CIO Summit 2012: The rocky road to unified communications

Medibank Health Solutions has implemented a unified communications solution which has helped the company's bottom line

When you have more than 750 staff working remotely – none of whom will ever step into the company’s offices – a stable communication system is paramount.

Medibank Health Solutions, which can take up to 2 million calls a year through its contact centres, previously had a disparate communications system, with three vendors running its call centres.

The company has around 50 clinics around the country and provides telephone and Web-based healthcare and mental healthcare services, as well as carrying out visa medical assessments (250,000 this year), triage services and government healthcare, such as telephone health advice.

The company also recently won a Defence Force contract to carry out population-based healthcare for around 80,000 personnel in Australia.

“We run about 50 different services for various clients. They have 40 different service levels across them. We have 35 skills in our environment – most contact centres will have one or two skills and we have a very large remote workforce. We [also] have 750+ people that will never, ever step foot inside our corporate offices,” Brett Winn, CIO at Medibank Health Solutions, told the CIO Summit.

As the company expanded, Winn said Medibank Health Solutions was struggling with the technology it had in place at the time.

“If you talk about call centre efficiency at a scale level, the ability to move people from queue to queue intuitively and intelligently is an important aspect of how you run those services efficiently and actually end up making some money out of it,” Winn said.

The changing healthcare environment has also meant healthcare companies need to continually innovate.

“Effectively the health system is starting to consume a significant amount of the GDP in Australia and in New Zealand…"

“That’s clearly not sustainable so the government now is getting to the point where it’s trying to figure out how [private sector businesses can] go and do that work for them and hopefully build it better."

Medibank Health Solution’s previous system also meant it was failing to deliver on some requirements, such as recording all calls unless otherwise requested by callers. Clients also expect a zero downtime policy.

Winn wanted a single platform and to improve the company’s handle time, which could have a significant impact on the company’s profitability.

The solution had to be simple and easy to use, which would allow clinicians, who take calls from the public, to be able to use it easily.

Eventually, the company settled on Interactive Intelligence’s CIC unified communications, which took around 18 months to build.

Although the UC solution has only been in place for a couple of months, Winn said he is already witnessing efficiency with regards to handle time.

The company is now able to use commodity-based hardware and tap into its existing environment instead of having to buy isolated equipment. It can now also efficiently operate 24/7, 365 days a year.

“When you put it in the context of someone calling the suicide prevention line, you don’t want their call dropping out, so it [was] important for us to transition that call to a clinician and then gracefully cut down a queue and move the operators in the queues over to the next system, and we do that now very effectively,” Winn said.

“These are expensive solutions and we need to make sure that we drive some value into our business. We’re about $350 million and we’ll be $600 million next year in revenue. We have to drive efficiency,” Winn said.

The company is also now able to stand up a call centre’s capabilities to help in the event of emergencies to provide advice and services for the public. For example, in the event of a natural disaster such as an earthquakes or flood.

The ROI on the new system will be about three to four years, compared to around 10 years for previous platforms.

While the road to implementation hasn't been easy for the company, Winn said the benefits far outweigh the challenges it has encountered.

“I won’t say it wasn’t a rocky road. It was a difficult process for the business to undertake because it was a significant change, but we got there in the end,” Winn said.

Follow Stephanie McDonald on Twitter: @stephmcdonald0

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