The Concierge Team was introduced to the Eye and Ear as part of our COVID-19 response efforts. Watch as some of the team explain their role and the importance of the concierge process for overall patient flow at the hospital.
The Quality Account publication explores improvement and change initiatives at the Eye and Ear focusing on patient experience and overall quality of care.
Concierge process at the Eye and Ear
Improving patient services and access
“I remember the day that COVID-19 truly hit us. It was a Thursday afternoon and the news came through the press conference. It felt like the world stopped, and yet the team stepped up and staff from around the hospital banded together to create a crisis response plan.”
Patient services, access, team work, improvement and change – these are the core elements of the Patient Services and Access Team. Manager Kathryn Day has worked for the Eye and Ear for over 15 years, but has experienced nothing quite like the past two years.
Kathryn commenced at the Eye and Ear in her role as Outpatient Bookings Coordinator, and worked her way up to a multi-disciplinary leadership role and during this time has gone from a small team of seven staff to now managing over 80 staff across both sites.
This team is at the heart of the Eye and Ear and is often both the first and last step of the patient journey.
Every patient will have some interaction with at least one of Kathryn’s team before they see their treating doctor. The team has a range of responsibilities including processing referrals, sending patient letters, booking patient appointments, supporting clinical triage, managing waiting lists, assisting with patient wayfinding and patient check-in as well as providing support for patients while they are in the waiting room.
“This team is critical. Without them, clinics wouldn’t be booked and patients wouldn’t get to where they need to go,” explains Kathryn.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit it was all hands on deck. The team were involved in complex management and rearrangement of patient appointments in a very fast-changing environment and more than ever it became clear how integral their roles were to hospital operations.
“I remember the day that COVID-19 truly hit us. It was a Thursday afternoon and the news came through the press conference. It felt like the world stopped, and yet the team stepped up and staff from around the hospital banded together to create a crisis response plan. We got as many people as possible on the phones cancelling appointments for the upcoming week,” explained Kathryn.
Kathryn and her team worked with the doctors on prioritising patients and categorising them as either urgent, telehealth suitable appointments, or patients who could wait.
“No one knew how long it would be, it was hard to predict. We normally book appointments six-weeks in advance, so we started there. We reviewed every single clinic and every single session, for every single day, for six weeks,” said Kathryn.
As the pandemic worsened and appointments and surgeries continued to be cancelled things became more complex. While patients were understanding of the cancellations they still required specialist advice and some even began to run out of specific medication that can only be purchased at the hospital.
“Some patients were running out of eye drops, for example, and they needed a way speak to a doctor and so medical staff joined us in the call centre to take clinical calls. This support streamlined the call flow and made call management more efficient. From this, we made a process for clinical queries that both our doctors and nurses provide support to, ” said Kathryn.
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kathryn also onboarded a team of concierge staff to support patient flow and COVID-19 compliance.
One thing was clear, digital support was key. The call centre became a core tool in the hospital’s COVID-19 crisis response, and while we have always operated a call centre, the scalability of our processes proved difficult.
“There was a day where the call centre nearly blew up! Patients were scared and the volume of calls in bound and out bound was unlike anything I’ve experienced,” said Kathryn.
The pandemic launched our call centre into an almost constant state of call surge, especially after a press conference aired. Processes were developed that can now be replicated in other scenarios to help support call flow and manage sudden increased call volumes efficiently.
COVID-19 has provided us with a case study in improvement placing digital acceleration at the forefront of success. It revealed our digital blind spots and our COVID-19 response is helping to inform future initiatives in the Patient Services and Access Team.
“We have always been very paper-focused, we are now working on an electronic referral system and are looking for opportunities for efficiencies in the digital health space,” explained Kathryn.
Future challenges and opportunities
The overall challenge for all health services across the country is making up for lost time and getting patients seen as quickly as possible.
One way to help alleviate this pressure, is increasing opportunities for patients to be seen in different ways by reviewing and trialling alternative models of care.
“We have been working on a Department of Health funded initiative that aims to support healthcare demand by increasing the delivery of hospital services in patients’ homes,” explained Kathryn.
The team is also looking at different approaches to the call centre, placing the patient’s wants and needs at the centre of our communication.
“What information do the patients want us to know? Do they want to have different ways to communicate with us? Email or live chat for example, these are the types of insights we are looking for,” explained Kathryn.
We are currently rolling out our digital patient check-in system in the hospital to speed up the reception process and allow for staff and patients to engage in more meaningful conversation.
“The future that I would like to see is my team having the time, thanks to digital processes like the electronic patient check-in, to engage more with our patients and give them the attention they need,” said Kathryn.
As our redevelopment nears its final stages, the team will look at restructuring to ensure patient services and access are its primary focus.
“My team are passionate about what they do and really want to be here. They try their very best to be kind and ensure the patient needs are at the core of their every interaction,” said Kathryn.