Behind the Scenes

The Best Patient Experience Begins with Access

By Chris Wojcik / Photos by Chris Rakoczy

At 9:45 on a Tuesday morning, a Patient Service Liaison (PSL) at Hartford HealthCare’s Access Center took the 10th call of the hour — a 59- year-old Bridgeport woman who wanted to see a doctor for worsening shortness of breath, wheezing, and a sudden breakout of hives.

The woman didn’t speak a word of English. Without batting an eyelash, the PSL communicated in fluent Spanish gathered critical information, and, in less than five minutes, scheduled an appointment to see a nearby doctor before lunchtime the same day. The success that colleague achieves on every patient call is no lucky coincidence. It’s made possible by a comprehensive support system, and work done behind the scenes, to help all Access Center PSLs quickly and easily get the right patient to the right provider at the right time.

To ensure the best patient experience, all PSLs (Access Center colleagues answering patient calls and scheduling appointments), undergo a rigorous five-week training before taking any calls. Extending beyond basic instruction on the computer, which puts up-to-date provider and practice information at their fingertips, much of the training focuses on interpersonal skills needed when speaking to patients on the phone.

Being mindful of tone of voice while offering empathy and compassion helps PSLs improve the capacity to establish an immediate connection and effectively communicate with patients. Learning doesn’t end once training is complete. Through the use of the Calabrio software platform, the Quality Assurance team records and archives phone audio and screen visual for every incoming patient call to the Access Center.

The calls are routinely reviewed against specific quality measures to give PSLs practical feedback and identify opportunities for improvement.

Additionally, Calabrio analyzes audio patterns and detects heightened emotions in patients’ voices. By understanding these trends and identifying positive words or phrases, the team can help PSLs improve patient interactions.

Access Center leadership is committed to staff success and provides colleagues with regular coaching. Supervisors work closely with PSLs to understand their personal development goals and provide guidance to achieve them. Supervisors may also observe live calls, providing instant positive performance feedback, and identifying opportunities to further develop their skills.

Although there is no average daily call quota at the Access Center, it’s possible one PSL could take as many as 60 patient calls before their day is over. However, with the support they have behind them from managers, specialists, and peers, they do so with confidence knowing they have the skills and the tools to schedule appointments efficiently and accurately. By working together, Access Center teams can constantly improve their performance, ensuring the delivery of the best patient experience.

Julia Ott Hartford HealthCare

Access Center team members — Julia Ott, patient services liaison (left), and Ithaca Mitchell (above), training team member — spend much of their days on the telephone.