Discharge Planning Advisor

'One-stop connection' gets technology boost

Call center coordinates psychiatric services

A major software upgrade has dramatically increased the ability of a New Jersey health system's behavioral health call center to serve as a "one-stop connection" for local emergency departments, psychiatric emergency screening services, and a stand-alone psychiatric hospital, says Dawn Fenske, director of Saint Barnabas Management Services in Toms River, NJ.

The call center is "customizing screens, creating reports, and converting all of our data from the old to the new software" since going live with the behavioral health component of a software program already in place on the "concierge" side of the operation, Fenske adds.

The concierge center, she notes, handles physician referral, class registration, and other non-clinical services for Saint Barnabas HealthCare System, while the behavioral health side coordinates the care of psychiatric patients across the Livingston, NJ-based system.

"We make sure the client has medical clearance, has all of the prerequisites for inpatient admission, has all paperwork completed, and that signatures are [obtained] if it is an involuntary admission," Fenske says. "If legal [counsel] is needed, we make sure it's involved. We act on behalf of both the patient and the facility."

Once the call center has all the information, she adds, "we call the unit, tell them patient so-and-so is coming in and the estimated time of arrival, and make sure there is a bed for the patient."

Employees of both call centers occupy a large suite, with non-clinical staff on one side, clinical staff on the other, and files in the middle, Fenske says. Hours for the nine non-clinical employees are 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, with Sunday hours soon to be added.

The behavioral health call center has 12 employees and is open 24-7, she says, with two employees who telecommute. "We set up the overnight staff at home because the software [allows them to] print to the office and their safety is taken care of."

With the new software, Fenske says, "We were able to write our own guidelines for behavioral health — more or less a checklist of the needs and requirements at different levels of care. It pretty much creates a medical record, which is sent as a report electronically to whatever level of care the patient is admitted."

The non-clinical side of the call center had been using the E-Centaurus software, a product of LVM Systems, for more than five years, she says, while the behavioral health side had continued to use "a homegrown product" that fell far short of meeting its needs.

With the old system, Fenske adds, "the reporting aspect was nearly impossible and it was costly to create one," among other shortcomings.

Now response time is immediate and the system is able to search for physicians and therapists "in so many different ways," she says. "If a physician wakes up and says, 'I need a report for this,' we can create it or have it created." As part of the call center's arrangement with the vendor, Fenske notes, LVM will create a certain number of reports on request.

"If we need a report on first-time admissions, or readmissions within 30 days, I send a request and they shoot it back," she says. "I look at it, may need to tweak it, and we have exactly what we need. It's immediate."

Previously, such a report might take 10 days or two weeks, Fenske says, "and would come to us with a big bill attached."

Because the software is Windows-based, its components — modules for intake, triage, physician referral, compliments, and complaints, among others — look familiar to users, she adds. "There are so many things within the software to allow our growth. With our homegrown system there was no room for growth."

[Editor's note: Dawn Fenske can be reached at dfenske@sbhcs.com. Look for more information on Saint Barnabas' call center operation in a future issue of Discharge Planning Advisor.]