A Higher Calling
Date: May 31, 2013
With an ongoing increase in the number of women seeking appointments with Johns Hopkins obstetricians and gynecologists, department leaders knew the time had come to streamline access. “We actually had so many ways for patients to get into the system,” says Diann Snyder, the department’s administrator and director of nursing.
All that changed last year with the establishment of a call center dedicated exclusively to Gyn/Ob patients. Not only does the center give patients a single number to call, says Snyder, that call is answered by a live person who assesses each woman individually and matches her with the appropriate expert.
“Our patients want to speak to someone right away to address their clinical needs,” says Kassondra Riley, the patient access manager who heads the center, “and the access team thrives on creating an experience focused on the patient. You just call us, and we’ll take care of you.”
Thanks to Riley and her team of a dozen full-time, seasoned call center agents, Johns Hopkins Gyn/Ob appointments have increased by approximately 1,500 as compared with the previous fiscal year. Riley attributes the spike to the center’s ability to take calls promptly, understand patients’ needs (e.g., health concerns, location choices and preferences regarding physicians), and schedule appointments with providers’ offices simultaneously. All of this happens, on average, within five minutes.
The center fields about 9,000 inquiries a month and already plans to hire additional full-time agents. Six months ago, it added a special service to meet the needs of Spanish-speaking patients.
Riley says inquiries usually focus on five areas: general gynecology, gynecologic oncology, pelvic health, maternal fetal medicine and reproductive endocrinology, but can range from new pregnancies and well-woman exams to infertility and incontinence. Because of this, patients are asked a series of questions to ensure that they are being scheduled with the appropriate specialist, she says.
Measurements such as Press Ganey satisfaction scores and audit assessments by quality assurance agents have clearly demonstrated that the call center has been successful in increasing access for patients, says Snyder. Snyder credits Riley—who previously managed a similar call center at Emory University in Atlanta—and her team for the achievement. “Her experience and what she’s brought to the role have been invaluable to the operation,” Snyder says. “She had a clear vision of what to do here. We couldn’t do it without her.”
For Riley, it all comes down to compassion. “We’re the first point of contact, so we want to make callers feel comfortable and confident they’ve come to the right place for their care,” she says. “Patients are not hurried through the scheduling process. We want them to be satisfied with their options and we take the time to listen to them.”
The Gyn/Ob call center handles requests from Johns Hopkins employees and the general public, including international patients, and currently schedules appointments at:
- The Johns Hopkins Hospital
- Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center
- Johns Hopkins at White Marsh
- Johns Hopkins at Green Spring Station
Plans for the future include adding Johns Hopkins at Odenton and the Maternal Fetal Medicine practice. The center operates Mondays through Fridays, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. On weekday nights and weekends, callers are connected to an on-call provider.
The phone number for the call center is 443-997-0400.