December 9, 2009

Client Relations Line Links Community and Clinics

"The atmosphere at the Grant Park clinic was calm and everyone was doing a wonderful job. It was excellent. The nurse I had was awesome and it didn't hurt at all."

That's the kind of calls the Winnipeg Health Region H1N1 Client Relations phone line received. The Client Relations line was the Health Region's proactive response to high call volumes Health Links/Info Santé was experiencing.

To support Health Links/Info Santé's mandate to answer health related questions, the Client Relations line was launched to help field some of the clinic-specific questions from the public. Two staff from the Region's Quality Assurance department joined Sharon Logan, Client Relations Coordinator, in managing the phone lines.

"Both are super duper patient and diplomatic and capable," says Wendy Singleton, Manager of Quality Improvement with the WRHA's Quality and Accreditation Unit, of the two administrative staff who answered the phones. Sharon responded to e-mail inquiries.

Over the space of a month, the line took about 1500 calls, one day as many as 301. "We wanted callers to get a live, warm body," says Wendy. "On some of those peak days when we knew people were quite agitated or confused, Sharon stayed late or I came back. One night we were here until 7:30pm but generally we were able to round out the day for everybody."

Calls included questions about getting the H1N1 vaccination (which were directed to Health Links/Info Santé,) questions about clinic times and locations, some complaints, and compliments too from people who took the time to phone or email about their H1N1 flu shot clinic experience. Such as:

"I went for my H1N1 shot at the Portage Place clinic. I experienced a reaction to the shot. I don't recall the name of the nurse who comforted me and stayed with me but I really appreciate all that she did. She was very kind and helpful."

Once the line was established, it provided immediate feedback about the H1N1 flu shot clinics. People who called in with questions or comments often had pretty clear opinions about what was working and what wasn't with respect to the mass immunization campaign.

Many people who called in acknowledged that working with information as it came - and communicating it quickly to large numbers of people - was challenging. When the clinics first opened, understanding who was in priority groups, vaccine availability and clinic locations and hours was a challenge for people.

People were quick to point out they liked the fact that the Winnipeg Health Region is on Facebook. Information about vaccination, clinic wait times and locations was constantly updated. According to Client Relations, people mentioned they were checking on Facebook before going to get their H1N1 flu shot.

One theme that arose for people who called in: they appreciated the personal touch many staff and volunteers adopted. Friendliness, warmth and taking the clinical edge off a potentially nerve wracking experience was appreciated by many.

"I received the H1N1 vaccine at the St Boniface clinic. Unfortunately I suffered side effects within five minutes of receiving the vaccine. I wanted to write and express my gratitude for the kindness, concern and professional conduct of the nurses at the clinic. I was aided by two nurses who monitored my condition and talked me through what was happening. I really felt that although this was a situation that they may not have dealt with before, they had been well trained in what procedures to take and were on top of the situation at all times. It was a very scary situation for me but their kindness calmed me down and made me feel so much better. I commend the WRHA on your excellent service."

Thanks to the Client Relations line - which remains operational year-round to receive comments and inquiries about the Region's services - people accessed timely and important information about accessing the H1N1 flu vaccine and flu clinics.

Client Relations at a Glance

Total calls Nov. 2 - Dec. 1 1438
Highest number of calls Nov. 4 301
Highest number of general inquiries Nov. 4 263
Highest number of complaints Nov. 5 26
Highest number of compliments Nov. 4 4

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