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Keeping Families, Patients in Touch

The Switchboard at The University of Kansas Hospital helps keep families and patients in touch.In the depths of The University of Kansas Health System, you'll find a room filled with two not-so-silent lines of cubicles.

"The University of Kansas Health System - how may I help you?" said one employee. It's a greeting echoed over and over again among the various cubes.

The Switchboard is a 24/7/365 department spread over three core shifts. Its 25 employees represent the frontline voice for calls to the health system's main phone number.

Hundreds of times each day they answer calls from anxious family members trying to reach patients, external callers trying to reach employees and non-emergency medical calls from patients who are at home.

Their work extends beyond the hospital. They are also the main switchboard for calls to The University of Kansas Cancer Center's Westwood Campus, including Blood and Marrow Transplant, and The University of Kansas Physicians' Orthopedics Department.

The Switchboard is separate from the hospital's Physician Referral and Consultation Center (also known as the call center), which is more externally focused, providing a one-stop-shop for referring physicians and future patients.

Think of the Switchboard as the internal hospital operator and general information keepers for medical staff, visitors and patients. In addition to handling calls for patients and staff, Switchboard staff also initiate all medical- and security-related codes for the main campus (such as Code Blues and Rapid Response calls), and they handle urgent and nonurgent paging.

All told, they manage more than 2.2 million transactions a year, a 12 percent increase from 2013, reflecting the hospital's growth.

"It's a small group that handles a large volume of calls," said Melinda Keltner, Marketing Teleservices assistant director. "I'm constantly impressed by their work ethic and teamwork.

"Each one of them has the patients, their families and our visitors at the forefront," she added. "They want to provide the best possible customer service, and they do it in an efficient way. It is really astonishing."

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