As community anxiety about the COVID-19 pandemic grew, we — like many healthcare providers across the U.S. — saw the number of inquiries to our call center skyrocket.
Many calls were from people with questions about how the disease is transmitted and its incubation period. Others were from patients experiencing flu-like symptoms who needed testing or even urgent medical care.
Even though Piedmont Healthcare is set up to support large numbers of patients — our network of 11 hospitals and 800 locations treats more than two million patients every year — the volume of calls we were receiving was unprecedented.
Here’s how we used technology to handle the influx.
Overcoming our COVID-19 challenge
With the calls flooding in, we realized we urgently needed a new COVID-19 call center triage process to ensure that patients received the right care for their needs.
Fortunately, we were midway through a pilot of Salesforce’s Health Cloud in our call center. We were using the technology to help agents handle routine calls, like requests for appointments. But, with the help of Salesforce’s partner Slalom, we were able to develop new COVID-related call scripting and flows in Health Cloud over a span of three days. We also trained more than 80 triage nurses and call center agents to use the new system in the same short period.
With this new functionality, our team members can quickly understand and assess patients’ risk, exposure, and active symptoms, and guide them to the right level of care. The results have been immediate, too. Within five hours of the system being deployed, our team members had logged and triaged 150 calls. Within three weeks, 150 nurses and agents were onboarded to help support our patients in the call center.
Centralizing data to gain real-time insight
Slalom also created a dashboard to help us keep track of customer data, including the volume of calls, patient source (new or existing), call source, COVID-19 travel destinations, symptoms, and outcomes. This allows us to assess real-time demand for services, making it easier to ensure we have the right staffing levels and other resources to care for our patients.
Another advantage of using Health Cloud as part of our COVID-19 response has been that, as guidance relating to the disease has been updated, sometimes multiple times a day, we’ve been able to make real-time changes to scripts and process flows. This means our team always has the most up-to-date information to pass on to patients.
Now, with virus-related restrictions in our state being lifted and people returning to work, we’re facing a new challenge. While our call center team continues to receive many calls about COVID-19, we also need to proactively reach out to patients whose routine care was interrupted due to the outbreak, or who had surgeries canceled or postponed.
The good news is because we’re using Salesforce’s platform, we can engage with patients in a systematic and coordinated way. For example, we can identify patients who need procedures that have been postponed, and prioritize the ones that require more immediate attention.
We’re also gathering insights to better understand why patients may or may not come in for an appointment — whether that’s because they’re concerned about contracting COVID-19, have financial limitations, or transportation issues. These insights will help us to not only communicate better with our patients but also predict demand as normal service resumes.
Finally, just like we unified our COVID-19 response in our call center, we’ve rolled out consistent guidelines for our employees and patients regarding social distancing and visitors, ensuring we speak with one voice across all 11 hospitals. Fortunately, with technology on our side, we believe Piedmont Healthcare is perfectly placed to continue doing what we’ve been doing for more than a century — looking after the health and wellbeing of our community.