers for this product, WHAT has been your experience with this product, WHEN do you use it, WHY do you need it, and HOW do you use it? As opposed to closed-ended questions that elicit just a yes or no response. Your goal should then be to keep people talking with open-ended questions.

Stay on top of your interrogatives with follow-up questions. Once you have opened up your customers with open-ended questions you will then have an opportunity (by listening carefully) to follow-up with more specific questions, such as, “How many times does this product get recycled? Or, can you think of a way to reduce the cost of this product?” As you know, the details are in the answers, so keep following up until you have understood the product or service as well as your customer does.

Make sure to cover all four discovery areas: People, places, things, and events in time. To hone in on the goals (quality, safety, and cost) of your VA investigation you need to know what the users think about the product, where it is used, what things you need to perform the service, and the timing of the service. This way you have context behind your overall inquiry that will be helpful in putting all of the pieces together later.

Finally, one of the questions we always ask in our value analysis practice is, “WHAT IS THE HISTORY OF THE PRODUCT OR SERVICE?” This enables us to discover how long customers have been using the product, how it was first ordered, who ordered it, etc. We often find that the original reason a product or service was requisitioned has changed, but the product or service being ordered hasn’t changed, thereby opening up new opportunities to change the product or service specifications – usually at a lower cost.

Questioning is an art and a science that all value analysis practitioners need to master for the best value analysis outcomes. That’s why Pyle’s (2 + 6 over F x 4) questioning formula is a good starting point for all value analysis practitioners to get better than just good at this very important skill set.

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