Dr. Jerome List Improves Safety and Privacy by Replacing his Answering Service with On Call Central

Jerome List, D.D.S., M.D. is not your average ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist. He’s also an experienced oral surgeon who speaks English, Spanish and Russian. Dr. List is a solo physician in private practice at Alaska Ear, Nose & Throat, Inc. where he delivers medical services related to the head and neck. He is an active member of the Board of Directors for the Alaska EHR Alliance and a member of the Alaska State Medical Association Information and Technology committee. For Dr. List, keeping patients safe while protecting their privacy has always been a priority. While his electronic health record (EHR) system provides strong documentation, Dr. Lists’ after-hours answering service was a gap in his otherwise safe and secure medical practice. Until he found On Call Central. “After using On Call Central,” Dr. List states, “I would never in a million years go back to a live answering service. It’s a very innovative tool, and the people behind the product are extremely responsive.”

At A Glance

Overview

  • Alaska Ear, Nose & Throat, Inc.
  • Anchorage, Alaska
  • Number of Physicians: 1

Problem

  • Live medical answering service was putting patient safety and privacy at risk.

Solution

  • On Call Central automated call management system

Results

  • Elimination of operator error improves service consistency
  • Recording of patient/physician interactions reduces liability
  • Removal of operator “middle man” improves patient safety and privacy
  • Flexible phone tree system replicates “beeper mode” to ensure that calls are answered.
  • Easy-to-use web interface makes it quick and easy to route and re-route calls

Problem

Before On Call Central, Dr. List had very little record of after-hours interactions. “My traditional answering service was the Achilles’ Heel of my communication system – it was clearly a weak link regarding privacy and information management,” he recalls. “Since the people answering my calls had no direct relationship with my office, I had no control over them.”

Although Dr. List tried to find a satisfactory medical answering service, no matter how many times he switched services, nothing changed. When he was introduced to On Call Central, he was highly motivated to try this next generation answering service; it was the first solution he had seen that offered a viable alternative to live operators.

"I would never in a million years go back to a live answering service."

Solution

On Call Central is a secure web-based call management system that tracks, records, routes and archives patient calls, physician responses and post-call directives. It uses proven technology – rather than unskilled and unreliable operators – to eliminate communication breakdowns and improve patient care.

In 2009, Dr. List replaced his live answering service with On Call Central. When a patient or health care professional calls after hours, On Call Central logs the call, records the caller’s message and notifies Dr. List that a message is waiting. After listening to the message, Dr. List can hit a button on his phone and On Call Central will automatically dial the original caller. And every action and conversation is logged, recorded and permanently archived—all at a price that is competitive with a standard, live medical answering service.

Dr. List utilizes On Call Central’s easy-to-use Web interface and phone trees to establish a series of instructions for the system to follow when contacting him. He can easily re-route calls from his cell phone to a land line – or to his relatives’ home phone in Seattle. “The ability to quickly change the routing sequence of your calls is amazing,” he says. “There isn’t a live medical answering service anywhere that can even come close to providing that kind of flexibility.” 

Results 

After experiencing the benefits of On Call Central, Dr. List reports that this new technology has exceeded his expectations.

  • Service consistency. “With On Call Central, there is no human variable. I never have to worry that an operator with a bad attitude will take out their frustrations on my patients or whether my instructions will be followed. On Call Central is consistent 100 percent of the time: 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”
  • Reduced liability. “Many physicians aren’t diligent about taking notes when a patient calls at 3:00am. And even if they do, those notes don’t always make it into the patient’s chart. On Call Central creates a digital recording of every interaction, which is important to both patient safety and physician liability.”
  • Improved patient privacy. “I no longer have a live person that I don’t know transferring patient information. On Call Central eliminates the person in the middle and gives me total control over the system, which improves patient safety and privacy.”
  • No more beeper. “I have a smart phone and wanted to get rid of my beeper because the service was horrible. Programming On Call Central to continually contact me until I responded allowed me to finally get rid my beeper. That was a happy day.”
  • Easier call monitoring. “On Call Central makes it easy for my staff to monitor what kind of messages come in after hours. Although call abuse isn’t a big issue for me, if it becomes one, On Call Central gives me the ability to bill patients for after-hours calls.” 

Looking Forward 

Due to the substantial size of his SQL-based EHR database, Dr. List hasn’t merged his digital On Call Central files with his patients’ electronic health records. Eventually, he would like to index his On Call Central files and point them to the corresponding record in his EHR database. For now, however, Dr. List is grateful for the ability to manage after-hours calls without humans or beepers. “On Call Central is a great alternative to live operators,” he concludes, “I highly recommend it.”