|Outbound Messaging: Expanding Your Phone’s Potential Workflow Role||| Print ||
The benefits of automating
phone communications are no longer just at the front end of the
prescription-filling proces. Pharmacists are now putting their
phones to work managing outbound calls that help with such tasks as
will-call management and opt-in automatic refill programs.
Managing incoming calls with an interactive voice response (IVR) system has become a mainstay at many pharmacies. IVR can smooth the intake workflow by, for example, routing calls efficiently and accepting refills at all hours and placing them into a refill queue. Automating certain basic phone tasks allows pharmacy staff to focus on the critical calls and, most importantly, reduces the distractions from the tasks at hand in the pharmacy itself. The benefits of automating phone communications are no longer just at the front end of the prescription-filling process, though. Pharmacists are now putting their phones to work managing outbound calls that help with such tasks as will-call management and opt-in automatic refill programs.
Pickup RemindersPharmacist Russell Gellis is the owner of Apthorp Pharmacy, an upscale, apothecary-style store on Broadway in New York City. "We're a pretty busy store," Gellis says, "and we have a lot of prescriptions that sit in will-call, which is very frustrating." Recently, however, Gellis has had some help tackling this problem, in the form of an interface between his HBS workflow system and his TeleManager Technologies IVR, which creates outbound reminder calls. "We activate the function through the IVR based on our workflow's will-call file," Gellis explains. Calls begin after a period specified by Gellis, with a total of three calls made within the two weeks that prescriptions are permitted to remain in will-call. "After two weeks, we'll typically reverse the prescription and return the item to stock," says Gellis. "But sometimes we'll make a call ourselves." Tasking the IVR with these outbound reminders is a big improvement over the process Gellis used before. "We never made reminder calls," he says. "When it's busy you don't have time to sort through the bins and figure out who needs to be called."
Meanwhile, on the other coast, pharmacist John Bruce, owner of Cal-Med Pharmacy in Mission Viejo, Calif., is having a positive experience with outbound calling software from MarketTouch Media. Cal-Med is a high-volume pharmacy that offers compounding, DME, wound care, and nursing home services. Bruce is certainly in agreement with Gellis on a key motivation for outbound messaging: Keeping track of the prescriptions ready for pickup can put a real strain on a pharmacy's workflow.
Bruce's solution to his problem works this way: Each Thursday a staffer generates a report of all the prescriptions that have remained in will-call over the last week. Each of these prescriptions - typically between 25 and 40 - has a phone number associated with it that gets entered into the MarketTouch Media software, which then generates reminder calls. "I've programmed the message with my own voice," Bruce says. "This is critical because I want patients to hear a voice that they recognize and trust." Bruce maintains full control over when calls are made, choosing to have them go out between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. to minimize annoyance. "We know people don't like getting a call early in the morning or during dinner," he says. "And we actually prefer to get answering machines, which we typically do during the middle of the day." The response is strong, according to Bruce. "We definitely get calls back because of these reminders, sometimes almost immediately," he says. "People will say ‘I forgot,' ‘I'll be right in to pick it up,' or even ‘‘I don't want it.'" No matter what the response, the point is that Bruce gets one. It is a much more efficient way to handle will-call management than simply waiting two weeks to see what needs to be returned to stock.
Refill RemindersPickup reminders aren't the only use that Bruce gets out of outbound messaging. He is also deploying the technology to run an automatic refill program, which he calls auto-fill. Legally, Bruce explains, he can't fill a prescription and create a sale without the patient's approval. But he has many patients who are happy to have help with the job of making sure that their maintenance medications are refilled. Once patients opt in to Cal-Med Pharmacy's auto-fill program, Bruce flags the files, as well as the specific medications that will be part of the program, in his pharmacy system. Then, every morning, his staff prints out a list of the prescriptions eligible for refill through the program. Once again, patients' phone numbers go into the MarketTouch Media software, and calls go out asking for refill approval. This not only a valuable patient service, Bruce explains, but it also helps drive efficiency in his pharmacy. "We're open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.," he says. "We can run the auto-fill report when things are slow, which means that we're using our time well." And the volume the program generates even allows Bruce to get more out of his investment in robotics.
Perhaps just as important as the efficiency they bring, the pickup reminder calls and auto-fill program have both been overwhelmingly accepted by his patients, notes Bruce. "Our goal is to guarantee that people can pick their prescriptions up when they walk in, without any issues," he says. Now that's a way to wrap up the workflow.