New contact center model helped Dana-Farber improve the patient experience

By | June 15, 2020

The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, a Harvard Medical School teaching hospital, recently underwent a change to its contact center to improve how it connects with patients.

“One of our goals was to figure out a way to improve the patient experience so that we could really contain and capture all of these different points of contact for patients,” Kathleen Keavany, the vice president of Ambulatory Clinical Operations at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute said during a HIMSS20 Digital session.

Starting in 2017, Dana-Farber began changing how it manages patient calls and messages to improve the customer experience.

Prior to this, the institute used outsourced vendors to support the overflow of patient calls, had a complex call routing with multiple entry points and variations across 19 different disease centers and lacked the technology architecture to support an efficient operation, Keavany said in the webinar.

“It turned into a lot of inefficiencies and led to patients not having a streamlined experience any time that they reached out to us,” she said.

To address these shortcomings, Dana-Farber decided to change its patient contact model to include improved organizational and technological advancements.

It did so through the creation of its Welcome Center, which is like “the virtual front door for Dana-Farber,” Keavany said.

With the implementation of the Welcome Center and the addition of more staff members to support it, Dana-Farber created a new process flow for each patient call type. Instead of an outside vendor taking patient calls, actual staff members are able to assist callers.

“By reaching someone at Dana-Farber, it helped to improve the experience for patients and also greatly increased staff satisfaction in being able to help patients as they were calling in real-time,” Keavany said.

Dana-Farber also introduced a new customer relationship management (CRM) platform from Evariant to assist with its new model.

The platform integrates information from the institute’s electronic health records into the CRM so that when a patient calls in, the staff member has all of the information in one place.

Since it began this implementation, Dana-Farber has reported that the new model eliminates redundancies from patients having to call back multiple times to get information, allows staff to automate some of their tasks so they can spend more time with their patients, reduces reliance on external answering services and enhances documentation of patient calls.

After only a few months, it also saw a 71% increase in calls answered by Dana-Farber staff per day and a 38% increase in new patient intake per day since taking on the new model.

“This was actually within the first six to ten months where people started to see significant efficiencies,” said Naomi Lenane, the CIO at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

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Improving the patient experience is a central focus for providers, but health systems still have a long way to go to change the traditional role of physician as consultant telling patients what they need to do. The focus tends to be on the efficiency of how to deliver care, but it’s more important to focus on the efficiency for patients, said Gail MacKean, a founding member of IMAGINE Citizens Collaborating for Health. For more on this topic, click here to watch the complimentary webinar “Health System Transformation: Improving Population Health After COVID-19,” on June 16 at 11 a.m. CT.

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