It used to be that if a mother called Gouverneur Healthcare Services to make a doctor’s appointment for herself, her husband and their children, she would have to be transferred from department to department, risk getting disconnected and wait while each scheduler checked the doctor’s calendar for an available slot. Not anymore.
“Now patients are able to call a universal phone number to get correct information and make appointments for any of our services, including the Community Health Centers,” said Erika Campos, Assistant Director of Central Scheduling at Gouverneur. “A mother can make appointments for the whole family without having to be transferred from department to department.”
The scheduling office is often the patient’s first contact with a medical facility. But two years ago at Gouverneur, appointment errors – where patients are scheduled to see a doctor who is not available, or to get the wrong procedure, for example –were high. Communication was poor and staff and patients were frustrated.
Erika Campos, who had worked in scheduling for eight years, took the lead to resolve the problems. Through the Breakthrough process, HHC’s performance improvement system, she and the Central Scheduling staff and administrators identified problems and enlisted colleagues, including the Management Information Systems technology staff, to develop solutions.
Campos spearheaded the implementation of changes, often working on her own time on evenings and weekends. Campos said she wanted to take on the challenge in Central Scheduling because she felt her colleagues are smart and dedicated workers who needed training, tools and support.
Changes began with the simplification of the scheduling system by reducing appointment types – such as a first visit or follow-up visit – from 250 to 100. Staff learned how to use email more effectively to improve communication among schedulers, who are on different floors, and between schedulers and administrators. The computerized scheduling system was changed so that one scheduler could access information for doctors across specialties, and make appointments for patients who needed to see several different doctors.
“It was a drastic turnaround,” said Sanford Operowsky, Senior Associate Director at Gouverneur.
Appointments made through Central Scheduling have increased from less than 15,000 to more than 22,000 per month. Gouverneur has seen a savings of $200,000 a year because the facility was able to cut back on the use of an outside vendor to pick up patient calls that Central Scheduling was missing, as well as eliminate two temporary positions. Significantly, the error rate for appointments is now consistently less than 1 percent, way down from 20 percent in the past.
Campos considers it a victory for all of Central Scheduling. “We improved service while reducing cost,” she said simply. Her leadership and contributions to innovation were recently recognized by Mayor Bloomberg with a Mayor’s Customer Service Excellence Award, presented to individuals who exemplified this year’s theme of “Doing More with Less” by delivering excellent customer service despite the city’s ever-tightening budgets.
Campos, 34, has worked at Gouverneur 11 years. She was born and raised in Brooklyn, graduated from Clara Barton High School and attended the University of Buffalo. Married to Kevin Braithewaite, she likes to travel to historic places, and a year ago she and her husband took a three-week trip to Italy, France, Spain and Portugal.
Operowsky said Campos was an agent for positive change that benefits patients. “She’s intelligent, she wants things to work right and she’s willing to do the work to get it done,” Operowsky said.