After a rocky rollout, Bothwell Regional Health Center has decided to give centralized scheduling a week to fix some problems before they look at the option of possibly “unraveling” it if fixes are not made.

The Board of Trustees met Tuesday evening with the center’s new centralized scheduling through a call center as the main topic of discussion in CEO Lori Wightman’s first meeting. 

Wightman addressed the roll out of centralized scheduling, saying they were aware of the issues people were having and were working on fixing them. They had already changed the music after people said it was annoying and eliminated having people push buttons to get a certain result. 

She also said they had decreased interruptions for clinic receptionists and nurses after the call center was implemented. They also believe they have made it easier for patients to identify a physician for an appointment. They have been getting complaints but also compliments about it. 

Chief Nursing Officer Rose McMullin, who served as interim CEO for the last eight months, said times were getting better and that she thought they were working out the bugs. 

Wightman said issues included long wait times, callers not getting a real person right away, and physicians seeing lower numbers. Wightman added that it was difficult to track whether this was due to the centralized scheduling since physicians often have lower numbers in the summer. 

A large issue Wightman pointed out was clinic nurses were having to wait on a line when they try to make an appointment for their patient. They are working on getting that resolved so clinic nurses could bypass this. 

Wightman said on a slow day the call center gets 1,200 calls and on a busy day more than 1,800. Monday mornings and lunch hours are busiest. The goal was to have 15 people on staff but are at around 11 due to people being sick and finding other jobs. 

Wightman cautioned they had only been using the centralized scheduling for three weeks and was not sure if that was enough time to make a decision on the new program.  

“Give us three months. Not an additional, but a total, so that would be the end of August and then if we’re not making good with what we wanted to accomplish with the call center we would reconsider that decision and pull the pin on it,” Wightman said. 

“I think that three months is a reasonable time frame to see if we can get it to where we wanted it. We’ve already seen improvements on it. I don’t want to discount the pain that this call center is causing physicians, patients, clinic nurses, but I just think we can take a deep breath and give the call center our best shot.”

Dr. David Kuhlmann suggested implementing a system where people calling could be given the option to be called back and given the amount of time that call back would take. Wightman said they already have the callback option but would consider adding the time to it. 

Dr. Bill Woolery voiced his concerns about the call center and what it was doing to their patient satisfaction. 

“It will take months to restore any kind of warm feeling in our community for all the people that are upset with this,” he said. “I don’t think I’m speaking out of turn, it’s going to take months to fix a month or two of causing people distress.

“You hate that because we work very hard to try to keep this hospital recognized for being what it is, which is a darn good little hospital in a small town where people can get things done really well.”

Woolery also pointed out the people at his office know his patients and their history, which makes it easier when making appointments. Board Chairman Cam Jennings said the call center was now many people’s first contact with Bothwell and that it is critical that people have a good experience with it. 

After others voiced their concerns, Wightman asked if they could give the call center a week for them to work on getting callers a human answerer right away, even if it is just asking them to hold, and getting clinic nurses a way to bypass the call center. Bothwell will look at it again after the week and the possibility of “unraveling” it, according to Wightman. 

During the roundtable, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Philip Fracica said the University of Missouri would be hosting its rural immersion initiative in Sedalia July 8-11. Nine medical students will spend those days in the community and have activities and tours around the city. Chief Operating Officer Tom Bailey said the damaged ambulance ramp had been looked at and the damage was not as bad as they originally thought and will not cost as much as expected. 

President and CEO of Strategic Sourcing Results Inc. Pete Stille gave a presentation on their work with the hospital and the savings they helped Bothwell make through the optimization of their expenses. Stille’s goal was to save Bothwell $1.35 million with a stretch of $2.5 million. They have in process a savings of almost $2.6 million and feel confident most of it will come through. 

The board also: 

• Heard a Medical Executive Committee Meeting update from Dr. Stuart Braverman. 

• Heard a financial update from Chief Financial Officer Steve Davis.

• Heard a Board Quality Oversight Committee update from Dr. Bill Woolery. 

• Approved the payment of bills with expenses at $10,109,822 and liabilities at $11,682,644. 

• Welcomed new member Stafford Swearingen. 

The board’s next meeting will be July 23. 

City Reporter

Emily Walton is the city reporter for the Sedalia Democrat, covering local government and various city departments.

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