This case study demonstrates the benefits of patient transfer software, which one Virginia hospital rolled out in its call center to increase the number of new patients the hospital received through referrals.
The number of patients transferring to Riverside Health System from rural hospitals was declining. Doctors and other hospitals that didn't refer patients to Riverside Health complained of the difficulty, lack of standardization and time involved, recalled Georgia Todd, director of customer relations management at Riverside Health in Newport News, Va.
"The doctors and even our sister hospitals didn't want to transfer patients to us because we were so difficult," she said. "We had no idea how many patients we were turning away, how many physicians said, 'No.'"
Aware it was losing market share and money, and confident that it could support its community better, Riverside Health began investigating ways to improve the patient-transfer experience without incurring excessive costs or increasing employee head count.
Changing the call center with patient transfer software
Todd and Dawn Kowalski, manager of operations, began scrutinizing the hospital's call center. "The main thing call centers have a horrible time doing is producing ROI [return on investment]. Usually it's like a black hole, and the health system's pumping all this money in it," Todd said.
With the blessing of Riverside Health's new chief financial officer, Todd researched profitable call centers around the country, ultimately deciding that a software-based patient transfer system would be the most beneficial solution for the hospital.
By June 2006, the hospital began using the patient transfer software. The application lacked reporting capabilities, however, which forced personnel to manually check off boxes.
At a business conference in Charlotte, N.C., a year later, Todd saw Central Logic's ForeFront Transfer on display. In October 2007, a vendor representative came to the hospital, and demonstrated the patient transfer software to Todd and C-level management. Four months later, the hospital began using it.
"To have a tool that supports both clinical and financial missions in a hospital is unusual," Kowalski said.
Getting a big boost with patient transfer software
Using ForeFront Transfer, Riverside Health's customer relations management department oversees patient transfers, the hospital's free 24/7 Ask-A-Nurse hotline, triage services for the Anthem HealthKeepers HMO network, physician referrals and registration for hospital programs, as well as surveys for the emergency department.
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"Central Logic allowed us to track our patient registration, make a lot of decisions and be in a constant process improvement that supported our hospital initiatives ... and [took] each into positive actions,” Todd said.
Volume has increased without additional personnel.
"The goal, in order to support ROI, was to increase the market share by 1% within three years. We had to come up with 433 more patients a year after three years. We have majorly surpassed that in less time," Todd said.
Patient care has improved as well, because referring doctors know a bed is available; meanwhile, less critical patients are not left waiting in the emergency department for an inpatient bed.
"A lot of private-practice physicians don't have hospital rights, so you can connect those two clinical components together and put the patient in the right place. It makes overall hospital operations more satisfying because you have patients where you want them to be," Todd said.