Amcom Software: Connecting People and Systems Through Unified Communications

The way people and systems need to communicate in hospitals is transforming. Amcom Software, a leader in hospital communication solutions, provides a unified communications approach to managing the information that needs to flow hospital-wide to ensure patient care, safety, and satisfaction – as well as staff efficiency.

Unified Communications: It’s All in Managing the Details: Mary, a hospital patient, wears a heart monitor. Her physician sets up an alert to ensure he is notified if the monitor goes off. At 10 p.m. it does. The nurse on duty is notified immediately on an in-house wireless telephone and quickly assists Mary, but the doctor needs to be alerted, too. The technology behind the scenes instantly checks the communication rules regarding whom to contact, where to reach them, and on what device. The system indicates that Mary’s doctor left the hospital at 9 p.m., so an urgent message goes to his smartphone instead of his onsite pager. If it’s not read quickly, a text-to-speech message is sent to his home phone. If unanswered, the contact center agent is notified, and the message is escalated to the on-call physician.

Because everyone is mobile and everyone has at least one communications device, reaching the right person in a time of critical need can be difficult. Technology with intelligence is key to patient care, safety, and satisfaction – as well as optimized workflow and staff efficiency.

Automate contact center communications to provide a foundation for efficiency and improved information sharing: Successful organizations understand that, more than just an administrative or sales support function, the contact center carries the lifeblood of the entire organization – information. Implementing technology that automates call handling and improves personnel productivity significantly reduces costs and enhances customer service.

Contact centers that leverage unified communications have an invaluable foundation on which to add a variety of tools for automation and streamlined workflow processes. These include Web-based on-call schedules, self-service patient and employee directories, and speech-recognition systems that help callers navigate the organization through voice prompts versus agent assistance. Having a common database for all of these systems provides a “single source of the truth.”

In addition to traditional call-handling functions, contact center staff can also coordinate and track the appropriate response to various alarm types throughout a hospital facility. These can include systems such as security alerts, fire alarms, building management systems, and HVAC issues. Alarms generated by these systems can be configured to display on agents’ screens, allowing them to quickly dispatch appropriate resources to address the issue. Centralized tracking of each event and the subsequent response is essential for proper follow-through.

Along with the boost in contact center productivity, unified communications can reveal innovative new ways to generate income for the hospital. This can include providing quality after-hours answering services to internal physicians on staff, as well as doctors from private practices and clinics. Likewise, offering physicians consult services can generate additional revenue by allowing the contact center to establish consultations from outside patients or doctors to internal physicians.

An example of such a communications system is TeleHealth Solutions, a medical contact center based in Charlotte, N.C.  They provide a long list of critical contact center services for Carolinas HealthCare System (CHS) and more than 120 physician practices in the 700+ Carolinas Physicians Network. Both TeleHealth and CHS standardized on the Amcom console to support a high volume of calls as well as answering services and specialized marketing programs for patients.

Reach the right people at the right time on their preferred devices—including smartphones – for all communications: Regardless of whether hospital staff members carry cell phones, smartphones, in-house wireless phones, or pagers, the communications intended for them must be transmitted and received quickly to ensure patient care and safety. Many hospitals have implemented easily updated Web-based staff directories and on-call schedules to alleviate the messaging confusion caused when one person carries multiple devices. Others are using smartphones for all messaging.

With smartphone messaging software, clinicians and administrators can carry a single, highly reliable device and reduce confusion over which device is the appropriate one for contact purposes. IT support teams can reduce costs and maintenance headaches as fewer devices and coverage plans are required. Ultimately, patients also benefit because response times are often faster and care is more coordinated.

Dramatically reduce the time needed to rally code teams: Hospitals continually carry out time-critical communication processes from code blues, to code STEMIs (segment elevation myocardial infarction), to code pinks, and beyond. Unfortunately, many hospitals struggle to reach all the right people quickly and efficiently when codes are called. Agents often use ineffective phone trees and outdated contact information, or they are unsure of which device to use to contact each person. Then, if someone doesn’t acknowledge the alert, many times the escalation is clumsy.  Problems like these greatly affect patient care and safety, as well as staff satisfaction.

The key is unified communications, which allows hospitals to quickly assemble the right team by contacting the appropriate people instantly and simultaneously on the right devices. The ability to send them instructions and receive their responses regarding availability is also essential so others can be contacted if they cannot arrive in time.

Respond quickly to unexpected situations: Outside the need to respond to code calls, the unexpected often occurs in hospitals and their surrounding areas. Emergencies such as medical problems, thefts, fires, or other types of safety concerns can happen to visiting family members, staff, and others in the building. Likewise, nearby accidents, weather concerns, or any type of disaster can affect workflows at your hospital.

For external local emergencies, the efficiency with which a hospital facility can accommodate the influx of patients and bring in additional staff on short notice is critical. These situations could include weather-related incidents, traffic disasters, or large-scale illness (such as H1N1 outbreaks).

For internal emergencies, many hospital security teams incorrectly assume people will dial zero for emergencies; instead the dial 911. To ensure a fast response, it’s key to use enhanced 911 to direct emergency personnel to a caller’s exact location (their building, floor, and room). Onsite security can receive real-time notification of 911 events, allowing them to direct first responders, assist with traffic, or help protect others in the area.

As an example, in 2003, a third-story porch in the Chicago area collapsed onto the porch below, killing twelve people. The communication center at Advocate Health Care was overwhelmed with calls and spent nearly an hour contacting all necessary emergency personnel. Based on this experience, Advocate implemented Amcom technology to automatically notify the proper team during an event. A short time later, a derailed commuter train killed several people and injured more than eighty. Advocate used its new system to respond quickly, compressing its communication processes from sixty minutes to about ten minutes. This process required virtually no work on the part of contact center personnel.

Amcom Software and Unified Communications: Amcom Software is a leading provider of solutions for healthcare contact centers. Amcom connects people to each other and to the data they need. This helps hospitals that depend on speed, accuracy, and productivity, save lives, improve efficiency, and enhance effectiveness. Amcom’s unified communications technologies include solutions for contact centers, emergency management, mobile event notification, and paging infrastructure. Today, nineteen of the twenty-one U.S. News & World Report Best Hospitals rely on Amcom Software, a viable vendor with $50 million in revenue.

For more information, call 800-852-8935.

[From the April/May 2010 issue of AnswerStat magazine]