The system wants to reduce the time it takes call center reps to handle 2.2 million calls annually and give reps a more holistic look at patient data.

A big New York academic medical center is updating its patient contact center with a fresh dose of digital healthcare technology and cloud computing.

In addition to generating annual savings of between $1 million and $1.5 million and reducing the time it takes about 360 call center reps to handle some 2.2 million calls annually, NYU Langone also wants to reduce the time it takes to respond to patients’ calls, texts and e-mails, says chief information officer Nader Mherabi.

On average it used to take between 4 minutes and 5 minutes for a NYU Langone call center rep to handle a typical patient call, in part because reps had only limited information on the patient, Mherabi says. But over the last 11 months NYU Langone has addressed that issue by replacing some outdated technology with new software from customer relationship management application developer Salesforce.

With the Salesforce Health Cloud platform, NYU Langone has ambitious plans to save money by reducing the time patient care reps spend on managing, routing and answering incoming phone calls. The aim is to  reduce the average time it takes a rep to answer and complete a call to about 3 minutes and 30 seconds and to reduce the total time spent on calls by up to 1 million minutes annually, Mherabi says.

The new platform provides agents with a holistic and customized view of a patient’s needs by providing access to both Salesforce Health Cloud and the patients electronic health record, Mherabi says. The new platform also gives call center agents new ways to respond more quickly through mobile and digital channels, such as through the health system’s mobile app, by text messaging and live chat. “Not every patient wants to use the phone,” Mherabi says. “Now the call center has more digital options to offer patients as well as by phone call.

Not every patient wants to use the phone.

The new patient access technology will enable NYU Langone’s agents to have more individualized and informed interactions with patients. Using Health Cloud, all patient access center agents have a single view of the patient, including medical history, insurance information, scheduled appointments, and preferences. Data is made available in real time, allowing unprecedented access to accurate, timely patient information, all while the patient remains on the phone, Mherabi says. Agents will now have a nearly complete view of the patient, which reduces wait times and leads to significant cost savings, he says.

The first phase of the program was launched for the NYU Langone Huntington Medical Group in February, and will be implemented across NYU Langone’s in-patient and out-patient locations by the end of the year. In the future, the new system will be optimized to include chat functionality and video features, Mherabi says.

“This new platform at our patient access centers will significantly improve the way patients communicate with our health system, leading to a highly personalized and more seamless patient experience,” says Mherabi. “This new advance provides unprecedented real-time access to health records, facilitating a more meaningful connection between the hospital and patient.”

The fuller information is also designed to enable Langone personnel to better gauge patient risk, making it easier for providers to segment patient populations and target them for outreach. A provider using Health Cloud’s segmentation feature, for example, can identify patients 65 or older with diabetes, or patients who have been discharged from knee surgery in the last 30 days, and send them follow-up appointment reminders, surveys or educational materials, says Joshua Newman, chief medical officer at Salesforce. NY Langone has yet to say how much it is spending on Salesforce technology, but Pricing for Salesforce Health Cloud starts at $150 per user, per month, Salesforce says.

“At NYU Langone we receive upwards of 2.2 million calls per year, and because of the high volume of calls, we need our patient access center agents to have patient information at their fingertips quickly, to more effectively communicate with patients,” says chief technology officer Suresh Srinivasan.


Upgrading its call center with better digital and cloud-computing technology, is the latest in a series of planned digital healthcare initiatives, Mherabi says. Other digital and mobile expansion plans include more ways for the health system to go “paperless” by expanding access to online forms patients can fill out ahead of an office visit and more uses for telehealth among others, Mherabi says.

“We are very focused on digital patient engagement,” he says. “We want patients to have the same experience they do when they shop or bank online.”

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