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California medical center cures ailing communications.

Across the country, medical centers are faced with improving the quality of patient care, while, at the same time, keeping administrative costs to a minimum. This challenge, coupled with tough economic times, has fueled the growth of voice processing technology in the medical field.

When the University of California, Davis, Medical Center (UCDMC) opened its doors in 1973, the telephone system adequately met the center's communications needs. Live operators answered the calls and transferred them to appropriate destinations. By 1991, however, the hospital was serving more than 700 patients a day, and had more than 20,000 annual hospital admissions. The phone system installed in the '70s did not meet UCDMC's communications requirements for the '90s.

With the influx of calls, UCDMC was now faced with: 1) how to properly route all the incoming calls; 2) how to limit busy signals; and 3) how to ensure that callers would not be put on hold for long periods of time. In addition, the center was interested in finding innovative ways to leverage technology advances throughout the communications system to address these problems/issues.

Finding the solution

UCDMC needed to implement a telecommunications system that would adapt to its growing needs. At the same time, the center did not want to lose the human touch when dealing with sensitive issues and patient information. The center found its communication solution with the installation of an Octel Maxum voice processing system.

UCDMC applications include automated attendant, where incoming callers can direct their calls to a specific extension or department without the use of a human operator; telephone answering, where callers are directed to leave a message in an individual's mailbox if they are not available to take the call; and voice mail, so system subscribers can send and receive messages without needing to call each other directly.

Ruth Baldwin, manager of account services at UCDMC, experienced the benefits of voice processing first hand. The use of voice mail has improved employee productivity and raised morale. Missed calls used to end up as pink slips.

Now, via voice mail, we hear the patient's question, take action and respond quickly. The service has become more personalized, improving our overall customer service efforts.

UCDMC's Family Practice and OBGYN Clinics use Octel Forms to renew prescriptions over the telephone. Using a series of voice prompts, patients simply identify themselves and enter their medical record and Rx number. The doctor can then extend the prescription (if viable), and call the patient's pharmacy to forward the prescriptions. In addition, through Octel Forms, patients can refill existing prescriptions and have them ready for a no-waiting pick up.

Improved patient-to-doctor communication is another benefit. Prior to installing voice processing, doctors would have to return to their office form the hospital to pick up messages (normally a pile of pink slips). Often the information on the pink slip was unclear or the message not detailed enough, so the doctor wound up playing telephone tag to reach the caller live.

Getting the message

Now callers can leave detailed, as well as confidential, information directly into their doctor's voice mailbox. The doctor can listen to their messages from any house phone in the hospital, a cellular car phone, or form home and promptly process the patient's request.

With voice mail, medical and administrative staff are able to communicate 24 hours a day, which is particularly important in an around-the-clock hospital operation. In addition, staff members with pagers can be notified immediately when messages are left in their voice mailboxes. At UCDMC 1,000 employee currently have and use voice mailboxes, and the center is adding mailboxes at a rate of 150 per month.

The use of automated voice processing systems can resolve many communications problems that affect most medical institutions. It is important to evaluate your organization's information flow, plan how to most efficiently and cost-effectively meet the needs of staff and outside callers, and continue to assess the impact and acceptance of the system internally and externally.

UCDMC emphasizes the messaging capability of voice processing--encouraging its employees and customers alike to utilize this communications tool to send or receive information in a timely and efficient way. With a voice processing system, UCDMC's communication prognosis is emphatically positive.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:voice mail; implementation of telecommunications system at UC Davis Medical Center
Author:Whitcomb, Brad
Publication:Communications News
Date:Nov 1, 1992
Words:703
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