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RingCentral healthcare mends health center's phone system

Consolidating phone systems enabled Sun River Health to provide flexibility to clinical staff, expand reporting in its call center and improve the patient experience.

Sun River Health had a customer experience problem: its two legacy phone systems. The New York-based healthcare provider spawned from a 2018 merger between two health centers. As a result of the merger, Sun River's IT team had the challenge of managing two phone systems.

Sun River services more than 245,000 patients at 47 clinical sites in New York City, the Hudson Valley and Long Island. But the health center's phone systems were limited in the data they could report, especially in the call center, said Eric Brosius, vice president of technology services.

"We weren't able to get the depth of data out of the environment," Brosius said. "We needed to get a much deeper understanding of our patients' call routines and patterns."

At the end of 2019, Sun River began the request-for-proposal process to migrate to a single phone system. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, the company was hamstrung by the two older, on-premises systems, Brosius said. At the onset of lockdowns, employees were sent home with their desk phones.

"Obviously, that got us through COVID, but that's not how you run a business," Brosius said.

The company realized it needed a phone system that could replace desk phones and provide advanced reporting capabilities. When Sun River began reopening locations in May 2020, it restarted the vendor evaluation process to support a call center that handles 5,000 calls a day, 400 remote staff members and 1,700 clinical staff members who work on-site and travel between clinical sites.

Sun River ultimately chose unified communications as a service (UCaaS) provider RingCentral based on requirements such as endpoints, call center, reporting and flexibility, Brosius said.

UCaaS in healthcare streamlines patient care

UCaaS adoption in healthcare organizations is quickly growing as providers seek to streamline communication and improve the quality of patient care, according to Grand View Research. The UCaaS market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 20.6% through 2030.

RingCentral's healthcare offering is based on three trends in the healthcare space, said Lance Mehaffey, senior director of healthcare product marketing at RingCentral:

  1. Consumerism. Patients are bringing their consumer expectations to healthcare providers, he said. The RingCentral healthcare offering supports customer experience capabilities, such as self-check-in for appointments or using voice biometrics to authenticate the identity of patients calling for an appointment or prescription refill without needing to repeatedly provide their name and Social Security number.
  2. Personalized medicine. The patient journey is personalized to their unique medical needs, from pre-treatment to care and post-care follow-up.
  3. Decentralization of care. Healthcare is provided beyond the doctor's office. Patients can go to an office for their annual physical exam or as needed for direct medical intervention and rely on telehealth for meeting the minimum requirement for a prescription refill, for example.

Improving call center metrics and processes

Sun River Health rolled out RingCentral's product in June 2021, with the call center going live first. With the new system, Sun River can now label whether a patient call is for an appointment, medication refill, general medical question or specific department, such as pediatrics, behavioral health or women's health.

These labels provide more data to show patterns in patient calls and has helped Sun River improve patient satisfaction scores, Brosius said.

"Patients were historically unhappy with the phone system," he said. "This has allowed us to do things faster."

Sun River was able to add self-service options to its interactive voice response (IVR) system, which enables patients to get questions answered without having to speak to an agent. This, in turn, enables agents to focus on calls that require more attention without patients needing to leave a voicemail or wait on hold. Hold times have decreased from about five minutes to under two minutes, Brosius said.

RingCentral's contact center enables agents to maintain the context of a call so patients don't need to repeat information or start from scratch when their call is transferred. The system also presents basic patient information, such as primary physician, appointment history and prescriptions, Mehaffey said.

The RingCentral system also enabled Sun River Health to improve internal call center processes with data to identify operational inefficiencies and hold people accountable, Brosius said. Previously, the healthcare provider had no visibility into internal call data.

For example, the system can track calls that are routed from a medical provider to an internal staff member and provide information on where the call is routed and how long the call is on hold. Call data and internal business workflows are reviewed quarterly to identify where improvements can be made and when more data needs to be collected, Brosius said.

Roadmap to interoperability

Brosius said RingCentral's platform has additional capabilities he would like Sun River Health to eventually incorporate. Due to internal constraints, the healthcare provider is not currently able to take full advantage of RingCentral's capabilities, like integrations with third-party services.

"Healthcare is late to the interoperability and API space," he said. "Most electronic medical records don't have the ability to allow third-party products to integrate."

The company did build an API to connect its electronic medical record platform with some RingCentral capabilities, such as checking the EMR database against caller ID for patient information before an agent answers the call. But a full integration is on Brosius' wish list.

Brosius also hopes to deepen self-service IVR capabilities to enable patients to make their own appointments. Patients could press a button to indicate they want to schedule an appointment and use voice prompts to say which date, location and provider they want to schedule.

"It helps to automate and provide another layer of access to patients to meet their needs," he said.

Also on the feature roadmap is enabling web chat and text messaging.

"We only do phone right now, but we see value from the chat perspective," Brosius said. Chat capabilities create new opportunities for patient self-service and provide new communication channels for agents, he said.

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