When I scheduled surgery for carpal tunnel, caused by all the typing over the years as a business journalist and author, etc., what threw me off, more than anything, was the healthcare experience.  And I discovered there are real needs for improvement in healthcare, for which service designers are aptly suited. Service designers have told us as much and that healthcare providers know they need help, but are unsure where to engage them. Well, here’s a suggestion.

First, when I met the surgeon, with clipboard and pen in hand, he wrote the orders for scheduling, flipping page after page, grunting about the paperwork.  Afterward, when he had already left the room, his assistant came in rolling her eyes. “I could have taken the orders verbally and written them up,” she sighed.  She took them out of the clipboard, and as I left, handed them to a desk clerk.

Someone in the office then transcribed the surgeon’s orders into a portal, and a scheduling nurse was alerted, who called the surgical center to work out a date for the operation.

The scheduler called me 4 days later with instructions she received from the surgical center requiring me to obtain medical clearances, including from my primary doctor and a Covid-19 testing center.  The surgeon’s scheduler prepares the instructions on clearances and faxes them to my doctor, one of whom needs me to schedule blood work.

For one those appointments, I waited over a half-hour for someone to pick up the phone, no one returned my previous email request.  Meantime, the Covid test is only valid 5-to-6 days prior to the surgery, and the test results must be faxed over to the surgical center the day before, not earlier, which happens to fall on a Sunday.  So, I have to find a testing center that can send my results on Sunday.

One of the appointments, the doctor couldn’t see me in time; I notified the surgeon’s scheduler who cursed me because surgery date now had to be changed. Consequently, the entire clearance processes, instructions and such, was all repeated.

On its face, improving the patient’s experience appears to be a significant challenge.  But it may not be, if all the parties agree that improvements are needed.  However, it does require the skills of a service designer.

All user service experiences derive from a series of separate services.  Put another way, an experience is the sum of services coming together to achieve a user-desired outcome.

The service design approach to this challenge requires separating each of those services into user-experience stages, and then using a journey map or a service blueprint to diagram the entire user experience.  In this way, the problem will be illuminated, easily understood, for which the solution is always implementing technology and reconfiguring process.  (User-centric services combine technology, process for user experiences.)

A journey map would help, so long as it shows the separate services at each stage and how they connect to the adjoining services. The journey map, however, merely confirms the problem exists.  Improvement will require a service blueprint.

The blueprint is a wonderful model to improve systematic deficiencies, I have found, because its focus is on the interconnections that must occur. That’s a lot to inhale, I realize, but think of air travel, and all that it takes to get you to a destination – your ultimate goal.  The healthcare experience, similarly, is all about fixing my sore hand.

The interconnections mostly take place “backstage” in the technology and process between a service operation and service system, where the user experience unfolds.

I have not turned toward improving my healthcare experience, other than offering how I would tackle the challenge, based on my experience.

When the separate services – doctor visits, surgeon, testing center and surgical center—come to recognize they are just parts of a user journey, then they will find a solution with internet and communications technology and the protocols, the process, for integrating them.