Healthcare Technology Featured Article

February 03, 2012

Regional Appointment Center Boosts Healthcare Access for Military Patients

National Capital Region’s (NCR) new centralized appointing and referral management service for military patients has proven to be a success since its opening in June.

The military healthcare service, called the Integrated Referral Management and Appointing Center (IRMAC), allows patients to call one toll-free number from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, to schedule appointments at any military treatment facility in the NCR.

The IRMAC is considered the first of its kind in military healthcare and will be used to consolidate and collocate many of the business functions that previously were segregated amongst the facilities to promote more consistent and cohesive process.

“What they will notice is a notable increase in the level of service and ease of access in making appointments,” said Army Col. Arthur de Lorimier, Joint Task Force-NCR Medical and Director of center, in a previous release.

Prior to the IRMAC, the existence of more than one appointment and referral process often resulted in inconsistencies in available appointments and a lack of coordination for the care provided, according to Navy Vice Adm. John Mateczun, Commander, Joint Task Force-NCR Medical, who oversees military hospitals in the NCR.

“The IRMAC is truly at the cutting-edge of how the Military provides healthcare access to our patients,” said Mateczun in a statement.

Lorimier noted in June that “by utilizing health care services throughout the region, patients and providers will have even more options than before to make an appointment or access a referral to specialty care.”

Proactive booking is one of the new options available and provides a service where call agents make outgoing calls to referred patients to book appointments, allowing the patient to avoid calling into the center.

IRMAC has, however, experienced minor issues since opening in June. Patients were complaining of long call wait-times and being transferred to the wrong call center agent. The IRMAC call center expects that by the end of March 2012, this will no longer be an issue and patients will be able to reach an agent in less than 90 seconds 90 percent of the time, according to Mateczun.

"We understand that timely access to healthcare is a critical component of a world-class healthcare system and directly impacts the quality of the patient experience," said Mateczun, adding, "I know that patients are highly satisfied with their clinical visits once they get an appointment, but they don’t like the old process for getting an appointment and we are changing that."

In the meantime, if patients do happen upon long wait times, JTF CapMed suggests contacting the Customer Service Office at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center or the Patient Advocacy Office at Fort Belvoir Community Hospital.

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Jordan Eggers has five years of writing experience and has written pieces for various print outlets and websites. Currently living abroad, she is working as a freelance writer and enjoys keeping up-to-date on everything new happening in technology.

Edited by Rich Steeves

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