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Voice response means more service and lower costs.

In these days of budget cuts and the prospect of having to limit services, government agencies are becoming more and more innovative in finding ways to stop spiraling costs and maintain or even increase services.

The Colorado Board of Nursing in Denver is just one of the forward-thinking agencies that has solved the cost and services problem with interactive voice response.

This proven technology is readily available and simple to implement. IVR (interactive voice response) allows callers with touchtone telephones to access specified information directly from a computer database and receive accurate answers immediately.

The Colorado Board of Nursing became interested in IVR in the spring of 1990. As in most states, it is illegal to practice nursing in Colorado without a valid license. This means that whenever a nurse applies for a job, his or her license must be verified. It also means a tremendous number of telephone calls just for that routine inquiry. Sometimes one person would ak for verification on 20 to 30 licenses.

The board's telephone lines were increasingly tied up, and callers wanting more than just routine licensing verification could not get help.

"We were spending a great deal of time answering routine questions," says Karen Brumley, program administrator.

"We were getting complaints that our lines were always busy, that people were put on hold for too long, and that our response time was too slow. It short, we weren't able to meet all the needs of the public."

As with many government agencies, adding more people was not an option. "Even if it were, that really wasn't the answer to our problem," explains Brumley. "We simply had to automate."

Since the board of nursing implemented the RobotOperator System from InterVoice in early summer, 1990, callers wanting license verification no longer have to wait for answers. Their calls are answered on the first ring 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

By dialing one number and following a series of simple prompts, a caller can enter up to 20 license numbers for registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, nurse aides or psychiatric technicians. The system repeats the number, spells the person's last name and tells the caller whether the license is valid and when it expires. If there is an exception, such as an invalid or expired license, the caller is directed to the board of nursing.

Interfacing to an IBM 3090-500J, the four-line system processes around 750 calls each month. The information is updated every two weeks, except during renewal periods, when it is updated weekly.

"We've heard nothing but glowing reports since we implemented our interactive voice response system," Brumley notes.

"Since it's so fast, callers would much rather use it than talk to someone on our staff. With system availability 24 hours a day, these routine verification calls can be made at off-hours when nursing home or hospital staffs aren't quite so busy. It allows more effective usage of the caller's staff."

The board's own staff is totally supportive of the system as well, since it allows them to be more productive on other tasks. "Automating license verification means less time on the routine verifications," Brumley says.

When Brumley and her staff began looking at IVR systems, flexibility and versatility were at the top of the requirement list. Being able to do their own scripting was also important.

"We plan to add more licensing agencies such as the Colorado Board of Medical Examiners, so having the ability to add and change scripts easily was a must," she explains.

Advice Brumley would give other government agencies that find themselves burdened by too many routine telephone inquiries? "An interactive voice response system is a cost effective way to give good service without adding more employees," she says.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Government; interactive voice response systems
Publication:Communications News
Date:Sep 1, 1991
Words:623
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