Family Health

Methodist Launches Call Center, Improves Online Portal to Increase Accessibility and Enhance Patient Care

Published: June 2, 2021

It was a more than a year ago that Michael Ortmeier, Methodist’s senior director of clinic operations, moved to Omaha with his wife and two sons.

“We hadn’t yet established care anywhere when I got the call that every parent just loves,” he said.

His son had a fever and needed to be picked up from day care. It was approaching 3 p.m., and his wife was stuck at work. He had called around to a couple area clinic locations but was having little luck getting an appointment so late in the afternoon.

“I panicked,” Ortmeier said. “I had this little guy in the back seat, and he wasn’t looking too good.”

Although he was new to his role within the health system, Ortmeier had a fairly good understanding of some of Methodist’s key players. He desperately called Brook Lym, BSN, RN, Methodist’s senior director of women’s services. She also oversees pediatrics at two Methodist Physicians Clinic locations.

“I said, ‘Can you help me? I’ve got a little guy here, and I really need to get him taken care of,’” Ortmeier said. “She told me she’d call me in two minutes, and she did.”

Ortmeier’s son was immediately scheduled for a same-day appointment with Methodist Physicians Clinic pediatrician Emilio Arispe, MD.

Ortmeier had called the right person – someone who was able to access the schedules of several pediatric providers and pinpoint the soonest opening at the most convenient location for him.

“On cue, we get into the exam room, and my little guy throws up all over me,” Ortmeier said. “And all I could think was, ‘Everyone needs a Brook. Everyone needs someone they can call who knows so much more about all of our locations and where we can fit them in.’”

Care That’s Just a Call Away

Not long after Lym and Dr. Arispe saved the day, Ortmeier began working with a team of individuals to figure out how care at Methodist could be made more easily accessible to a panic-stricken dad – or anyone else hoping to connect with the right provider for them.

(402) 354-CARE was born.

Launched in early May, this number connects callers to a real person – not a recording prompting them to press 1, 2 or 3. A 354-CARE representative can find and schedule appointments with appropriate primary care providers based on caller responses to questions like these:

  • What do you need to be seen for?
  • How soon do you need to be seen?
  • Do you prefer a male or female provider?
  • How far are you willing to drive to see a provider?

The call center is staffed Monday through Friday, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. If a patient calls after hours, a recorded message will prompt them to visit and view a number of providers who allow online appointment scheduling.

Existing patients are still encouraged to call their provider’s office when they need to schedule an appointment, Ortmeier said.

“This call center is not designed to handle 10,000 calls a day,” he added. “It’s designed to handle that new person who’s maybe looking to establish care – or receive same-day care. Nobody has time to figure out where they need to go so they can start to feel better. They just want to feel better. And hopefully, this expedites that process. Making it easy for patients to access care is what we’re all about.”

Care at Your Fingertips

For those who’d rather access care online, Methodist’s new and improved patient portal – Methodist My Care, which can be downloaded as a mobile app – allows users to find a provider or clinic location and access virtual care. Methodist My Care offers existing patients even more functionality, including the ability to:

  • Communicate securely with their health care team
  • View their health information and electronic medical record
  • Request prescription refills
  • Schedule appointments with their primary care provider
  • Cancel and reschedule appointments
  • Pay a bill
  • Access other health system resources

“It’s one place to go for all your Methodist needs,” Ortmeier said. “And it’s a way to stay connected with our patients between visits.”

The same 354-CARE team of representatives available to help patients access care over the phone is also standing by to take questions patients may have while using Methodist My Care.

Front-desk staff at all Methodist Physicians Clinic locations are fully trained on getting patients set up with the portal, sending them an invitation to enroll following their first visit. 

“Before, it’s always been a question of, ‘Hey, would you like to download this?’ But we’re changing our philosophy to, ‘This is just part of your care here at Methodist now. Why? Because it will enhance your experience and the communication we provide. We think that’s something you deserve.’”

Forward Thinking With The Meaning of Care in Mind

Ortmeier and his colleagues are continually looking at ways to enhance patient experience. They’re currently looking into the possibility of adding a chat function to Methodist My Care and providing 24-hour access to the call center.

But the next phase of this consumer journey, he said, will be developing automated appointment reminders within the Methodist My Care app, which will also give patients the opportunity to complete any necessary paperwork before a visit.

“Our goal is to have you walk in, sign your consent form and see the doctor in no time,” he said. “We want to get away from this whole idea of having to wait around in a waiting room.”

And he hopes that patients begin adopting the idea that health care can be easy, convenient and accessible.

“These concepts really connect to The Meaning of Care in a lot of ways,” Ortmeier added. “I think there are a lot of people that value the connection of a call and that little red notification on their app square, telling them, ‘I know you’re busy, and these appointments – like many other things – are easy to forget, so … we’ve got you.”

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About the Author

Jessica Gill, a Content Strategist for Methodist Health System, is a former television news anchor and journalist. She has a passion for story-telling and illustrating Methodist’s Meaning of Care.

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