Use recorded calls to your advantage

If a physician complains that a visit should have been scheduled as 40 minutes instead of 20 minutes because of the patient’s multiple diagnoses, wouldn’t it be great to be know exactly what the patient said during the initial call, instead of assuming it was the scheduler’s error?

“When questions or potential scheduling errors arise, we use call recordings to trace the patient’s scheduling interaction,” says Lori S. Bruelheide, assistant director of Enterprise Patient Access Services at UK Healthcare in Lexington, KY.

The recordings, along with data from scheduling and registration systems, provide patient access managers with a timeline of each step in the scheduling process. “Using the call recordings, we are able to determine what items the patient mentioned at the time of scheduling to see if the appointment duration assigned was appropriate based on the information or if additional scheduler training is necessary,” Bruelheide says.

All inbound and outbound calls to the Patient Access Center for scheduling and pre-registration are recorded, and used in these ways:

• Fact-finding in the event of a customer complaint about a scheduling agent.

“The ability to hear the exact exchange has been invaluable to us as we respond to a patient’s complaint about customer service,” Bruelheide says.

Hearing his or her own voice on the call often allows the agent to identify any problem areas within the call on his/her own, she says. “One of our agents had a tendency to work very fast, often processing the patient’s request before it was even fully articulated,” Bruelheide recalls. “This agent was very customer-service oriented and was not intentionally being rude. Instead, she felt she was being efficient.”

After managers played a few calls for her, the employee immediately recognized that she was interrupting and cutting off the sentences of the caller, and she became a more patient listener. “It is important to view call recordings as a process improvement tool, and not as a mechanism for assigning blame,” Bruelheide adds. “We use the call recording to establish the facts of the situation, but still encourage all parties involved to provide their assessment of the interaction.”

• Evaluation of processes that seem not to be working correctly.

“Call recordings of patients attempting to navigate the process can be helpful as we attempt to understand any gaps in the process,” says Bruelheide. “This allows us to re-vamp inefficient processes, clear up phone-tree inconsistencies, and identify places where return phone calls to patients are being delayed.”

In one of the hospital’s specialty clinics, the transfer rate was averaging 14%. “We felt this was a little high, so we evaluated the calls being transferred,” she says. “As we did that, we realized there were quite a few calls back to the clinic manager because the scheduling staff was unclear on the definitions and clinical needs of certain diagnoses.”

To address this, managers provided scheduling agents with some basic medical terminology training for the specialty and had one of the specialty physicians educate them on the clinical nature of the diagnoses. “This helped our agents better understand what the callers were requesting and determine where to place those appointments for optimum access to our specialists,” says Bruelheide. “This reduced the transfer rate by nine calls a day, to approximately 10%.”

• Evaluating customer service of each employee on a monthly basis.

Two recordings per agent are reviewed and evaluated for key customer service components, such as proper identification of the clinic and agent’s first name, appropriate pace and tone of the call, and use of standardized greetings and closings.

“Our quality assurance measurements are performed by a team of managers listening to and discussing the call together, so that no one person can misinterpret or misunderstand the call,” Bruelheide says.


For more information on using recorded calls for quality assurance, contact:

Lori S. Bruelheide, Assistant Director, Enterprise Patient Access Services, UK Healthcare. Phone: (859) 323-0772. Fax: (859) 323-2021. Email: