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One Patient, One Story

No one likes to repeat themselves, but in health care, where a variety of disciplines are involved in each patient's care, limiting the number of times you have to tell 'your story' can be a challenge. But that didn't stop CCAC Care Coordination Managers Mathieu Litalien and Chad Hayes from attempting to improve the experience for callers seeking information or referral to the CCAC.

"Our goal was to ensure callers were speaking to a live body as often as possible, and repeating themselves as little as possible," says Chad.  

No small challenge for a department that typically receives close to 700 calls a day!

In the past, callers to the CCAC would speak to a member of the Information & Referral (I&R) team, who would ask a number of questions to determine whether the person would benefit from CCAC services or if their needs could be met by referral to other support services available in the community. If CCAC services were required, the caller was transferred to the Access Team, where they had to repeat their story. And with such a high volume of calls, 25% of these callers often received voice-mail messages, or they chose to dial 0 to return to reception and begin the process again.

"Although at this point the callers were not necessarily patients, the level of frustration being experienced and the fact that a small number of people were simply abandoning their call was not, in anyone's opinion, good patient care," affirms Mathieu.

The solution? Full integration of the I&R and Access Teams. The goal? Less repetition of the patient story, an improved call answer rate, lower numbers of abandoned calls and improved consistency and quality of service.

Today, when a person calls the North East CCAC, the staff member on the line records the patient information given by the caller into the CCAC's electronic health record, and then facilitates access to CCAC services or provides information about other community supports that could meet their needs. Because the patient's information is now accessible to all members of the health care team, there is no need to repeat their story!

"What we are hearing is how appreciative patients are to be having their needs addressed with as little repetition as possible," says Mathieu. "They tell us that in this day and age, it's a real pleasure to speak with a live person without ending up in 'voice-jail.' Patients are really feeling the human touch."

The results have been remarkable. The 'live answer' rate has increased by almost 30%, with close to 100% of calls reaching a staff person instead of voice-mail. On weekends, the rate increased by 40%, and calls transferred to the answering service went down by over 75%! People abandoning their calls altogether dropped from 6.2% to 2% on weekdays, and from 13.5% to just 2.5% on weekends.

Team Assistant Leanne Cole says that from a staff standpoint, the integration is working well, with benefits to both patients and team members. "It was difficult to deal with irate callers who were being transferred again and again," she admits. "It's so much more rewarding to know that we are providing the best possible service the first time out!"

One patient, one story.