Reinventing customer experience like your life depended on it

By Cheryl Wilson

This is a high-stakes customer experience story.

Imagine going about your daily routine when you, or a loved one, contracts an infection that damages the liver, heart or lungs. You need an organ transplant. There are 6,500 people on the waiting list, and an average of three people die every day waiting.

If you were the one waiting, what kind of organ allocation process would you want? One where everyone, especially you, had the best chance of receiving a life-saving organ transplant, right?

That was the opportunity and challenge that faced UK-based National Health Service Blood and Transplant (NHSBT), which facilitates thousands of organ transplants a year in the United Kingdom. How and why they adopted automation to help deliver a life-improving client experience applies to most industries with far less riding on their business operations and the underlying technologies.

And it began with four familiar problems:

  1. A key process was getting too complex and dynamic.
  2. There was no one left who could “work” the systems. 
  3. The process was too slow.
  4. It took too long to make changes.

In this workflow image, every red diamond and box represents a manual process that highly skilled NHSBT employees had to work through for each organ donor.

NHSBT organ donor workflow chart

Fortunately, this client experience story has a happy ending, beginning with the allocation of hearts. The process is now digitized all the way from the time a nurse discusses organ donation with family members to the time a donation is offered to a transplant center.

How they did it

It took NHSBT six months to design and deploy a new heart allocation scheme with the help of cloud-based process mapping, business process management (BPM) and operational decision management (ODM) technologies.

  • Process mapping allowed them to have a conversation with the people who actually do the work and map the processes the way they can understand them before automation. “It’s the clinicians who design the schemes, and then we work with them to turn that into something that’s implementable,” said Sally Johnson, NHSBT Director of Organ Donation and Transplant. “If I talk to them about cloud platforms, they have no clue what I’m talking about. But surgeons certainly understand it when I tell them we can adapt allocation schemes incrementally and routinely based on new data or research; we don’t need years anymore. That’s enormously valuable to them.”
  • BPM provided a supportive workflow to automate the allocation process, giving staff more time to talk to transplant centers and connect with donation hospitals to make sure families have the best possible experience.
  • ODM enabled them to build flexible rules that can be changed quickly.

Moving forward: The ability to apply things like AI and machine learning to the development of exceptional start-to-finish customer experiences is evolving.

“Will the nature of the data going into the system inform the way we design allocation schemes in the future? Could we get to a point where the system is almost learning for itself and helping us achieve the competing demands of equity of access and organ utility over time? I think yes. We absolutely see this as being a step towards more intelligent allocation schemes over time,” said Aaron Powell, Chief Digital Officer, NHSBT.

Automation is about using a combination of talent, technology and process to support your core purpose – like helping people to do something extraordinary every day to save and improve the lives of others.

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