A helping hand, a word of reassurance and peace of mind. These are what patients, families and providers have received from staff at the Access and New Appointment Center at MassGeneral Hospital for Children (MGHfC) since it opened in December 2006. This year, staff at the Access Center celebrated its 10-year anniversary by distributing “Thank You” cookies to departments they have helped over the years. They also held a celebratory breakfast to recognize Access Center staff for their dedication and years of service.

 

The Access Center was designed to be a single-entry point for scheduling new patient appointments and registering new patients. Instead of calling multiple phone numbers and leaving voicemails, patients, families and providers can call one number and have their call answered every time. Since opening, staff have answered more than 300,000 calls and scheduled more than 100,000 new patients for appointments on the main campus and at MGHfC community locations.

Scheduling that many appointments in a busy hospital can be overwhelming, but Access Center staff do it with a positive attitude, said Uzma Shah, MBBS. “What strikes me most is how pleasantly the staff does such a difficult job,” said Shah, clinical chief of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition and director of the Center for Pediatric Hepatobiliary and Pancreatic Disease and Pediatric Liver Transplant Progam. “They are unsung, truly. They are always accommodating, always collegial, always helpful, always patient, always engaging. They are never short, never impatient and do it all with a smile.”

For patients, families and providers alike, Access Center staff have been there during difficult or stressful times. “For parents, when your child needs medical care and you’re not sure what’s wrong, that can be stressful and sometimes scary,” said Lianna Buscemi, program manager for the Access Center. “Our staff understands that because it’s set up to be an extension of the clinics at MGHfC. They all have more than 10 years of experience with hospital scheduling and they know how to provide that helping hand when patients and families need it most.”

For Patrice Darden, supervisor in the Access Center, helping patients and families through those challenging times is her favorite part of her job. “Patients have felt like we are always available and I think they’re appreciative of that,” said Darden, who has been at the Access Center since it opened 10 years ago. “I’ve had patients call 10 minutes before closing time, feeling rushed and worried, and we will stay on the phone with them as long as it takes to make sure their needs are met.”

The Access Center can book patients within 24 hours if a provider calls to request an urgent appointment. Routine calls from providers, patients and families can be accommodated within two weeks, except for services that in high demand. To contact the Access Center, call 888-644-3248.

 

By the numbers:

  • Years in operation: 10
  • Number of staff: 4
  • Average time to answer the phone: 18 seconds or fewer
  • Average length of a phone call: 2-3 minutes
  • Number of calls answered since opening: more than 300,000
  • Number of new patient appointments scheduled: more than 100,000
  • Number of staffs’ combined years of experience: 80