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COVID-19 Call Center marks one-year as invaluable community resource 

call center

Christian Pettker, MD, and Maribeth Cabie in YNHHS’ COVID-19 Call Center last April. The Center marked one year of operation March 9.

On March 9, 2020, dozens of YNHHS employees wearing phone headsets sat in a quickly converted conference room, answering questions about a frightening and rapidly spreading new virus. 

One year later, a number of the people answering phones that day are still with Yale New Haven Health’s COVID-19 Call Center, but all work remotely. Their roles – and that of the Call Center – have evolved considerably. 

The Center was designed to answer questions about COVID-19 symptoms and prevention, and provide phone or video consultations when indicated for patients with symptoms. 

Over the next 12 months, the Call Center began meeting other COVID-related needs, including providing travel information, mental health support and pulse-oximetry monitoring for some COVID-positive patients. Call volume increased dramatically when the COVID vaccines began rolling out to the public in January.

“The Call Center has become almost a one-stop shop where people can get information from a reliable source, have a phone or video consultation with a clinician, and schedule a COVID test and/or vaccine,” said Maribeth Cabie, executive director, YNHHS Clinical Operations.

The Center has 25 permanent staff members, along with 10 to 15 employees from YNHHS’ COVID Labor Pool and other departments, who can help when needed. 

The Call Center has racked up some impressive statistics during its first year, including: 

  • Total calls handled: 494,785
  • Most calls handled in a single day: 4,426 (March 1, 2021, when Connecticut’s governor expanded vaccination eligibility to teachers and people 55 and older)
  • COVID telemedicine assessments with Northeast Medical Group: 17,959
  • Scheduled appointments to date: 61,947 COVID vaccinations; 292,553 COVID tests (in partnership with the COVID scheduling hotline) 

YNHHS Occupational Health staff previously worked with the Call Center to take employee calls and facilitate testing. With a dramatic increase in non-employee calls, the Call Center is now dedicated to inquiries from the general public. YNHHS staff should call the Employee Resource Center, 1-844-543-2147, option 2, for COVID matters.

“From the earliest days of the pandemic, the Call Center has been a critical resource for our worried employees, offering up-to-date information to keep them and their families safe,” said Craig Thorne, MD, chief medical director, Occupational Health. “Employee calls are now routed to the dedicated Employee Resource Center phone line, and we have expanded our services to help employees with vaccine questions and information about side effects. Without the support of our leaders and talented support teams, along with the more than 100 clinicians and nurses who stepped up to help us, we would not have been able to deliver this care to our healthcare workers on the front line.”

Christian Pettker, MD, YNHHS associate chief quality officer, also attributes the COVID-19 Call Center’s success to health system leaders’ support, and collaboration among numerous employees from different roles and departments. 

“The one-year anniversary of the Call Center marks a truly remarkable achievement of our health system,” he said. “This endeavor has brought together people and departments who might never have worked together before to serve the community. The level of coordination and collaboration among these teams is unprecedented.”

One of the Call Center’s biggest advantages is that information flows both ways, Cabie said. When numerous callers asked how they could get COVID tests, YNHHS leaders realized the health system needed to provide test scheduling via the Call Center. When people unable to schedule vaccination appointments online called, Call Center staff began setting up appointments for them. 

“People feel very comfortable calling us and voicing their concerns, sharing news stories they’ve seen on COVID and asking about information from the government,” she said. “Their questions prompt us to learn more about COVID-related issues so we can provide robust information to future callers. We feel like we’re getting the pulse of the community.”