B.C. Ministry of Health puts pharmacists on call

A virtual call centre in B.C. allows pharmacists to dispense medication in person while using their downtime to dispense advise over the phone.

A venture between JDS Healthcare, Bell Canada, Mitel, and other Canadian partners including several B.C. pharmacies, the Pharmacist Network enables callers to B.C.’s NurseLine to be patched through to an available pharmacist for advice.

The service fields calls to NurseLine which are outside the scope of standard nursing practice but pertain to pharmaceutical issues. Keeping a cadre of pharmacists on hand at the NurseLine call centre wasn’t a practical option, but the B.C. Ministry of Health wanted callers to have access to pharmaceutical advice.

“”Unfortunately there is a shortage of pharmacists throughout the country, and any addition of pharmacists to a call centre would actually remove them from the workplace,”” said Joe Jacob, vice-president, business development, for JDS Healthcare, the company that operates the Pharmacist Network.

“”Our solution was to work closely with Mitel and Bell in providing a solution to take the technology to where the pharmacists are already. As far as I understand nowhere else has there been a distributed call centre put in place with individuals working in another capacity,”” added Jacob.

Based on a series of components Mitel calls its “”Remote Contact Centre Solution,”” the virtual call centre utilizes Mitel hardware and Bell infrastructure to deliver remote call centre technology to B.C. area pharmacies without requiring complex and bulky hardware to be installed.

“”One of the applications (JDS) had been looking at before they even came to us was the Mitel 3300 box which is a product we sell, so we developed a solution that they could have call centre agents anywhere in the world so long as they had a broadband connection,”” said Louise Meilleur, customer solutions engineer for Bell.

The call server is controlled by the Mitel 3300 system, and is combined with technology that allows anyone with a broadband connection to plug in a phone at a local site and connect.

“”It simply uses a phone, you plug it in to a basic router that you could get from Radio Shack if you wanted to, and you could be up and running in about a minute,”” said Meilleur.

The Pharmacist Network’s connectivity has been implemented with varying degrees of redundancy.

“”Not only do we use VoIP technology to patch the calls from the facility to the stores, from a stability perspective, we have direct connections to two of our stores through BRI landlines, so in case the Internet goes down, we can transfer our calls via the land lines. The other thing is the way Mitel’s system works is you can actually go anywhere there’s high speed access and set up the Teleworker program and be able to take calls. So if we’ve had land line problems with the BRI store, we can switch from the land line to the Teleworker software via DSL,”” explained Jacob, who added that the service may run on DSL or cable depending on whether or not Bell has coverage in the area.

The program is already considered successful so far, with more than 4,900 calls having been patched through to pharmacists on the network since last June. “”From a service level perspective we’ve exceeded the Ministry’s expectations,”” said Jacob, who sees the network, ultimately, as an asset to public health.

“”We want to prevent these patients from adding to the cost of the health care system by going to the emergency room to get simple questions answered.””

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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