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News & Events

Answering Our Patients' Calls

02/02/2015
New Contact Center Now Open

What happens when a patient calls one of our 65 outpatient clinics at Tufts MC? Three out of four calls are answered; that means one out of four calls goes unanswered. Clinics choose different ways to handle this important task. Often, those answering phones have several other duties, which may prevent them from
answering and giving the caller their full attention.

As we continue to work to set ourselves apart with a consistent, positive patient experience, answering the
telephone every time for every patient is more important than ever. Floating Hospital has had a pediatric call center for quite some time and parents are very happy with it. In December, the Tufts Medical Center Ambulatory Contact Center opened after nearly two years of work and planning.

From Pilot to Launch

Dermatology, Infectious Diseases, Endocrinology, Pulmonary and Rheumatology took part in a call center pilot for more than a year. The results?
  • Calls were answered 95 percent of the time
  • People answering the phones needed to understand how the clinics were operated
  • The call center worked with the clinics to adjust physician schedules, making it easier for patients to book appointments

Armed with the data, government relations and ambulatory leadership wrote and received a $1 million grant from the state Executive Office of Health & Human Services to help develop a state-of-the-art call center, including equipment, technology and training for scheduling and registration. Experienced Call Center Manager Jennifer McCarthy came onboard to train staff and bring our call center online. Each week for more than six months, Director of Ambulatory Operations Rachel Bright and McCarthy met with IT Project Manager Julia Wong-Jung and Infrastructure Architecture Director Mark Buttkus; Telecom Manager Gene Pelland and Senior Tech Jim Mastalerz; Bob Hanifan who oversaw the Facilities team building the call center, and Architect Long Nguyen, who researched and designed the highly specialized space at 75 Kneeland Street.

Adding More Clinics 

The Ambulatory Contact Center has 12 Contact Center Coordinators handling calls for the clinics in the pilot, with Gastroenterology and Nephrology next in line. “Our team is working with the doctors and management of each department to gradually add the rest of the medical practices during 2015 and grow to as many as 44 coordinators,” said Bright. Coordinators are an extension of each practice’s staff, with some reassigned from the clinics themselves. Each coordinator specializes in one to four clinics, depending on call volume. “New hires spend time in the clinics they will work with, meeting staff members, learning the culture and understanding the types of patients they care for,” Bright added.

Constant improvement is a goal and they are aiming to answer 100 percent of all calls.