UHealthSolutions Inc., an affiliate of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, has built a call center for the Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center to handle patient calls.
The health center was founded to make quality health care accessible to everyone, but found it difficult to be accessible to patients all the time.
?Phones were not being answered 100 percent of the time, and you need to answer your phones 100 percent of the time,? said Toni McGuire, president and chief executive officer of the Kennedy Community Health Center. ?The work that we do is of the moment ? you take care of today?s problems today. Because we are of the moment, and because we have such great diversity in our patient base, it is hard to respond all of the time.?
The UHealthSolutions call center is a pilot program that the company hopes will be attractive to other health care providers.
?By pulling out the communications aspect, we free up that frontline staff to interact with that patient standing right in front of him or her,? said Susan West Levine, UHealthSolutions? chief operating officer.
The need for a new system became clear after the health care center implemented a new phone service a few years ago, which kept track of call records. The reports revealed many calls were not answered.
?We were not being as responsive to our patients? needs as we could have been,? said Ms. McGuire.
The health center previously had multiple administrators at different locations, and UHealthSolutions provided a means of consolidating administrative services, such as scheduling appointments and reminder calls.
?There are three things that are really important to the patient experience, and that is efficiency, cost effectiveness and quality. We think UHealthSolutions will take us another step toward providing good quality service, where communication is really patient-centered,? Ms. McGuire said.
Formerly known as Public Sector Partners, UHealthSolutions is a ?nonprofit health care management and consulting firm,? according to a press release. The new call center is at 100 Century Drive in Worcester. The company has hired 17 employees for the center; eight are assigned to handle calls from the Kennedy Community Health Center.
The call center provides patient-centered communication, Ms. West Levine said.
?We are not distracted by pulling people to go file ? they?ve got their headsets on and they are ready to go,? she said.
With the new call center, health center patients now wait, on average, less than a minute before their call is answered. The call center is available to take calls from the health center?s patients 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Employees are trained on their listening skills and how to navigate the community health care network to best serve patient populations that include senior citizens and non-English speakers. UHealthSolutions recruited Portuguese, Spanish, Arabic and Nepali speakers specifically for the Kennedy Health Center.
?I get to help out people in the Brazilian community,? said Worcester resident Paloma Souza, a new UHealthSolutions employee. ?I speak Portuguese, and I am a tool of communication for the patient?s needs.?