Hospital-Based Telephone Answering Services

Karen Kiley of Allina Hospitals and Clinics in Minneapolis, MN had this to say when asked about how messaging is evolving in the medical field.

“More than twenty years ago I started a hospital-based doctors’ answering service. Back then, it was a big deal to have a digital pager. Several year’s later we thought it was a cutting edge technology to get a physician to use an alpha pager! Today we look at how call center technology can interface with the automated patient medical record systems. How can we attach messages from the call center to that record? How can our hospital call center push the medical information out to the community?

“I think, if they’re not already doing so, hospital’s today will be revisiting why they are in the after hours answering service business. This is due to operational expenses in providing a 24 x 7 staffing requirement and the rising cost of healthcare benefits for employees. I believe hospitals will come to the realization that commercial services can do it for less. You will more than likely see outsourcing of hospital answering services and partnerships between hospitals and private call center businesses.

“I see a new trend in hospital medical contact centers with the focus shifting towards looking at how they can best utilize the communications technology to support internal hospital departments via one call “hot lines” to their call centers. This includes providing online patient class registration, HEICS (Hospital Emergency Incident Command System), physician referral, nurse triage, appointment scheduling, patient placement, and call processing consolidation. This will result in reducing expenses by requiring less FTE’s (full time equivalents) across the organization and at the same time increasing productivity while improving customer service.

“Today’s leading-edge call center systems are innovative and allow each organization to be creative and customize special needs, while keeping things exciting and manageable for the users. They help create operator efficiency and reduce the opportunity for potential errors, which is critical in health care, and provides a powerful tool for today’s medical communication’s initiative.”

Allina Hospitals and Clinic uses the Amtelco Infinity system. For more information visit Amtelco at http://1call.com.

[From the Summer 2004 issue of AnswerStat magazine]