By now, most of us have experienced at least one of the countless ways the pandemic has affected how businesses operate. From supply-chain issues leaving store shelves empty to long wait times when trying to reach a health center or help desk, we’ve all encountered the disruptions the pandemic has caused.
As the CEO of Finger Lakes Community Health, it’s my priority to ensure that my team and I make creative adjustments to our systems during this time so that we can better serve the community. Our focus has always been on providing comprehensive healthcare services to our patients. Now, that focus includes providing Covid-19 testing and vaccines for everyone who needs them, regardless of whether or not they’re an FLCH patient. We have also partnered with several local public health departments to provide Covid testing to everyone, especially those on the front lines and our first responders.
For the past several months, FLCH has been holding vaccine events so that everyone who wants a vaccine or booster can get them. Our staff has been working tirelessly, often outside of normal business hours, to make these events happen. A huge “thank you” to our team!
We’re getting 8,000 calls per weekWe understand that our patients often need answers quickly. We see it every day in our call volume, which has almost doubled since the beginning of the pandemic. Currently, we take 7,000 to 8,000 calls per week, compared to 4,000 weekly calls prior to the pandemic. Like many other organizations and businesses, we have had a difficult time recruiting enough staff to support the work we do. We continue to try to hire and train new staff so that we can meet the needs of the communities we serve.
Like anyone who’s had to take time off from work due to Covid-related issues, our healthcare workers have had to do the same. After all, they are often on the front lines and face to face with the community every day. If they aren’t sick themselves, it may be their children or family members that they need to stay home and care for. In a week’s time, we could have 10% to 15% of our staff out sick. Other healthcare systems in the area report even higher numbers.
How can we improve customer service?Communication with our patients is vital to our mission, which makes our Call Center a priority for us. We realize how difficult it is for patients who want to talk with a qualified individual, but have a hard time getting through due to our nursing teams being busy with patient care. We have added nursing staff to our Call Center to answer medical questions, get lab results and other information for callers. We’re working to hire additional clinical staff that can assist our patients and help them get the information they need more quickly.
Until we’re fully staffed at the Call Center, we’ve implemented an “all hands on deck” policy so that our providers and other staff are available to answer medical questions and make appointments.
We are also encouraging our patients to use the Patient Portal, where they can manage their healthcare information online when it’s most convenient for them. In the Portal, you can get direct information such as lab and Covid results, request appointments and medication refills, and so much more. If you are a patient and do not have a patient portal account, please email us at PatientPortal@flchealth.org or visit our website for instructions www.localcommunityhealth.com/patient-portal-online/.
Patience needed during pandemicUnfortunately, we’ll be living with Covid and its effect on healthcare for an indefinite period. We continue to look for innovative ways to serve our patients. We appreciate your patience as we work through this difficult time.
Zelazny is the CEO of Finger Lakes Community Health.