Virtual PBX® Helps Two Entrepreneurial Nurses Give Birth To Fast-Growing OB/GYN Answering Service
SAN JOSE, CALIF. and COLORADO SPRINGS, CO (May 22, 2006) - - When an expecting mother wakes at 3:00 am with a voracious appetite for a tuna and pickle relish sandwich, her first question isn't "wheat or rye?" It's more likely to be, "Which tuna is safest for my unborn baby?" And the first person they'll want to ask isn't their sleeping husband; it's their doctor. A quick call to the office of their OB/GYN provider will usually be answered by an after-hours answering service, which will then page the designated on-call doctor with the culinary question. Questions such as these, both urgent and non-urgent, make for sleepless nights when you're the doctor on call.
Back in 2002, OB/GYN nurses Laura Hagler and Anne Afshari were working late at Penrose Community Hospital in Colorado Springs, CO when they noticed a harried doctor answering call after call that could have easily been answered by a nurse. "You should let us answer those questions," suggested Afshari and Hagler.
And a beautiful business was conceived on the spot.
Today, three years later, founders Afshari and Hagler operate Exclusively RNs™, the country's first OB/GYN answering service staffed entirely by registered nurses who specialize in women's health. The company has grown quickly. Starting with that first client, the Colorado Springs, Colorado-based company now serves over 50 OB/GYN providers in Colorado and Arizona.
Their successful service fields over 1,500 calls per month employing a flexible home-based workforce of 23 professional registered nurses available to answer the tuna fish call as well as more serious yet common emergency triage questions related to high risk pregnancies, bleeding or contractions. Nurses utilize a complete book of decision trees and protocols, written by Afshari & Hagler, to triage calls according to what each provider has personally approved.
The easiest part of starting the business, according to Afshari, was the concept: They saw an opportunity to dramatically improve the quality and responsiveness of patient care, while at the same time freeing doctors from repetitive yet important calls that can often be better answered by a nurse.
The challenging part of the business, however, was how to implement a distributed communications system that would automatically route incoming calls to their team of at-home nurses around the country, not all of which are on-call at the same time.
They decided to implement a hosted PBX phone service, which could perform sophisticated call routing to their nurses, regardless of location. With a virtual company such as theirs, traditional on-premises PBX phone systems were out of the question, because calls needed to be routed around the country in real time. And, at starting prices of up to $100,000 for such complex equipment, not to mention the hassle and expense of managing such equipment, an on-premises PBX wasn't practical.
Yet they still required features common with these expensive systems, such as multiple extensions, automated voice response, conferencing, automated call distribution (ACD) queuing, non-stop availability and reliability, music on hold, "follow-me" call forwarding to both cell phones and land line phones, and automatic cell phone text messaging notifications of queued incoming calls.
Their first hosted PBX service proved to be unreliable and poorly supported. And then shortly after Exclusively RNs implemented the system, the provider decided to perform unscheduled maintenance on their servers in the middle of the night.
"We work after-hours, when other businesses are sleeping," says Hagler. "When the provider brought down their servers, we were unable to answer patient calls for six hours. Worse yet, when the provider took their service off-line, they also disconnected their technical support number, so we had no way to reach them!" Needless to say, Hagler quickly cancelled that service and searched for a more reliable alternative.
After conducting thorough research, she chose Virtual PBX of San Jose, Calif., the company who originated and pioneered hosted PBX services starting in 1997.
"We found Virtual PBX to be superior in all areas, especially in reliability, features, and quality of customer service. The people at Virtual PBX have been attentive to our questions, and have helped us easily fine-tune the system to meet our exact clients' needs."
Operation of the Virtual PBX system is straightforward. Exclusively RNs' clients simply forward their calls to Exclusively RNs' after hours, on weekends, or any other time. Exclusively RNs' nurses, who sign in to the system via a web-based interface prior to their shifts, take the calls as they come in, providing around-the-clock patient coverage, 365 days per year. Exclusively RNs' nurses triage the calls, and successfully resolve over 99.4% of all patient inquiries.
Patients like the service, because they get instant answers to their questions without having to wait hours for a doctor's response to their questions when the office is closed. And in case of an emergency, such as a patient going into labor, Exclusively RNs' nurses coordinate with the hospital, doctors and emergency services so that patients receive the best service possible when they arrive at the hospital.
Doctors love the service too. Dr. Donald Aptekar, 58, a physician at Partners in Women's Health in Denver, CO, says he wouldn't still be practicing medicine if it weren't for Exclusively RNs and Virtual PBX.
A few years ago, Dr. Aptekar seriously considered leaving medicine because of the constant after-hours stress of fielding calls at all hours of the night.
"There's no doubt in my mind that the Exclusively RNs service has prolonged my medical career," says Dr. Aptekar, who has been a client of ExclusivelyRNs since 2003. "It has definitely restored my joy of practicing medicine. When I walk into the office after a night on-call, I'm well rested and alert for my patients because I know the night's calls have been professionally answered with care and compassion."
Dr. Aptekar's patients are certainly thrilled that he hasn't retired yet. After all, Dr. Aptekar was voted Denver's best OB/GYN in 2002 by readers of Denver's famous 5280 Magazine, so named for the altitude of the mile-high city.
"My patients love the ExclusivelyRNs service," adds Dr. Aptekar. "The service provides my patients direct, 24X7 access to a team of friendly, caring and professionally trained labor and delivery nurses who successfully triage and answer over 99% of patient questions. Many of my patients actually wait until after hours to ask their questions because they trust and appreciate the knowledge of ExclusivelyRNs' nurses."
With satisfied clients such as Dr. Aptekar, Exclusively RNs' Hagler and Afshari have big plans for their budding business.
"We're growing quickly as word gets out about our unique service," says Hagler, "and we have plans to expand nationwide. We've only scraped the surface of what's possible with Virtual PBX. The service is packed with dozens of professional quality features, and it's so easy to use and affordable I can't imagine running my business without it."
Virtual PBX® pioneered the hosted PBX market, introducing the first service of its class in 1997. Virtual PBX utilizes the public switched telephone network and the internet to provide PBX functionality as a hosted service. The three primary customers for Virtual PBX services include small businesses that want full PBX functionality without the capital and support expense of installed equipment; companies of any size that need to route calls to telecommuters or other employees outside of a main office; and enterprises looking for phone system disaster recovery solutions. Additional information about Virtual PBX can be found at https://www.virtualpbx.com or by calling 888-825-0800.
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