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Detroit Medical makes a healthy call

Skills and business rules routing has helped Detroit Medical's contact center improve efficiency while handling multiple channels.

At the Detroit Medical Center's Health Access Center, an inbound call can range from a routine scheduling request from a doctor's office to a patient calling about abdominal pains.

That's what makes the center's skills-based routing system so important. The center consists of seven hospitals, more than 100 outpatient facilities and two nursing centers. Callers to any one of several 800 numbers are offered one of three options when dialing in: scheduling and diagnostic testing, physician referral or to speak with a nurse.

"We have a nurse triage function and it's important from a liability and health care standpoint we have the right staff-level member answer phone calls and interject when needed," said Kathleen Ingalls Hefni, corporate director of the Health Access Center.

Until recently, the center didn't have the ability to integrate its Web channel into the contact center while also measuring performance, Ingalls Hefni said. Detroit Medical Center wanted to work on Web contact response during off-peak hours while also maintaining the availability of its higher-skilled agents to pitch in if needed.

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The call center keeps nurses on staff to assist with patient calls. These nurses do not answer all inbound calls. In fact, they are often making outbound calls, following up with recently released patients. Nurses call to make sure patients are taking their medication, weighing themselves and eating properly, Ingalls Hefni said. At the same time, these nurses need to be available if a patient makes an inbound call and needs their advice.

The Health Access Center turned to the latest release from Germany's Siemens AG. It released version 6.5 of its HiPath ProCenter contact center application today.

The application lets management and agents know who is available and what level of expertise they have so they can pitch in when needed.

"Because of the capabilities of the phone switch, we've been able to change profiles to accommodate call volumes and make sure we're able to meet all needs," Ingalls Hefni said. "We can adjust expertise and increase or decrease it based on the kind of calls coming in. So it allows us a lot of flexibility."

For example, the Health Access Center can provide scheduling services to only specific physicians' offices. As agents are trained to handle new scheduling, their resume is adjusted and they are made available to handle calls.

"You can do incremental changes that appear to be small but have a big impact," Ingalls Hefni said. "In making those small incremental changes we've been able to enhance customer service."

Once the system identifies the proper agents for each call, those customers can be handled faster resulting in reduced call cycles and abandonment rates. The Health Access Center reduced call abandonment from 4% to under 3%, increased its call handling performance by 58% and increased revenue by 31% in its first month with the new system.

"There was so much flexibility that it was an eye opener to see what we can do and how we do it," Ingalls Hefni said.

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