Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Trust has become the first trust in the country to install a speech-recognition telephony system. The system, from Telephonetics, will help operators handle more than 6,000 calls a day.
Following a reorganisation of healthcare services in Gloucestershire, the trust reviewed the way in which it handled telephone calls.
It was decided that one single phone number was needed, so the Trust adopted a local rate (0845) telephone number. Outdated call handling practices had to be replaced by an efficient, easy-to-use and low-administration telephony system.
The trust considered automated touch-tone telephone systems but the hospitals contained too many departments across too many sites for it to have accommodated every need. Moreover, research showed that touch-tone systems were seen as frustrating by members of the public.
It was therefore paramount to retain voice interaction as well as existing direct access. After further research, it was decided that voice-recognition technology would enable the Trust to meet all the criteria.
Pat Mooney, the trust's telecommunications manager, said, "Despite the fact the system had to integrate with the protocols governing the network, we had no problems in implementing the solution."
Since the implementation, 7,000 staff at the hospitals are able to use the voice-activated speech-recognition system to make internal and outbound calls, by saying a name, department or hospital.
All numbers and extensions, including those of suppliers, general practitioners and hospitals around the country, have been entered onto the system's database, where they are secure and are automatically updated.
There is no need for internal phone directories, which can be expensive to produce and quickly become out of date. Instead, the system acts as a directory enquiry service, substantially reducing costs.
"As our staff are quite mobile and work across the trust's sites, they need to be reached wherever they are. The system enables them to direct their calls to a chosen location, whether that be their office, another site or to a mobile phone, said Mooney.
"It is also simple to reach them by pager. By allowing paging by voice, the system is simplified and much faster," said Mooney.