Colonoscopy is an apt metaphor for this blog, as you will soon learn. 

It was that point when I was due the every-five-year medical invasion. The dreaded prep was simple, with little discomfort. The physician was charming, noticeably competent, and thorough in his explanation before the procedure and his briefing afterward. From check-in to exit, the attending staff members were all warm and friendly. I left saying my next colonoscopy would happen at this specialty clinic and not at a hospital. And that should have ended my encounter—all with very positive memories. But there was another unfortunate chapter.

There is a secure access-by-password-only patient portal with all the healthcare providers with whom I deal. After any visit for any reason, I can log onto my portal and study all the details of the tests my insurance company funded. After a couple of days, I check my patient portal for this clinic to learn about my physician’s sightseeing and reports of any unique sightings. There was nothing under “lab reports,” so I called the clinic’s medical records department.

“I will have to send you a special request form,” she told me over the phone, “which you will need to complete and return to me along with a photo of a picture ID.” She sounded like I had misbehaved. I gave her my extensive history with other patient portals, including one with the giant hospital a few blocks from her clinic. The request form she emailed was in PDF. It meant I had to print it, complete in longhand, scan it, and either email it, snail mail it, or fax it. I checked the box on the form requesting all my lab reports be posted to my patient portal. A few hours later, I checked the portal. There was only a physician’s letter indicating the findings of the rude examination were completely normal.

“But what about the lab reports getting posted to my secure patient portal?” I emailed her back. She did not respond. It has been two months, and no lab reports have been posted on my portal. Consider the opening sentence again.

Much is written about understanding a customer’s journey through an organization’s service processes. Organizations train for a friendly customer greeting and effective hosting. They scrutinize associate handoffs and communications. They send out customer surveys and install suggestion systems. In the healthcare world, much is spoken about bedside manner, patient rights, and efficient wayfinding. 

Even after all that, your customer’s memory of their entire encounter with your organization can be destroyed by one draconian process managed by its customer-hostile guardian. So, stop worrying about the lions and tigers and pay attention to the gnats and mosquitoes of your customers’ experiences.