By Mike Devine
New technology not only brings new opportunities but also new challenges to the healthcare contact center industry. Over the years, the number of communications systems and devices has exploded, resulting in a large amount of information for call centers to manage. Call center operators are now responsible for contacting staff members on a variety of communication devices that are continually changing. In the healthcare industry, having efficient and effective communications among the contact center and hospital staff plays a large role in achieving success.
Many hospital contact centers are currently running on a Cisco PBX, and the industry is seeing an increase in migration to this technology. It is important for hospitals to have call center solutions that integrate with their PBX to ensure a solid communications platform for mission-critical communications. This was the case for Nemours.
With facilities in Delaware, Florida, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, Nemours is one of the nation’s premier pediatric healthcare systems and has made a promise to do whatever it takes to prevent and treat even the most disabling childhood conditions. It’s a promise that extends beyond their clinical care to an entire integrated system of prevention, intervention, education, and research dedicated to improving the health of all children.
Nemours understands the role that contact center communications play in the quality of care provided to patients, and they are continually striving to improve efficiencies in their facilities. The Nemours call center management team in Jacksonville, Fla., was struggling with call volumes and utilizing insufficient methods to handle the demand. The facility employed four operators during the busy day shift and was using a paper-based system to manage on-call schedules for the various departments.
With Nemours being such a large and continually growing health system, the team knew something needed to be done to speed communication and reduce the communication burdens on the call center operators.
Operators Pick Software Operator Consoles for Critical Messaging: After careful selection, the Nemours Florida call center decided to implement a software operator console solution which equipped the operators with needed functionality, including the ability to message to a variety of devices and send messages directly to doctors through the console. “Our operators love being able to use [the system] to send quick text messages to doctors telling them to call a certain phone number,” said Lorraine Cann, call center supervisor for Nemours. “This eliminates the need for our operators to be a go-between and make numerous phone calls.”
Solution Ensures Consistent, Pleasant Greeting – and Cuts Workload: Nemours has also cut operator workload by using an automated greeting solution for callers. The application answers incoming calls with a pre-recorded greeting in the operator’s own voice. The “greeting solution reduces our call center noise dramatically, and operators love it because it saves them time and energy,” said Michelle Orr-Brown, switchboard operator for Nemours. It “ensures a consistent and pleasant greeting for all callers and gives them a good first impression of Nemours.”
Web-Based On-Call Directories Speed Response Times: The operators gladly threw away the old on-call paper system when Nemours also implemented a Web-based on-call directory. It ties the on-call scheduling directly to the operator console system, providing operators with accurate schedules and up-to-date contact information. Each department enters their own on-call schedule into the system and can make changes when needed. Changes can be made by any credentialed user. This functionality reduces operator workload and allows the appropriate staff members to make changes at any time. The system is updated in real time, providing operators with accurate information, improving on-call response times because they are contacting the right people on the right device.
System Rollout: With these call center communication solutions, the Jacksonville call center management team was able to reduce the number of daytime operators from four to three. After seeing the success with the new systems in the Florida call center, Nemours decided to implement them in the Delaware facility as well. “The operators love the system and have adapted to it very well,” said Michael Kuck, application analyst, information systems for Nemours. “Having both call centers sharing one staff database and data center allows call traffic to be offloaded to one contact center if necessary.” For example, if the Delaware area experiences severe weather, the Florida office is able to access the data for Delaware and provide coverage seamlessly for both locations.
Switch Integration: Nemours benefited from the software’s ability to integrate with its Cisco infrastructure. This means the organization is able to leverage capabilities inherent with the Cisco system in concert with the healthcare-specific the systems functionality needed to provide top-notch service.
Looking Forward: Being a technology-driven pediatric health system, Nemours continues to look for ways to provide patients with the best care through technology. They have already collaborated with the GetWellNetwork Inc., which provides interactive patient care information, including education about their health condition, entertainment, services, and Internet resources. In the future, Nemours wants to integrate the IP room phones, the new system, and the GetWellNetwork for a more interactive patient experience.
Another initiative for Nemours is to have the ability to track pages and messages sent out to caregivers on their smartphones. “Having the verification that a message was sent, received, and read would help our organization tremendously,” said Amy Ayers, communications manager for Nemours. “Managers are continually requesting this type of information and wanting to consolidate the number of devices their personnel carry.”
Many doctors at Nemours are moving to smartphones to consolidate devices, and technology management is evaluating smartphone messaging. This will allow hospitals to use BlackBerry, iPhone, and Android smartphones in addition to or instead of pagers and other communications devices for code calls, consult requests, and virtually any other type of messaging. The smartphone messaging software also maintains a complete audit trail of all communications, which includes messages sent and received, along with a date and time stamp.
Mike Devine, vice president of marketing for Amcom Software.
[From the December 2010/January 2011 issue of AnswerStat magazine]