Streamlining Public Health Care Appointments with IP Contact Center Technology

By Kevin Simms

In the October/November issue of AnswerStat, we took a broad look at the intersection of healthcare and contact center, using health coaching and remote patient monitoring as just two examples of healthcare applications that are enabled or greatly enhanced by IP contact center technology. In this issue, we’ll take a look at another example of the “intersection” in action as it relates to this month’s feature focus on appointment scheduling and connecting with clinics.

Castilla y Leon is not only the largest region of Spain, but it is also the largest region in the European Union. Located in northwest Spain, it is also home to a diverse, mostly elderly, population of nearly 2.5 million scattered throughout the sparsely populated region – a challenging scenario for any healthcare system. In Castilla y Leon, SACYL is the umbrella organization responsible for the public health service in the area, managing 14 hospitals, 241 health centers, and 3650 local clinics. Among the many healthcare services SACYL provides is their appointment making service which receives more than twenty million calls per year from residents seeking to coordinate their doctor and diagnostic testing appointments.

A primary patient complaint had been that it was difficult to arrange medical appointments by phone. Large call volumes – especially during peak calling periods – coupled with lack of off-shift coverage, meant longer than acceptable time to schedule appointments. Furthermore, the large percentage of calls requiring simultaneous appointment setting for complex sequences of medical exams often required callers to make additional calls. Even though SACYL had a centralized appointment application, each healthcare facility was still responsible for its own appointments.

Eager to improve the appointment setting process and the customer experience, SACYL wanted to implement a unified call scheduling service for all their facilities to allow citizens to manage their appointments through an automated speech-enabled IVR system that could handle the many varied accents and dialectics of callers in the region. It was also a priority to have the ability to intelligently route the calls to an appropriate live attendant anywhere in the system when necessary. SACYL required the solution to be capable of handling high call volumes, especially during peak times, and they wanted the management of the solution to be both outsourced to avoid large IT personnel costs and to be a pay-as-you-go-model. Further, SACYL needed the solution to be scalable to support new applications while also having the ability to quickly implement new functionalities.

The answer to these challenges was a virtual IP contact center. Telefónica, the world’s fourth largest telco, delivered a system using Contact Center on Demand™ (CCOD) services with sophisticated natural language IVR. The result was a custom-tailored solution – unique to the public health sector – that manages the whole appointment process. The on-demand model enabled the rapid deployment of the service to all SACYL health service locations, including unlimited consolidated virtual call center sites, as well as remote teleworkers.

Among the immediate benefits that SACYL experienced with the Telefonica/CCOD solution were 24×7 availability for citizens, a drastic reduction in appointment wait times for callers, a first-call resolution rate of 99% (with 70% being self-service calls), and the huge savings resulting from the on-demand model and the outsourced management by Telefonica’s services.

The new IVR is so sophisticated that even elderly or foreign speaking people pose no problem to the system. Calls are being resolved without difficulty on the initial contact, and if and when the caller requires specialized attention, the call is intelligently routed to the appropriate health center.

Finally, the system’s unified reporting provides a unique consolidated vision of the whole service’s key performance indicators. This strategic view allows the health service to continuously improve caller satisfaction while optimizing performance and productivity.

With the initial solution proving successful, the service is being expanded to handle specific health campaigns, such as flu vaccinations and other larger scale programs. SACYL is also planning the extension of the service to include the handling of medical specialist appointments, health card changes, and assigned health center changes.

It is worth noting that it would have been difficult – if not impossible – to implement this scheduling and routing system without IP contact center technology. The ability to unify the disperse locations in the Castilla y Leon region on a single virtual platform, the power to integrate with business applications like SACYL’s scheduling software, the flexible on-demand delivery model, and holistic reporting are all benefits of unified, software-based IP contact center technology. SACYL’s application was specific to their own unique business challenges, but the underlying benefits of such IP contact center technology can apply to many other healthcare applications and is limited only by imagination.

Kevin Simms is the director of marketing at CosmoCom. Their unified, all-IP contact center suite enables medical organizations to fulfill complex customer interaction management requirements. 

[From the April/May 2010 issue of AnswerStat magazine]