How Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare Streamlined Patient Transfers
Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare
6 hospitals, 100+ non-acute facilities
Clinical Collaboration & Call Center
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare (MLH) is a comprehensive health system based in Memphis, Tennessee, that serves communities across the Mid-South. MLH has 13,000 associates supporting six hospitals and more than 100 non-acute sites of care, including ambulatory surgery centers, outpatient facilities, a hospice residence, and physician and specialty practices.
Though they’re quite common, patient transfers can be complex and difficult to execute quickly for healthcare systems across the country. For MLH, this was largely because the process of transferring a patient into their system was completely decentralized. Outside organizations were not always sure how or where to initiate contact with MLH, and this led to undesirable delays.
This setup meant, for example, that it wasn’t unusual for hospitalists and specialists within the system to receive calls about transfer requests even if they weren’t on call. Why? Because, in the absence of a more centrally managed process, once an outside hospital had a successful transfer experience with a given provider, they would often file their number away as a go-to point of contact for any transfer moving forward. The decentralized process also left MLH without helpful data about which transfers got accepted or declined and why they arrived at those decisions.
MLH leadership identified patient transfer operations as an opportunity for improvement to match the high standards of care for which their organization had become known throughout its more than 100 years of service to their community.
In 2020, MLH began work on its Integrated Operations Center (IOC) project. The intent for the IOC was to help MLH operate less as a set of individual hospitals and more as an interconnected health system. The project team established three specific goals for the IOC: improve patient flow, reduce patient wait times, and create a one-call experience for any organization seeking access to MLH physicians and services.
As part of this project, MLH partnered with PerfectServe to make its cloud-based call center solution the communication backbone of the IOC. With this platform in place, the IOC now uses two to four agents per shift to support 10 separate call queues, with each agent handling multiple queues. All agents are assigned to a fallback queue that allows them to triage calls if they’ve been on hold for too long.
To initiate a transfer, outside hospitals simply call the IOC and select a few options to categorize the nature of their call using an interactive voice response system, after which they’re connected to an IOC agent who is best equipped to handle their request. If the organization is looking to transfer a patient to a specific MLH hospital, that means they’ll be directed to the agent handling transfers for that hospital.
To make this work, the IOC leverages PerfectServe’s assignable roles function, which allows agents to log in and select the groups and associated messaging queues they’ll be covering for the day. With a caller on the line, agents can leverage call schedules and patient directories via PerfectServe to instantly access any resources necessary to action incoming requests. MLH also has a persistent wall board in place showing call queues for five hospitals, which allows IOC staff to monitor call load in real time and shift agent resources as needed.
The IOC, along with other initiatives, has been a major success for MLH, allowing the system to streamline critical operations to the benefit of patients, providers, and everyone in between.
- MLH’s reservation to complete time—meaning the time it takes to place an accepted transfer patient into a clean bed—has dropped by nearly 40%.
- Discharge to departure times have also seen significant improvements. MLH’s largest hospital has dropped its average to an optimal two-hour time frame in recent months, and the system is working to replicate this success at other facilities.
- Time required to bring beds back online has also dropped, which greatly benefits patient flow.
- As noted before, the PerfectServe setup allows for real-time monitoring of call volume, which means the IOC can flex agents from queue to queue to keep wait times down and prevent any one agent from being overwhelmed.
- Where communication capability was a source of frustration in the past, MLH staff have peace of mind that communications are now rarely the rate-limiting factor when issues arise in the patient transfer process. PerfectServe’s intelligent routing, repeatable workflows, and ease of use ensure that communication is now a strength.
- Seamless communication allows MLH to take a more holistic approach to resource planning and evaluation of system capacity.
For a health system as large as MLH, patient transfers are bound to be a common occurrence. But because of the size and scope of their system, and because transfers can originate from so many different places—an outside hospital, a physician’s office, or an inpatient floor, just to name a few—the process can be quite complicated.
Before it launched the IOC, MLH didn’t have an ideal communication ecosystem to manage all of this complexity in an efficient way. By building the IOC with PerfectServe’s call center solution at the core, they established a single point of contact for referring entities and equipped agents with a powerful, flexible, and unified platform for system-wide communication and collaboration.