How Call Center Technology Helps Hospitals, Staff, and Patients
(Part 1 of 2)
Hospital call centers provide a critical service to both patients and healthcare organizations. Call centers are supporting emergency departments during the pandemic, help patients connect remotely with their care teams via patient monitoring devices and telehealth, and medical answering services have grown to include telephone triage as part of their support.
Healthcare communication is complex and notoriously disconnected. Different departments rely on different systems to perform their job and these technologies typically don’t “talk” with each other. It may be surprising to some, but call center software can be highly interoperable and is being leveraged within hospitals and clinics to bridge communication gaps between disparate technology to streamline communication – ultimately improving hospital workflows and both patient and staff satisfaction.
Integration engines, also called “middleware,” are used in hospital call centers to streamline inbound and outbound communications, trigger scripting, and automate dispatching. Integration engines are the interoperable piece that connects different technologies so they communicate with each other. A robust middleware is completely scalable and works with software from other vendors.
Using Integration Engines to Enhance Patient Care
When a patient is admitted into a hospital, they may be moved from one room to another while waiting for tests and procedures, and during recovery. It can become difficult to locate and communicate with a patient once they are receiving care within the system.
An integration engine with an HL7 interface can be used to assign a fixed phone number to each patient which will follow the patient for the duration of their stay. Associating each patient with one phone number helps:
- Ease the stress of family and friends who are trying to find their loved one when they are transferred to a different room.
- Streamline the communication process for anyone on the patient’s care team.
- Reduce the number of calls to the hospital’s call center.
Integration engines work together with a hospital’s event notification software system to expedite enterprise-wide critical alerts in healthcare environments. The integration engine captures requests from hospital systems such as ADT (Admission, Discharge, and Transfer) messages, nurse call messages, smart beds, pain management, alerts, alarms, orders, or appointments. Then, emergency notification software instantly sends those messages to designated recipients using a wide variety of methods, including Vocera badges, IP phones from Cisco and Spectralink, SMS, e-mail, secure messaging apps, and more.
Using an integration engine means notifications are automated and based on configurable rules so they can be customized to fit a hospital’s needs. Notifications can be sent via preferred contact methods to an individual, an entire group, or the current on-call personnel – which enables recipients to respond quickly to provide better patient care.
All statistics can also be accumulated for each notification to provide an easy-to-follow audit trail for reporting purposes and to help healthcare organizations refine their communication processes.
The Joint Commission found 80 percent of serious medical errors were the result of miscommunication between caregivers during patient handovers. Multiple studies have highlighted the need for better communication during patient transfers. One study states, “Some challenges transferring physicians face with communication include physician shift changes, ancillary staff changes, delays between ordering tests and receiving results, and competing attention of other active patients. Accepting physicians also face their own challenges related to patient transfers... Calls back to the transferring facility are far from efficient and are often routed through emergency departments, medical records departments, and radiology reading rooms making information gathering cumbersome.”
More hospitals are establishing patient transfer centers, and integration engines are facilitating communication between clinicians and transport assets. Each staff member involved in a patient transfer needs to have the same information. Integration engines enable staff to have access to key directory databases such as on-call, hospital personnel, and patient directories (which include ADT and EMR [Electronic Medical Record] data) to ensure information is communicated accurately and efficiently to enhance collaborative care.