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Process this, pal.

by | Sep 15, 2015 | Daily Life

A trip to the doctor’s office becomes a lesson in the need for better processes and better customer experience design.

Iwent in for a physical last week and used a local doctor’s clinic for the first time. Now, I will admit that as a man in his thirties I have neglected my healthcare upkeep, yet I am getting better at it. That is mostly irrelevant for the matter of this article, except to point out that I hadn’t spent a lot of time in clinics in the recent years.

It was a Monday morning and as soon as I walked in I was amazed; 9:20 in the morning and the place (which has a half dozen physicians working in it) was a veritable healthcare machine. People hustling in and out, names being called, other names seemingly never being called, and a noticeable feeling of helplessness as the patients were doing their best to practice patience.

After I shifted over to the third clerical window (having chosen wrong the first two times) I was asked who I was there to see and then told to sit and wait. I interrupted to ask if there was anything I needed to sign or do, being my first time there. The medical assistant took my insurance information and my questionnaire and told me that was all I needed. I felt a little concerned that had I not spoken up, my name would have gotten lost in the vortex, but in any event I was now a cog in the machine called wellness. And so I sat.

My appointment was for 9:45 and my name was finally called at 10:30, which I was later told by more experienced recipients of healthcare is about normal. Appointments are scheduled 15 minutes apart, and one minor kink in the chain and the wheels can fly off. So, between the the early arrival I was instructed to adhere to and the delay in getting in, I had lost about an hour of my morning. But that’s no big deal really—I am only trying to build a company, leap tall buildings and save the world by lunch, so what’s an hour right?

Once I was inside the gates of medical progress I began a four-hour adventure of tests, transfers from room to room, periods of waiting (on the same exam tables and in gowns that have NOT improved since I was a child), brief interludes with my new physician between time with the nurses, all the while never being explained how the process works or what to expect along the way. (Note to physicians: The idle time between tests are a great time to provide information related to the individual patient being served, we can design technology for that.)

Once my appointment was over I was given some preliminary information about the day’s tests and told to return in two weeks to go over my lab results. I went to the check-out window and set-up my follow-up appointment and then I asked about costs (you know that little detail that seems to have derailed our country and put us on a path to only being able to afford leeches and self-hypnosis treatments.) The woman told me they would submit it to the insurance and I would be notified of the out-of-pocket expense. Again, as when I began this journey, this left me with a feeling that if I don’t pursue the issue myself, I will be lost in the vortex, this time one that comes with the possibility of medical bankruptcy.

So I left, making a mad dash back to my health insurance policy to see exactly where I stood, which after hours of sitting, felt pretty good.

Two days letter I get a call with a message saying my lab results were in and to call my doctor’s nurse for the information. This took me off guard since I had just made an appointment to come back for the results the following week. But I did as instructed and called the office—which without a doubt became the most convoluted example of “press one for this” “press two for that” I have come across in a long time. After three failed attempts to get ANY human on the phone, I decided to call back and “press one” for setting up a new appointment, thinking that certainly the prospect of new money coming in the door would be met with eager human contact—and lo and behold it was. Three more transfers and some time on hold finally yielded my lab results and an instruction for more Vitamin D. I asked why I was getting the call and was told that I had marked that box on my questionnaire as my preference. I told the nurse that I had a follow-up appointment to go over the results with the doctor, to which she replied, “Oh, then you should do what the doctor told you to do.”

Do I have to even mention the vortex again?

Now after all of this I will say that the clinic seems thorough and from the brief amount of time I spent with the doctor, he seemed good to work with,  so I am content. But in reality I have to be. I need healthcare, I am getting older and I see the body starting to fall apart. I have insurance, sort of, which tells me who I can see to get the most coverage and the course of action that I can take to spend the least amount of money possible. The healthcare industry is structured in a way, that as much as it touts about having choices in my healthcare, the reality is, when you dig down, you see choices are more limited.

And that brings us to the big takeaway for you as business owners or managers and people making decisions on how your organization deals with end-users and customers: I NEED the healthcare provided by that or another clinic, so I will be relegated to deal with the processes and information flows (or lack of) from which they operate.

But do I really need whatever it is YOU OFFER that bad that I would endure your processes if they are confusing or inefficient, or just simply a pain in the ass?  Are there competitors doing things in a better way that I could just as easily use instead of you? Are there similar products that are easier to understand and use that give me the same benefit as yours?

I’ll save you time, the answers are no, yes, and yes.

So I encourage you to take a step back and view what you do from your customer’s perspective instead of sitting around thinking everything you are doing is just great, because it is not, in fact it never is. As long as one competitor is looking for better ways of doing things, you must too—that is assuming you still want to be around in the future.

Now, if you will excuse me I need to get back to switching my phone carrier, my gym membership, my car-maker, and my underwear provider—just because I can.

Robert Westfall

Robert is a writer, behavorial researcher and decision-making consultant. He is the founder of Instinct, a firm specializing in helping organizations be more human focused and planet conscious.  You can learn more about his work at www.TheHumanInstinct.com and follow him at twitter.com/WeAreInstinct

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