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The Buzz: Install of the Month:
Medica Health Plans Minnetonka, Minn

Apr 1, 2006 12:00 PM, By Wendy Meincke

Health Help


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Medica Health Plans improved the time it took to answer customer calls with its new Realtime Operations Center (ROC).

With an automated phone system, a slip of the finger can take you in mysterious directions, and the only recourse is to find your way back to the main menu or hang up and start over.

For a company like Medica Health Plans in Minnetonka, Minn., that scenario is unacceptable. Most of the 1.3 million members of its health plan will call with questions at some point, and fielding those calls in an efficient manner is essential to Medica's mission. The firm's average speed of answer is a trim 30 seconds, and Medica's goal is to maintain (if not better) that time as the volume of calls increases.

Over the past few years it has become increasingly apparent that a central location would help Medica manage those calls, and last fall the firm opened the doors to the solution — a technology-rich brain center the company calls the Realtime Operations Center, or ROC.

“The ROC room is all about managing the availability of our customer service staff,” says Larry Bussey, Medica director of communications. Every call that comes in is first routed to one of four call centers, each of which serves a distinct subset of members (Medicare members, private health plan members, etc.). Customer service representatives that answer calls are schooled on the category of their location, but many are also cross-trained to handle the other groups should the need arise.

Medica needed a centralized view of what was happening in each call center at any time, instantaneous access to multiple datasets, and the capability to redirect calls to the most available resources. SPL Integrated Solutions of St. Paul, Minn., gave Medica a highly functional audiovisual system that graphically displays call traffic and other critical information on nine NEC plasma monitors.

Part of Medica's goal was to create a control center that would showcase the firm's technical expertise to clients. People stepping off the fifth floor elevator at Medica's headquarters get an eye-catching view of a wall covered by NEC plasma monitors surrounded by the soft blue glow of an LED light that frames the display. Two sets of four 42in. PX-42VP5 plasmas mounted in two-by-two squares hang on either side of a larger 61in. NEC PX-61XM3A plasma centered in front of a four-seat console. From where they sit, the operators can see multiple sets of data, everything from who is on break to how long agent A has been talking to client B.

“We chose the NEC plasmas because they were the only ones at that time that had matrixing capabilities,” says Ryan Ford, designer and installation engineer with SPL. Four separate images can be sent to the two sets of 42in. plasmas, or one big image can be spread across each set of four. The 61in. plasma in the middle allows Medica to enlarge a specific piece of data, or it can run a separate image.

Each seat at the console has a computer monitor in front of it and a PC underneath the desk. An AMX NXT-1200VG RGB touchpanel on the console puts control of the room's features at the operator's fingertips. “There are five source computers in the racks, and you can send any computer to any plasma through the touchpanel,” says Ford. “It also controls the room lights, the shades on the back wall windows, the microphones for audioconferencing.”

Along with the two Audio-Technica EX935S/C gooseneck microphones on the console, the room is equipped with two A-T ES955PMW/H mics hanging from the ceiling over a small seating area at the rear of the room, and two A-T ES943cW/C lavaliers, all part of an A-T AEW-5111D dual-channel wireless microphone system that complements the ClearOne 910-151-101 audioconferencing system. “The other purpose of the room was to bring in clients,” says Ford, “and while the people are working on the front desk with statistics on the screen they can do a presentation at the back of the room.” An AMX TXC4+ handheld transmitter allows someone at the back of the room to move through a PowerPoint presentation on the large center plasma while ROC room personnel continue to monitor call center activity from their positions at the console. Two JBL Control 26CT ceiling speakers provide audio to the rear seating area.

The ROC room is a stage for Medica's pre-planning and disaster control as well. “Say we have 20 agents in the Medicare members' group, but something comes up in the senior community and we're getting slammed with calls that day,” says Steve Elison, Medica's facilities director. “Our wait time may be eight minutes, and that's completely unacceptable for our business. So the management team gathers in the ROC room, looks at statistics, looks at the volume of calls, and makes the decision to move 20 of our reps from the commercial group down to help the seniors.” They don't physically move the reps, they simply reroute the calls to the new group to help lighten the load.


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