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Sutter Physician Services Finds its Sweet Spot with ININ

At the recent Interactive Intelligence conference in Indianapolis, I had the opportunity to sit down with Gregg Smith-McCurdy, CIO of Sutter Physician Services (SPS), to learn how contact center technology has helped this healthcare services provider support rapid and continued growth.

SPS is an affiliate of Sutter Health, which comprises 24 hospitals and 5,000 physicians in Northern California. It was established in 1999 to run the contact center operations for Sutter Health-affiliated groups and other organizations, handling things like physician and insurance billing, claims processing and payment, and patient scheduling and registration. SPS agents are often tasked with answering patient questions about bills and connecting them to speak with nurses or contact medical practices.

As is the case with most contact centers, one of SPS's main goals is maximizing efficiency in routing calls. Seven years ago, SPS recognized that it would need to move away from a customized Mitel solution and toward more standard functionality to meet its contact center efficiency goals. It wanted a complete system replacement that enabled a move to VoIP and was provided by a single vendor, giving it just one "throat to choke," Gregg said.

It selected Interactive's Customer Interaction Center (CIC) after also evaluating options from Avaya and Cisco, he said. Immediately after migrating to CIC, SPS observed benefits in terms of accessibility and productivity. The solution was significantly more user friendly, requiring substantially less technical team intervention, than the Mitel system it had been using, he added.

Even though SPS only had 38 agents at the time, scalability was key, too. In recent years, SPS has grown to 1,300 agents, and plans to add another 700 by the end of the year, Gregg told me. At the time, however, Gregg said the idea of using a cloud-based contact center wasn't overly appealing because SPS didn't like the idea of losing control. "Healthcare is far behind other industries [in its cloud use]," he added.

However, nimbleness also is important, Gregg said, and so now Interactive's cloud customer experience platform, PureCloud Engage, "is starting to look very attractive" as a means to enable rapid growth. PureCloud would also allow SPS to continue to use tools from a single provider rather than separate vendors.

Specifically in regard to SPS's success with CIC, Gregg told me the solution has acted as an accelerator for the company, allowing it to quickly add in work groups as needed. "Now, we're going back in and looking at how do we start doing it more efficiently," he said. "We have quite a few different clients with different product lines that we're servicing. How do we get to the universal agent concept and skill our representatives so that they can answer calls from across our client spectrum?"

Other Interactive products that SPS has in place include Interaction Dialer, Optimizer, Recorder, and Monitor. And, as of early June, the company is installing Analyzer with the goal of integrating basic skilling into its contact center operations, providing call routing based on agent specialties and language.

SPS also plans to move toward agent scripting as a means of lowering the average handle time for calls. Shrinking call-handling time could contribute to a reduction of healthcare costs for the patient overall, Gregg said.

If SPS decides to pursue a move to the cloud, then Interactive's new PureMatch criteria-based matching scheme could potentially help the company in its goal of matching agents to callers based on skills. With new solutions like this at its disposal, SPS has numerous opportunities to reach its goal of achieving the universal agent concept.

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