Intelligent clinical communications are key to transfer center’s success
WellStar Health System
90% of all transfer communications completed in five minutes or less, with an average response time of just 3.5 minutes
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Objective: Seamless Patient Transfers
When the new WellStar Transfer Center in Atlanta went live, it was with a clear mission in mind: Enable physicians to communicate quickly, easily, and directly so that patient handoffs could be handled as seamlessly as possible.
Of course, it took months of planning, outreach to dozens of physicians, and the involvement of two trusted outsourcing partners to achieve that goal.
Communication is Key
Allison Haldeman, who serves as transfer coordinator for WellStar, worked closely on the project and understands the level of planning and coordination that contributed to the center’s success.
WellStar’s flagship facility, Kennestone Hospital, has 630 beds and treats 130,000 patients annually in its ED. According to Haldeman, the system turned to a local transfer coordination supplier to help coordinate the setup.
Since communication is an integral part of the patient transfer process, WellStar assigned PerfectServe the job of designing and implementing the call flow.
The issues WellStar faced were not unusual. Administrators had no way of knowing when or why transfers were breaking down or how often patients were being sent to other facilities. They had a sense that there were problems, but they could not isolate or quantify them.
No clear-cut, repeatable process existed for fast-tracking connections between referring physicians and the appropriate WellStar clinicians. Communication was always on an ad hoc basis, and it depended largely on a cumbersome paper trail.
WellStar leadership decided to design a whole new system from the ground up.
A three-month pre-implementation period allowed WellStar to identify project leaders and physician partners and to develop an in-depth communication plan that would involve physicians, care partners, nurses, and administrators.
PerfectServe was able to set up a single customer service phone number for all referring physicians to use. And since the system utilizes PerfectServe’s rule-based Dynamic Intelligent Routing, each clinician who is connected is able to specify precisely how they prefer to be contacted.
The results have been dramatic.
In the transfer center’s first year, it facilitated more than 2,600 patient transfers, including a 30 percent increase in non-WellStar patients received.
In that same year, the center also saw nearly 90 percent of all transfer communications completed in five minutes or less, with the average response time on a contact of just 3.5 minutes.
Importantly, more than half of those contacts resulted in a real-time conversation, which means the transfer agent was able to connect with a physician who could accept the transfer almost immediately.
Timely Connection a Requirement
Haldeman stressed that timely connection was important to success, since delays often result in patients being sent to competing health systems.
In the webinar, Ted Tully, vice president of DirectCall, WellStar’s transfer coordination partner, affirmed that the single-number WellStar communication conduit set up by PerfectServe has resulted in the fastest contact cycle times they’ve seen in all of their 200 transfer centers.
Efficient communication is always an important part of patient care, but the impact is magnified during the transfer process. Communication breakdowns and delays can create massive frustration for patients and providers during these time-sensitive situations, and the downstream consequences—including patient leakage and the associated lost revenue opportunities—can be hard to digest.
For WellStar, tapping an experienced communication partner like PerfectServe for this project helped to ensure its long-term success. The health system had already deployed PerfectServe’s clinical communication system in its facilities, so incorporating its sophisticated call routing capabilities into transfer center protocols was a natural step.