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Stepwise Success

It’s All About the Customer

Published February 10, 2014 6:05 AM by Scott Warner

A lab receives a complaint from a surgeon that lab work was not done on a preop patient even though the lab requisition was faxed by his office staff to the OR.

The problem is potentially big. The paperwork was faxed sometime in the middle of the week, the patient drove to the lab the following Sunday to have the labs drawn for Tuesday surgery, but without an order the patient was sent home. Monday the physician calls to complain, and the patient drives an hour in a downpour to be drawn. By the afternoon a specimen with a positive antibody screen is couriered to a reference lab. Antigen negative units arrive by morning, but it’s close.

That morning the lab tells the OR blood is ready and explains the patient’s antibody. The OR had the requisition but says, “That isn’t our system and the office knows it. It’s their responsibility to fax the paperwork to you.”

It’s funny how tunnel vision is 20/20. Of course, it’s better for the office to fax everything to one number. And it’s better for the patient to make one trip.

Near misses happen in the best systems. Efficiency doesn’t imply adaptability. It’s easy to fall into a trap of making customers work for us to improve our productivity. It’s why we pay at the first drive through window. But why do we think this way?

Any workplace is a box. We all become obsessed with the details of maneuvering the maze inside, flipping switches to get cheese (unless some idiot has moved it), and avoiding electric shocks. It’s easy to forget that outside the box is a world that justifies the existence of the box, because we tend to interact with everything to get cheese or avoid shocks. At the end of the day we just go home and complain about how stupid everything in our box has been. Day in and out it’s all about the box and our weird life inside it.

It’s easy to forget that it’s all about the customer. I wish the customer didn’t have to remind us.

NEXT: Culture or Not?

posted by Scott Warner
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About this Blog


    Scott Warner, MLT(ASCP)
    Occupation: Laboratory Manager
    Setting: Critical Access Hospital
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