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Maximizing your comm center productivity

September 9, 2020


When the communication center receives a request for a patient transport, is that request processed with efficiency, consistency, accuracy, and with the highest level of customer service?  These are all things we should expect from our communication specialists but to expect them, we must first evaluate the effectiveness and productivity of our comm center processes.

Remember, your communication center is the front door to your program and is often the customer’s first impression of you and your services.

Evaluate, Review and Update Workflow Processes to Increase and Measure Productivity

Often, additional work tasks are assigned to the communication center that actually have nothing to do with patient transport.  These tasks can and do positively and negatively impact the workflow within the center.  Before additional tasks and responsibilities are added, input from the communication center leadership and the communication specialists themselves will help determine how the impact will affect the transport workflow process.

Take the following steps to evaluate your communication center workflow processes:

  • Evaluate the entire request workflow  Look at the process from when the phone rings to the time the transport crew lands back at their assigned base.  If your communication center is responsible for items that may affect the billing process once the transport is complete, include those processes in your evaluation.  Build a flow chart to help you understand the details happening within your communication center to support a safe and efficient transport.  This step will take time and dedication.  It requires evaluation of both day and night shifts, weekday and weekend.
  • Evaluate and solicit input from the communication center staff regarding the physical structure of the communication center  Evaluate the equipment and technology being used, and identify possible improvements that could strengthen the workflow.  Are the computer applications useful, do they guide and assist with the flow of the transport?  Are the applications running smoothly and without delays?  Are equipment needs within reach, are wired headsets keeping the communication specialist hindered and unable to move if needed.  Are workstations and monitors laid out correctly?  There are many items to consider and evaluate during this step.  When completing the evaluation, look at login procedures, slowness or lag time of the applications being used, and make sure you listen to the input of the staff.  They will know the strengths and weaknesses of the equipment they are using.
  • Evaluate the non-transport workflow responsibilities assigned to the communication center  These non-transport workflow responsibilities could include answering general business calls, answering door and gate notifications for employee entrance, alerting and paging trauma, stroke and cardiac teams, being the backup answering location for hospital transfer centers and/or safety and security.  Instead of assuming you know why the tasks have been given to the communication center, ask why.  Ask for input and see if there is a better way of completing those non-transport workflow processes.  These tasks can, and usually do, affect the attention to detail the communicator applies to the actual transport.
  • Evaluate request volume – both completed and non-completed  Gather data and evaluate when requests are being received (day of week, hour of day).  Also, evaluate phone call data.  Know and understand the number of phone calls received, number of phone calls made, average length of calls and average length of hold time.  Do you have abandoned calls?  Do you have calls rolling over to the communication center from another department?  The workflow processes of these calls, including calls that are rolled over to the communication center and other departments, should be monitored and evaluated.  See if the caller is having a different experience.  More than likely they are.  Consistent customer service, providing the same experience and expectation, is key.
  • Finally, evaluate staffing levels  Use the data you obtained and the assessment of both the transport workflow and non-transport workflow to guide you when determining the correct level of staffing.  You may find that you are overstaffing in one part of the day and understaffing in another.  Some indicators that would help you identify staffing variances are: staffing level is low, but call volume is high; on-hold time is high or staffing is high, and call volume is low.  In 2015, the International Association of Medical Transport Communication Specialist (IAMTCS) issued recommendations for Helicopter Air Ambulance (HAA) Communication Centers.  Those recommendations include a 1:4 staffing guideline.  ‘A single Communication Specialist tracks no more than 4 HAA aircraft at one time (e.g., two communicators to eight aircraft).’    Remember this is a recommendation and needs to be evaluated individually considering the entire workflow process.

Productivity is basically a measure of the effectiveness and efficiency of the department in generating output with the available resources.  It is important to monitor productivity and should be balanced with quality metrics that are directly related to the communication center.  The metrics will determine whether a workflow process is efficient and may guide you to understand the customer experience.  


Download our Productivity Calculations resource document below for specific formulas to track your productivity and quality metrics.

ADM to Traditional

Check out our case study on an air medical program that went from an Alternative Delivery Model (ADM) to Traditional in a matter of months.