Since its inception 15 years ago, Alaska Urology has been a leader in surgical innovation. The group boasts Alaska’s only board-certified pediatric urologist, M. David Bomalaski, M.D., FAAP. In addition to broad expertise in managing a variety of urological conditions, they have been early adopters and proficient users of the latest surgical techniques. Among the many modern procedures offered by the group are no-scalpel vasectomy, and Greenlight laser treatment. Moreover, Alaska Urology is one of the few practice groups in Alaska to provide robot-assisted laparoscopic with the DaVinci surgical system, a state-of-the-art system that delivers unprecedented control and superior outcomes.
As leaders in urological surgical innovation, Alaska Urology is also keeping on top of advances in practice management. What good is the having the skills to deliver the latest surgical treatment if you cannot coordinate patient care? Thus, to keep pace with a changing practice environment, Alaska Urology has been moving toward implementing an electronic health record and an automated appointment reminder system. They employ the services of the medical management firm MedMan to keep their practice as efficient and patient-friendly as possible.
At A Glance
- Alaska Urology
- Anchorage and other locations across Alaska
- Number of Surgeons: 5
- Alaska’s only board-certified Pediatric Urologist
- The practice’s live answering service was wasting physicians’ time and delaying patient care
- On Call Central automated call management system directly connects patients to physicians in private, secure phone consultations
- Accurate call routing even despite complex, multiple call schedules
- On call physicians can respond to pages from their personal phone without displaying that personal number
- Customer support far exceeds other medical technology vendors
- Implementation was fast and painless
The one feature of their practice that was stuck in the Stone Age was Alaska Urology’s live answering service. Alaska Urology is clearly committed to providing seamless, round-the-clock care—the group actually runs two call systems, an adult urology and a pediatric urology service. Unfortunately their existing live answering service was not delivering even basic functions in timely manner. Jennifer Adams, the practice manager explains, “I think the biggest gripe is that the answering system would page them, they would return the phone call, and often they would be put on hold by the attendant for sometimes five plus minutes. Their gripe was ‘you paged me, obviously you know I am going to call back.’” The urologists were forced to remain “on hold wasting time” at the mercy of the answering service. The live answering service was wasting significant amounts of the on-call surgeon’s time and was coming between patients and physicians.
“When the urologist finally got the answering service attendant on the phone, the attendant would go through the whole dissertation of what the patient was complaining of, which would take a while,” Jennifer explains. “Then they would have to call the patient and hear it all over again…one page would often take a ridiculous amount of time, after being put on hold, after hearing everything, and then calling the patient and hearing it all again, they just felt it was very inefficient and it was wasting a lot of their time.”
On Call Central is a secure, automated call management system using web-based technologies to directly connect patients to physicians in private, secure phone consultations. The key to On Call Central’s ability to deliver fast and accurate results comes from its innovative core features. Callers are first presented with an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) menu that plays a recorded greeting. This brief, customizable menu begins to filter calls at the point of first connection.
Next, the customizable menu module continues “filtration” by shunting non-urgent and inappropriate overnight calls, such as prescription refills and new patient appointment requests. However, the feature that dramatically changed the life of Alaska Urology’s surgeons-on-call was the systems paging module. On Call Central notifies the on-call physician that a new message has been received and that recorded message can be replayed at the touch of a button. Pressing one more button connects the On Call physician with the caller and the consultation begins.
The surgeons at Alaska Urology noticed the difference right away. As the practice manager describes it, the physicians “really like it and like the ease of use.” Ms. Adams praises the speed of On Call Central’s response saying “it is pretty quick. Assuming the patient just leaves a fairly short message, it could be within a minute. [The surgeons] get the page. They hit the button, hear the message, and then hit the button to go right through to the patient. It is very quick, just a couple of minutes.” She goes on to say that the On Call Central feature that is most important to the practice is “not being put on hold for extensive amounts of time.”
On Call Central connects patients with Alaska Urology’s on call surgeons much faster than they had experienced in the past. Patients get timely care when they need it most and surgeons make the absolute best use of their on call time. On Call Central connect patients with doctors, directly.
The surgeons and staff at Alaska Urology are thrilled with the time savings and reduced hassle that they have enjoyed since On Call Central went live; however faster connections were not the only advantage of the new automated answering service.
- Flexibility and customizability. As a leading provider in urological care in Alaska, Alaska Urology maintains both an adult and pediatric call schedule. This is great for patients, but can collapse without an efficient answering service. On Call Central provides organizes complex call schedules with ease. The practice manager at Alpine Urology explains that the system is very easy to administer: “The system is set up so depending on what button the patient pushes, they get directed to the correct on call provider.”
- Physician numbers remain private. With their former live answering service, on call surgeons at Alaska Urology either had to reveal personal phone numbers or spend precious time blocking the number before returning the call. Jennifer describes that “often times they are calling back on their cell phone number and patients would get the cell phone number and call them back. Obviously they tried to avoid calling from home but it was a problem.” With On Call Central, physicians can return a page from their home or cell phone confident in the knowledge that their personal number is kept private.
- Outstanding customer support. A valid concern of anyone that is going to replace a live service with one that is automated is the level of customer service they will receive. When asked about the customer support services, Jennifer Adams states that On Call Central “by far exceeds everyone.” She goes on to say that “On Call Central is very responsive—days, nights, weekends—to all of our needs.”
- Painless setup. Jennifer mentions that certain technological upgrades have been difficult to implement at Alaska Urology. Ms. Adams states that EMR deployment “was a painful process.” In contrast, she reports that implementing On Call Central was, “not very difficult…Urgent issues got resolved immediately as we were implementing the system. Now the system seems to run itself with no maintenance on our end.”