After a rocky rollout, Bothwell Regional Health Center has implemented several changes to its centralized scheduling.
After experiencing several complaints from patients and physicians, Bothwell started looking at ways to could improve their service and they believe they have, according to Bothwell CEO Lori Wightman.
The biggest change that has been implemented is giving each clinic or office two options on how they want to take their calls. The first option was to stay with the call center. The other option was to let patients call the office or clinic directly at first and then transfer them to the call center after a designated number of rings.
“Option B was when your patient calls, your clinic will get the call. Call trees that were in place prior to the call center would be reestablished,” Wightman said.
According to Wightman, two clinics chose to stay with the call center and the rest went with the second option. Those that went with the second option then choose at what number of rings the calls will roll over to the call center if no one answered. Clinics chose anywhere from two to six rings.
“That went into place, three clinics went on that last Wednesday (July 10) and the rest were Thursday (July 11). It has now been a full week and all clinics that went with option B have been on option B,” Wightman said.
The clinics and call center went over the data July 18 where Wightman said many that had chosen six rings went down to four. This was because the data showed that people were hanging up before they got transferred to the call center with six rings.
Wightman gave the example of a clinic that had 1,263 calls in the last week. The data showed it had 16 calls that hit the six rings and went to the call center, but 47 had hung up before they were rolled over. Some offices shortened their number of rings in order to decrease the number of people hanging up.
“The overall effect has been that the calls to the call center have decreased by 70%. They're still getting anyone that calls directly the 888 number and those that are rolled over. Any, and it’s not a lot, the clinic also can send a phone call to them,” Wightman said.
One of the call center’s biggest criticisms was that everyone was getting an automated recording when they called. Now, if there is no one in the queue, people in the call center are answering calls directly. The diminished amount of calls the center has been getting has helped with this.
“In the last week, 91% of the time if you called the call center or the phone rolled over from the clinic a live person answered the phone, you did not get the recording,” Wightman said.
Now that the center is not receiving as many calls, employees are now able to do other work. While they are continuing to do referrals as they were previously, more people are being trained on preauthorization. They are also doing more pre-registrations where they call patients in advance before something like outpatient surgery, MRI, or scan. They make sure everything is set up so when the patient arrives everything can go quickly. Call center employees have started calling people who have not scheduled something that was ordered for them as a reminder.
“This is a new service that they have identified that they can do,” Wightman said. “So they’re calling patients and saying, ‘I see that you had an order for a mammogram or a follow-up blood test or something and that hasn't been schooled would you like me to schedule that for you?’ For me that would be really helpful.”
Wightman mentioned the call center is open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. so they are able to take calls when clinics are closed.
“It’s kind of shifted what their main focus was, although the No. 1 priority is answering phones in person,” Wightman said.
Another change the center has made is how the call center relays information. Patients did not like that they had to give information to the call center employee who would then relay it to the clinic’s nurse electronically.
“Right now, no matter how the call comes to the call center, if they want to talk to the physician's nurse they’re saying, ‘Oh OK, let me patch you through to that.’ They’re not taking the message and sending it electronically to the nurse,” Wightman said.
Wightman wanted to note the call center is located within BRHC and is staffed by people who were transferred from departments within Bothwell since some citizens were unsure of this.
Wightman said the feedback about the call center has died down since the improvements started. Physicians are happy because their patients are saying it’s better, according to Wightman, and she believes the center will continue to improve.
“It has really died down in terms of feedback I’m hearing from physicians, patients…” Wightman said. “They continue to do a really good job because we have very experienced people working in the call center…I predict that they’re going to continue to get even better.”