Headlines: December 10th, 2002

Gloucestershire Hospitals has become the first National Health Service Trust in the country to install a virtual telephone operator system using advanced speech recognition technology to answer, transfer and make calls 24 hours a day.The Trust, which provides acute hospital services to half a million people in the Gloucestershire area will use the system to answer incoming calls and ease pressure on its switchboard operators, who currently handle up to six thousand calls every day.

Hospital staff will be able to use the Telephonetics’ ContactPortala system to make both internal and outside calls, simply by saying the name of the person, department, hospital or GP they want to contact. This does away with the need to look up numbers during a medical emergency. The system will also allow the Trust to take much of the routine call answering away from switchboard staff, who can then concentrate on dealing with more complex calls.

Pat Mooney, telecommunications manager at the Trust, says the system will speed up call handling and reduce pressure on switchboard staff. He also believes it will help hospital staff who use cordless phones on the wards. “What’s the point of having a cordless phone if you have to run back to the desk to look up the directory?,” he said. “Instead, they’ll simply be able to pick up the phone and say the name of the person or department they want to speak to. This is a feature that’s also extremely useful for blind or partially sighted people, as well as community-based staff.”

The Telephonetics system also has paging feature which allows paging by voice and will enable the trust to do away with internal phone directories, substantially reducing costs.

Pat Mooney says, “We had absolutely no problems whatsoever. The installation was an extremely simple, straightforward process that has instantaneously brought the benefits of speech recognition to over 7,000 staff and tens of thousands of callers.”