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Call Center Centralizes Scheduling

Call Center Centralizes Scheduling

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Patient Access Manager Latisha Smith

In the past, a community pediatrician or parent would have to make three different telephone calls to schedule three individual appointments for one patient with three separate specialists. No more!

Now referring physicians and parents have one central source, the Call Center, and a single telephone number—443-997-5437 (KIDS)—for scheduling appointments with Johns Hopkins Children’s Center pediatric primary care physicians and specialists. Not always known for its customer service, several area physicians interviewed said they had encountered substandard service in the past when scheduling appointments for their patients at Johns Hopkins. The Call Center, under the data-driven leadership of Patient Access Manager Latisha Smith, is moving to change that perception.

“The goal is that callers are not kept waiting, not going to voicemail, and not holding for long periods of time. We want to get scheduling done in a timely fashion,” says Smith. “We’ve set up phone metrics where 80 percent of our calls have to be answered within 30 seconds, and less than 3 percent of our calls end up being abandoned (where the caller hangs up). We’re also saying ‘Thank you,’ getting callers’ names and telephone numbers, getting them to the right physician at the right location.”

Callers, Smith explains, receive a standard greeting that triages their call to pediatric primary, specialty or surgery service. Once they’ve made their choice, a Call Center agent takes the call from there, following the protocol for the particular service selected. Quality assurance monitoring assures that agents follow protocols in a professional manner, are asking the right questions and closing the call with a re-cap or summary of the scheduled appointment.

In the past, Smith says, referring physicians and patients trying to schedule appointments would call individual divisions at the Children’s Center, which had their own unique way of managing appointments. Under the Call Center that process is now uniform for most—and under the rollout eventually all—Children’s Center divisions.

“There were so many different mechanisms in trying to reach a physician,” Smith says. “Patients and referring physicians now have a central line to call to get the patient seen.”

For non-appointment related calls, Call Center agents will facilitate a “warm transfer” in which they stay on the line and relay information to the appropriate division before handing the call back to the patient. “We communicate the patient’s needs so he or she doesn’t have to keep saying the information over and over five times to five different people,” says Smith.

The Call Center is accessible from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday thru Friday. For referrals in which the pediatrician needs to consult with a Children’s Center doctor, Smith notes, physicians should call the Hopkins Access Line, or HAL, at 410-955-9444, or 1-800-765-5447.
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