Solutions to reduce long patient call queues at busy times

News: Apr 2018

Managing Patient Call Queues

The Issue

Customers who migrate to Surgery Connect sometimes experience some new challenges which need to be overcome before patients realise that the service they are receiving is better than before. Often, the old telephone system had a limited number of lines. That meant that at busy periods, patients frequently got the busy tone when dialling the surgery. The result was often a lottery, as patients redialled more and more frequently to try and at least get a ringtone.

Surgery Connect never gives patients a busy tone. We answer calls, and usually when a patient wants to speak to a receptionist, they join a queue. Clearly this is fairer, but having made the change, it can be a surprise how many patients are waiting to speak to someone. Busy receptionists, also handling walk in requests, may not be able to answer calls as fast as they are joining the queue.

The result: Patients hold in the queue for sometimes a very long time, and become frustrated. When they do get through, they are often angry and complaints further slow down the ability to answer others.

Some Solutions

Call Queue Stats

Below are some operational ideas that have come from our experiences in supplying surgeries:

View the Live Queue

The Surgery Connect User Console gives you a detailed view of queue activity in real time.

Where possible you can assign additional resources, or at the very least understand how long people have been queueing when their call is answered and an apology made.

Average Number of Queued Calls

Managing Peak Times

The data in these monthly Management Reports will help you highlight when you are most busy, where you have the longest wait time and when you miss the most calls.

This information can be used to ensure you have sufficient resources available at these times.

Use the Phone Buttons

Surgery Connect allows additional functionality to be assigned to the buttons on the telephone extensions. Using the 'Log In', 'Log Out' or 'DND' buttons is highly recommended. This is far better than leaving the calls to ring the handsets or turning down the ring volume as this could result in calls getting answered out of sequence.

You could also add a 'No Appointments' button to designated extensions. Pressed when there are no more same day appointments left, this will play an announcement to patients as they call in and queue empowering the patient to decide if they want to hold or not.

Auto Step In Queue Management

Use Auto Step In

Using intelligent queue monitoring, Surgery Connect's Auto Step In feature automatically reacts to call peaks so you don't have to.

Auto Step In staff can be individually configured to step in to call answering groups when the queue reaches a specified length or callers have waited for a certain length of time.

Once the queue peak has eased, the users will be automatically stepped out.

Queue Busting

New feature for 2018 allows patients to reserve their position in a virtual queue, they can then hang up the phone, saving time and call costs (and patient frustrations!). We will then ring them back when their call reaches the front of the queue.

Speak to Us…

We have designed Surgery Connect to give the maximum number of options to patients in order to ensure that calls are processed as fairly and efficiently as possible. Many hundred GP Surgeries in the UK have chosen Surgery Connect to handle demanding phone traffic. If you think there are better ways we can help your surgery with large call volumes, we would very much like to hear from you as we constantly make efforts to improve our service and product.

Surgery Connect's Popularity Continues

Midlands and Lancashire Commissioning Support Unit

We have recently been awarded a contract comprising 77 surgeries in the South Worcester region. This was supported by the MLCSU and signifies one of the largest regional consolidations to date.

The project will not only address the immediate challenge of legacy telephone systems but expand the scope for home working and central hubs.

With clinical system integration and a roadmap that comprises video and AI it fully supports the NHS Forward View and was fully financed through ETTF funding.