Looking to decrease phone wait times and reduce dropped calls, St. Francis Family Health Care has completed a two-phase telephone system enhancement project.
“From our focus group results and comments from patients, we know we needed to improve our ability to schedule patients, especially early in the morning,” said Phil Larabee, CQI Director at St. Francis, and member of a phone project team.
The first phase of the project was installing a new voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) phone system throughout the physician clinics on the hospital campus and at the South Hills location.
Voice over IP allows for phone service over the Internet by taking analog audio signals, like the kind you hear when you talk on the phone, and turning them into digital data that is transmitted over the Internet. The web-based telephony offers more flexibility than conventional PBX phone networks, which distribute analog data across dedicated lines. Because the web-based phone is a digital device that rides on Internet infrastructure, VoIP telephony sets the stage for expansion of the clinical data network.
The second step of the phone system enhancement project was the launch of an auto attendant program for the general scheduling line for the physician clinic.
According to Larabee, this will make a major change to how the phone is actually answered when scheduling physician appointments.
“About one-third of calls going to St. Francis Family Health Care do not need any operator assistance,” Larabee explained. “Callers will now be able to use options to move faster to their destination.”
Options offered through the auto attendant include connecting to the appointment desk by pressing “1”, as well directing callers to the billing department, medication refills, medical record services and the Operator. If callers have rotary-type phones, they may stay on the line and will be directed to the operator. The full sequence of options takes about 35 seconds to complete. However, callers are making their selections in much sooner. Krista Barcus, Scheduling and File Room Director, advised, “The average time it takes a call to be answered is 23 seconds.”
The highest volume of calls to the clinic arrives between the hours 8:00 and 9:30 a.m. During these times, by monitoring the system Barcus can add extra attendants to answer calls to keep wait times to a minimum, usually in less than one minute. The system also reports the number of calls each operator is handling.
“We have found the new system to be an improvement from our old system where phones appeared busy or rang without answer,” Larabee said.
“Any change, even the small changes in life, is coupled with some uneasiness and anxiety until those that experience that change can see the benefit,” concludes Larabee. “We at St. Francis hope each patient who utilizes our physicians clinic services will be able to see this change as a benefit and as a positive experience.”