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It’s not just for collections anymore
Call management systems, long used by hos pital collection departments to urge patients to pay up, are gaining acceptance on the other side of access: facilitating preadmission and preregistration.
The admissions/registration department at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) Stanford Healthcare, adjusting to severe staff reductions, is increasing productivity through its use of the Unisom System, a predictive dialer from Davox Corp. in Acton, MA, according to Rosana Leon, systems specialist for registration information systems.
Formal statistics are not yet compiled, she says, who is project manager and system administrator for the predictive dialer, but employees say it allows them to complete about eight preadmissions per hour, compared to four or five with manual dialing.
The system enables callers to avoid idle time, so they are constantly on the telephone, adds Rogel Reyes, supervisor for preadmissions and insurance verification. "It weeds out busy signals, sittones [automatic messages indicating a call won’t go through], and answering machines."
The predictive dialer is one of the ways UCSF Stanford is dealing with reductions in staff that have resulted in two people making the preadmit calls formerly handled by six employees, Reyes says.
Rather than having employees work from a paper report to dial numbers, the list of patients to be preadmitted is downloaded to the Davox server, Leon explains. "[The preadmitting employee] logs in, and the system starts dialing phone numbers. The goal is [for the dialer] to predict the disposition of a call before it passes it on."
The system can be programmed to leave a message on an answering machine, she adds, such as, "Hello, this is UCSF Stanford Healthcare calling with regard to your scheduled appointment. We would like to preregister you prior to your arrival. Please call this number."
Callers who make contact with a real person, but not the right person, can program the dialer to call back when that person is expected to be available, Reyes notes. "It will pop up again on the admitter’s screen as a recall, so [the employee] can say, I called earlier and am wondering if Mr. Jones is available now.’"
Meanwhile, he adds, the system can be used to track how many minutes an employee spends on an average call, how many minutes are idle, how many calls are a "true connect," how many busy signals the caller came across, and how many messages the dialer left when it detected answering machines.
Each of UCSF Stanford’s two campuses has its own predictive dialer, Leon explains. The system used at the north campus, purchased some five years ago, originally was used for collections. A new system was purchased for the south campus, at a total cost — for equipment, server, application, and development — of about $250,000, she says.
The only "glitch" she recalls experiencing with the dialer had to do with its purported ability to call directory assistance if it reaches a wrong number, Leon notes. The caller is supposed to be alerted that the system has reached a "no longer in service" message and then be able to press a key that would activate the directory assistance feature. The problem with that feature is still being worked out, she adds.
After some initial resistance to the newly automated method of preadmitting, staff have welcomed the change, Leon says. "One person actually told me, I could never imagine myself going back to the old way.’"