TechSectors: Boost Staff Productivity With Computer/Telephone Integration

By some estimates, two-thirds of patients occasionally miss a doctor appointment and fail to notify the physician's office.

By some estimates, two-thirds of patients occasionally miss a doctor appointment and fail to notify the physician’s office. The resulting gap in scheduling means unproductive downtime for the physician and a loss of gross income. Those medical offices that take proactive measures to avoid this loss usually do so by manually picking up the telephone and attempting to reach every patient on the books for the following day. This can be a time-consuming process for an already-burdened office staff . However, the most recent computer/telephone integration (CTI) tools—which employ simple software programs to telephone to remind patients of their coming appointments—can reduce the time spent trying to reach patients by automating communication over the telephone.

Some Assembly Required? Not Anymore.

If modern software-authoring tools have accomplished any significant gains for the user, they are in the area of implementation. Gone are the days when a team of software experts would descend upon an office to spend days hooking up a system and then weeks teaching the staff how to use it. In the case of today’s advanced software, a PC running Windows XP® or 2000™ and a standard telephone line is all that is required to complete a CTI system.

Once installed, this software interfaces directly with existing practice management systems, electronic medical record (EMR) systems, hospital records management, and electronic schedulers to determine which patients need to be called, pull up their telephone numbers, dial, and then deliver the selected reminder. This integration takes place by simply reading the data from an EMR. All manner of greetings, phrases, and self-contained messages—such as checkup reminders—need only be entered once into the system, after which the software does all the work of contacting the patients. Some CTI packages have features that allow a completely diff erent message template to be used for each provider in the case of group practices.

Benefits for All

The economic gains from using professional reminder software stem from the efficiency of an automated calling service that keeps staff involvement to a minimum. A series of CDC (Centers for Disease Control) pilot studies of automated calling technology conducted in Georgia and Colorado revealed dramatic results. Composite “kept appointment” rates for children whose parents received the automated reminder were 59%, compared to 33% for children of parents who did not receive reminders.

Just as important, professional reminder technology provides a paper trail to confirm that attempts were made to contact the patient. Call results reports can automatically be directed to a printer, fax, file, or e-mail following a call session. The results can also be archived indefinitely and subsequently recalled for any date range. In light of concerns surrounding patient privacy and HIPAA concerns, some professional reminder programs have system security options that allow the healthcare practitioner to restrict or limit access to specific areas of the software—and an opt-out feature for patients who do not want to receive phone calls. CTI programs can function as a lab-results hotline, automatically fielding patient requests and providing results on a 24/7 basis. Software add-ons can add a measure of security by assigning each patient a PIN and prompting them for a date of birth or a social security number in order to obtain results. Privacy remains intact, the patient obtains answers quickly, and the office staff is freed up to do more productive work.

Add these programs to a professional reminder program, and large medical centers and hospitals can truly take advantage of technology—proving that you can’t get too much of a good thing.

JulySoft is a national company that develops and markets professional, interactive computer telephony products designed to improve the profitability and productivity of a variety of businesses from healthcare, service, and retail industries to local, state, and federal government agencies. For more information, contact JulySoft at (800) 350-7693 or salesinfo@julysoft.com.