Healthcare Technology (Vol.
8, No. 3, April 2003) View
in PDF Format
improves hospital communication with transplant patients
By Neil Zeidenberg
hospitals in Toronto's downtown core are using intelligent
automated telecommunications technology to keep in
touch with their patients after an organ transplant.
the Hospital for Sick Children (HSC) and Toronto General
Hospital are using Easy-Call from Mandexin Systems Corp.
(www.mandexin.com) - a developer
of information and telecommunications technologies.
"Easy-Call reduces the time healthcare coordinators spend trying to connect
with the patients, while at the same time relieving stress levels for all concerned," said
Lorrie Naylor, director of business development for Mandexin.
It also helps to tackle one of the toughest challenges faced by Toronto transplant
coordinators today: the language barrier.
"Because Toronto is so multi-cultural, healthcare workers have difficulty
communicating with patients whose first language is not English," Naylor
explained. But Easy-Call's Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system supports
multiple languages including French, Italian, Portuguese, Punjabi, Tamil,
Vietnamese. This means that standard subjects and phrases can be recorded
into different languages. When a client's language is set to Italian, the
will get instructions in Italian. Other languages can be added within two
Due to the delicate nature of organ transplant, it's important that coordinators
remain in close contact with their clients regarding test results, appointments,
and changes to medication.
However, hospitals often spend considerable time playing telephone tag
with clients. This leads to increased workload and higher costs. Easy-Call
that important information is passed on to the intended client with minimal
effort - making staff more productive. Here's how it works.
When a patient is listed in the Easy-Call database, their record references
their contact phone numbers including home, pager, cellular and business
and when each may be used. It may also include phone numbers of the client's
Importantly, the record identifies the patient's security PIN, and if necessary,
Easy-Call is tenacious in that it will continue calling at regular intervals
until the client actually responds. The system keeps track of when every
attempt was made, the number dialed and the exact time the client responded.
all becomes part of the client's permanent record.
Easy-Call protects patient confidentiality. If someone other than the
client picks up, potentially sensitive information will not be disclosed.
must always be provided first. The automated voice heard during dial-out
only programmed to alert the client of an awaiting message, whereupon
a client is expected to call in to retrieve it. For example, "there is an important
message waiting. Please call your Easy-Call." The message itself
is password protected and can only be retrieved by the client, or in
of a child,
by a parent or guardian granted access. This ensures patient confidentiality.
"Once the client is in, they are limited to their own messages," explained
Michael Chan, project manager of information systems for HSC's transplant
The system was first implemented in 1996 at the transplant program of the
University Health Network (UHN). Since then, its client database has grown
1,500 patients to more than 3,000 currently held in its centralized repository.
More recently, it was implemented at HSC in late January of 2003, and currently
monitors 240 patients. According to Gomatie Persaud, coordinator of the
HSC transplant program, Easy-Call makes better use of hospital staff, and
them to communicate more effectively with patient's families.
"Many families don't have answering machines," she noted. In these
cases, the consistent automated calling of the system makes sure that the patient
is reached. For those that do have answering devices, "We can leave
messages at any time of the day, and they can pick it up at their convenience."
One of the most noticeable improvements is turnaround time. It used to take
between four and five hours to connect with clients, but with Easy-Call,
communication can often be made within an hour.
According to Naylor, Easy-Call is capable of coordinating the broadcast
of urgent information to thousands of patients at a time, and can even
to reach a specific audience. The technology's other unique features include:
· Multi-media interface/integration. It is said to integrate with most
communication technologies, including pager, cellular, and conventional
· Auto-dial and locate. Assertively pursues recipients of critical information
to ensure a response. Its active pursuit technology provides an architectural
fail-safe, assuring communication even if phone or pager systems are