Access Center Decorum for Exceptional Patient Experience

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Many hospitals are shifting their methods of coordination care; They are transitioning from specialized pods by office to centralized access centers. The rules for running a doctor’s office don’t always apply to a centralized access center. There are basic guidelines and etiquette that should be put in place during implementation to ensure that the transition is successful, patient-centric and the patient experience remains positive. Access Center 3

  1. Opening hours for a doctor’s office are usually from 8-5 or 9-6. Many patients have a need to connect outside of regular business hours. A doctor’s office receives the majority of its calls when the office opens, during lunch and right before the office closes. Through this transition, hospitals should expand the opening hours of the access center to accommodate customer (i.e. patient) demands.
  2. The hospitals should also consider staffing the Access Center with nurses in order to aid with urgent circumstances, receiving critical lab results, triage, and other clinical decision making with patients while attempting to coordinate their care.
  3. When access is centralized, ordinary schedulers transform into call center agents. Their job functions and responsibilities are expanded and they will be held to a measurable standard of performance. Their duties will include:
    1. Registering and scheduling new and established patients.
    2. Canceling and rescheduling appointments for patients.
    3. Scheduling appointments after financial clearance has been given.
    4. Providing the patient with directions to various locations.
    5. Connecting the patient with the provider’s office in order to answer medical questions.
    6. Navigating the phone channels of the enterprise for the patient and providing a warm transfer to the appropriate department.
    7. Forwarding critical or urgent requests to a triaging entity or the clinical party within the department.
    8. Monitoring and managing current and potential customers via media channels (i.e. patients browsing physicians on Loma Linda’s web site offering chat and help in selecting a provider or patients making non clinical service requests via online scheduling portals, etc.)

There are rules of decorum that must be considered as well by call center managers. These rules of etiquette must be imbedded into the culture of the centralized access center to promote accountability.

  1. When transferring patients via telephone, the caregiver or coordinator, must request permission from the patient prior to the transfer and must also provide the patient with the telephone number in the case that a disconnect occurs. The agent must introduce the holding caller to the receiving counterpart. Cold transfers are not allowed within the organization.
  2. Clinical counterparts must return a patient communication within 24-72 hours of the initial inquiry. These inquires may originate through a warm transferred call, a voice mail, or a message through the electronic medical record.
  3. Financial inquires such as financial clearance, billing inquiries and authorization status must be returned within 72 hours of the initial inquiry.
  4. Service recovery must be conducted when a patient is displeased with the scheduling or coordination of care process. If the feedback pertains to soft skills the agent must receive coaching. If the feedback pertains to access it must be shared with the department experiencing the access constraint.

These rules of operation of etiquette are put in place to promote accountability and trust within the access center during a period of change. Access Centers are the answer if they are built on a solid foundation which houses and promotes the patients’ needs and expectations.