Case Study: Consolidation and Automation at Fairview Health Services

By Shane Burleson

Many hospital-based call centers struggle to implement the latest and greatest technologies in the call center, simply because of their organizational culture. We must recognize that times have changed and caller expectations are higher while we continue to operate with staff shortages, unplanned events resulting in increased volumes, short-term employees, and continued complexities in the services we provide.

In 1995, my company, Fairview Health Services, appointed a staff team whose primary goal was to analyze the various departments within Fairview. The team’s services spanned a multi-site environment, helping us to understand the hard costs associated with managing various departments providing duplicate services. Later that same year, three of our hospital switchboards consolidated into a single campus, resulting in a savings of more than a million dollars over five years. We expected long and tough times ahead as we adapted to the changes.

However, in retrospect, it was one of the most beneficial business decisions that we’d made and it was quite innovative in our industry at the time. In 1997, Fairview purchased the University of Minnesota Hospital and Clinics, which presented us with yet another consolidation challenge in 2001. The successful relocation and consolidation of that call center saved the company $800K over the next three years.

For the first time in Fairview’s history, we will soon be implementing the use of an automated attendant on our main hospital numbers, providing callers with direct access to the most commonly called departments. We expect that caller satisfaction will increase as they will no longer have to wait in queue for routine call routing. We also expect improved productivity by better utilizing our valuable operator resources.

In order to do so, we plan to implement Amtelco’s Just Say It Speech Recognition IVR, allowing internal customers to have access to patient information and department and staff listings without operator intervention when dialing “0.” Proving that your call center will provide more customer-friendly service with reduced wait time and increased financial savings is the key to winning and changing your organizational culture.

I urge those of you working in the hospital/healthcare environment to take a hard look at where you could potentially conserve resources and reduce expenses by automating your call centers. Today’s innovative technologies make it possible to do so while continuing to provide a high level of service to your customers. Let your call center equipment help you change the organizational culture and overcome obstacles facing your call center every day.

[From the Summer 2004 issue of AnswerStat magazine]