Thursday, September 18, 2008

Two systems wot need improving

(1) Our campus medical clinic. Specifically, the way they return test results (or don't). The steps are as follows:

  • They give you a number to call between 2 and 4pm.
  • You call it, repeatedly, over a number of days. You are always switched to voice mail. No one returns your messages.
  • You drop by the clinic in person and request your results. The receptionist explains that the nurse has to tell you the results, and the nurse is in a different room and can't possibly be disturbed. Ever. Results are given over the phone. Please call this number between 2 and 4pm.
  • You find an email address for the nurse. Email her.
  • Three days later, the nurse replies, and asks you to drop by the clinic to pick up your results from reception. No, she can't tell you what they are over the phone.
  • You go back to the clinic and pick up the results.
  • You have no idea how to interpret them, nor whether they are actually the full results for all the tests you took.
  • Begin phone-tag cycle from the start.
(2) Our university publishing house, for which I am doing some copy-editing. The copy-editing process goes like this.
  • I pick up a manuscript, in hard copy. No, I may not have the electronic files. They are out-of-date when they do exist, and for most authors, only hard copy has been submitted at this stage of the process.
  • I read the manuscript, and make notes in the margin where there are formatting, spelling, or content errors.
  • I contact the author where I am unsure of what was intended. But I don't ask him/her to fix the problem: instead I have to explain the problem in words; they explain in words how it should be fixed; and then I write up a summary of the explanation in the margin of the document.
  • Then I return the manuscript to the publisher, who passes it onto another of their minions, who is blessed with the electronic file (now up-to-date), and who reads through my marginalia, fixing the problems in the electronic version.
It's kind of like a game of Chinese Whispers.