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The nervous parents calling BJC HealthCare's after-hours pediatric-nursing help line can't be kept on hold, waiting for answers. So when the St. Louis-based, 13-hospital network looked to improve performance and cut costs for the triage service, everyone benefited. A year-and-a-half ago BJC supplanted the use of its general-purpose call center software with a system from IntelliCare specifically designed for healthcare service and support. "We saw that they really designed the system from the nurse's standpoint, which made the free-form text the nurses were typing in greatly diminish," says Julie Bruns, BJC HealthCare's call center manager. The company can now route calls from first-level support to RNs without creating a paper intake form and requiring rekeying, and the diagnosis process runs more smoothly. Today, both clinical and administrative calls are handled faster, and fully three quarters of the inquiries never have to be passed on to the pediatricians. The process improvements drove out 12 percent of the cost of the nursing calls, cut call duration by slicing half a minute off administrative inquiries, and have helped BJC maintain its service commitments. "We have increased our service levels and decreased the amount of times we have had to turn calls back to the physicians," Bruns says. Hospitals don't just wait for patients to come to them anymore. Memorial Hermann, a nine-hospital network based in Houston, has been working steadily on CRM improvement plans to boost customer service capabilities, as well as awareness and uptake of its services. To do so it has been borrowing concepts like mileage benefits and repeat-customer rewards from travel and retail companies. Memorial Hermann contracted with The Turning Point Group in 2002 to create an improvement plan, which included building a master customer database and creating affinity marketing groups by age or phase of life, such as young parents. A trial airline-miles crossover promotion for full-body, deep-medical scanning brought in an additional $40,000 in revenue, and the membership benefits program has created cost savings for the company. A training pilot program in two hospitals showed marked improvement in customer satisfaction, sparking a rollout to the entire network. Overall, the healthcare provider has streamlined its promotional operations while improving customer perception, largely by structuring its efforts much like any other company would. "It brought a good project management structure into the marketing department," says Karen Haney, assistant vice president of customer relations for Memorial Hermann.
Franciscan Health System wants its patients to get the preventive care they need, but the Tacoma, WA, three-hospital network also doesn't want to bore people with inappropriate messages. So Franciscan works with Customer Potential Management Marketing Group (CPM) to maintain and mine an extensive customer database used to target different aspects of comprehensive marketing campaigns. "Every few years we engage in a formal market analysis and gap analysis, and look at our current percentage market share across various business lines" for potential growth or improvement areas, says Kitty Gibbs, marketing manager for Franciscan. For a recent cancer identification and prevention campaign, Franciscan leveraged CPM's predictive modeling capabilities to identify more than 86,000 households with a likely need for and interest in oncology services. The modeling index looks at everything from expressed interest and healthcare history to demographic data. On an investment of $45,000 for the campaign, launched in mid-2002, Franciscan realized more than $240,000 in profit over a one-year period from the revenues generated by the campaign. The return was especially notable because of the relatively quick identification after the close of the fiscal year. "We often don't know the results of our efforts for six months, a year--in some cases two years down the road" due to the time-lagged nature of healthcare needs, Gibbs says.
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