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Connecting with Care

To learn how patients and other customers are treated—and greeted—when they call UHealth, leaders spent some time at one of their quarterly Leadership Development Institute sessions randomly calling various departments. The anonymous callers, who included Dean Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., were surprised to hear extreme variations in tone, salutations, and helpfulness. The inconsistencies led the UCare Standards Committee to implement telephone etiquette training and monitoring as part of UHealth’s UCare patient-centric service initiative.

“We already knew from patient surveys that we needed to improve how we dealt with our customers by phone, but the exercise gave us a chance to hear exactly what callers hear,” said Jorge J. Guerra, M.D., associate vice president and chief medical officer for University of Miami Medical Group, who is helping to improve phone etiquette across the group’s practice-based facilities. “The way in which patients perceive quality of care starts with what they hear when employees answer the phone. Getting that right is a crucial aspect of UCare.”

Guerra is one of 20 “phone champions” who have been tasked with ensuring quality standards for telephone use at the UMMG facilities. Nadine Knight, vice chair for administration for the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine and another phone champion, said faculty and employees were eager to improve their phone skills and embraced the training, which includes a computer-based short course and live demonstrations.

Now, all UHealth phone champions continue to make random test calls within the UM hospitals and all the divisions system-wide, ensuring those who answer follow the etiquette code by, among other things, identifying themselves and their departments, providing the forwarding extension before transferring a call, and asking the caller if he or she may be placed on hold.

“The majority of the reviews have been excellent,” Knight said, “and our internal and external customers are recognizing the improvement.”