Interoperability in the Call Center: A Natural Solution(Part 1)

The call center in a healthcare organization preforms a number of very important and very different functions. One of the most significant is serving as a virtual lobby, when processing internal and external calls. It may be the initial touchpoint a patient has with the organization, so the experience has to be positive. As the saying goes, “You only have one opportunity to make a first impression.” Also the call center serves as the nerve center for ongoing communications.

Modern healthcare call centers need to be able to handle all types of calls quickly and efficiently. To ensure the virtual lobby experience is positive, the call center operators need immediate access to accurate data using modern technology. To accomplish this, information systems need to be able to share, pass, and store usable data from system to system. Interoperability is a term used in healthcare to describe the idea of different technologies and systems communicating to share data.

To handle calls effectively and efficiently, the call center system needs to use data that may reside in external databases on other systems. As an example, if a caller wants to talk to an admitted patient, the operator needs to know which room to send the call to. Most patient admission, discharge, and transfer (ADT) information resides in a database that is external to the call center system.

Without interoperability, the operator would have to bring up a second screen to view the ADT information, go back to the call center system screen, manually enter the room extension, and transfer the call. With interoperability the call center system would automatically download the ADT information from the external database and present it to the operator on the call center screen, eliminating several steps and decreasing the chance of error. Interoperability works behind the scenes to automate data exchanges and sharing.

Making sure the hospital call center is interoperable with other systems is the safe way to make sure call center operators communicate with callers in a timely and effective manner. A few of the important IT systems and technologies that should be interoperable with the healthcare call center system include:

  • Electronic health records (EHR)
  • Messaging applications (paging and secure messaging apps)
  • Alarms and monitoring systems
  • Nurse call systems
  • Scheduling systems

Many healthcare call centers routinely use outdated technology. Binders with paper call schedules, non PC-based PBX consoles, fax machines, data access terminals, and sticky notes are used by operators to access the information they need to handle calls. These makeshift solutions lead to inefficiency and mistakes.