VoIP. It sounds like a special effect from a Saturday morning cartoon, doesn't it? Like many funny sounding words in common usage, it is actually an acronym. It stands for Voice Over Internet Protocol. If you've ever seen an advertisement for Vonage, Skype or numerous other services, that is what they are: voice transmission over the Internet rather than through regular phone lines.
The reason I bring this up is because of a recent article in The Charlotte Business Journal in North Carolina. It seems that VoIP is being leveraged to help bring a human face back to an arena infamous for phone queues and voicemail boxes. Carolinas HealthCare System and Nortel Networks Corp. have come together and deployed a virtual contact center staffed by roughly 1,000 agents trained in health care. The system is reported to direct over 640,000 calls each month.
“We pride ourselves on delivering personalized patient care second to none,” says Daniel Wiens, senior vice president of the Carolinas Physicians Network. “We believe the tone is set with the patient’s very first call, and in a medical situation, people will always be more comfortable dealing with a person. That’s why reaching a person right up front, rather than a recorded message, is so very important.”As someone who uses VoIP extensively in my work, and also someone who shares the modern American impatience with automated phone menus, this sounds like a good way to make the current tech work for the health care system.
The initial program covers no less than six hospitals and sixty-six doctor's offices as well as numerous other health care providers in the area. I think they are off to a good start!
SOURCE: "Carolinas HealthCare adds VoIP service to respond to patients’ calls" 08/27/08
photo courtesy of trekkyandy, used under its Creative Commons license