Unexpected surges in volume are the biggest customer service challenge faced in patient access areas at Nemours Children’s Health System in Wilmington, DE.
“We are able to predict days and times where call volume will definitely be high or low,” explains Ecco Sutherlin, director of Nemours Access Center of the Delaware Valley. However, volume sometimes spikes with no warning. “Because we are dealing with children, we want to be available whenever the family’s needs arise. That is sometimes challenging,” Sutherlin says.
Previously, Nemours operated under a centralized registration and decentralized scheduling model. “Many callers did not understand the need to be transferred to another associate to actually obtain the appointment,” says Sutherlin. “They did not feel it was efficient.”
The Nemours Access Center was opened in July 2014, and it combines registration and scheduling. “Within the first 60 days of the new model, we saw a 7.2% increase in patient satisfaction in the first two departments to combine registration and scheduling,” reports Sutherlin. “This continues to improve as we continue this effort.” Current satisfaction scores for these two departments, the Department of Gastroenterology and the Department of Neurology, are 59.7% and 54.3%, respectively.
At the James Graham Brown Cancer Center in Louisville, KY, patients previously had to register every time they presented, even if they were there several days in a row. The process was changed so multiple registrations no longer are necessary. “Now if you are coming in for a CT today and lab work tomorrow, you don’t have to get registered each time,” says Laura Fry, manager of patient access. “We call them ‘bypass’ patients.”
Registration staff perform preregistrations from the outpatient schedule. When patients are identified as “bypass,” it is noted on the schedule. When the patients check in for their appointments, the check-in clerks see that they are a bypass and notify the departments of those patients’ arrivals. Volunteers escort those patients directly to their clinical service areas.
“It has been a big satisfier, for both the patients and the clinical departments,” says Fry.