New efficient porter dispatch system improves customer service

Wednesday, August 14, 2013 - 2:24pm

Porter Services is going high-tech thanks to unique software and the use of Blackberrys.

“I absolutely love it,” says Kim McDonald, a porter at Dartmouth General Hospital who was one of the first to test out the new technology. “It’s so much better for the patients because we get them where they need to go so much sooner.”

Until now, porters have carried pagers. Anyone needing their services would call a central dispatch number, sometimes waiting on hold before they could place their order. The dispatcher would write down details, and then send a message to a pager.

“Before, we had to go find a phone, get a pen and piece of paper and write down all the details," explains McDonald. "We would do the job and then have to go find a phone again and call in to tell them we were available. Now we get the instructions as soon as someone presses send.” 

At the start of  a shift, porters now pick up a BlackBerry. Those who regularly call for porters are being trained on how to place requests online, which are then sent immediately to the next available porter.

“It is so much faster and more efficient,” says Janet Malec, an X-ray technologist in Dartmouth who started training others on the online system as soon as she was taught. “It cuts out the middle person and we can put our own notes in to tell the porter whether we need two of them and where the patient is going next.”

The system also allows porters to have more control over their day.

“I can have up to five calls open at once, which helps me manage my time,” says McDonald. “Say the first call takes me to the third floor to get a patient and the fifth call is for a specimen on the same floor, I will just combine them and do them at the same time.”

“Our porters have really stepped up,” says Omar Worthen who manages Porter Services. “They are using the cameras to take pictures of broken equipment. They are instant messaging each other to co-ordinate on calls that need two of them. They are really taking ownership.”

Worthen says the dispatch number will remain active indefinitely for new employees, those unfamiliar with the online system and emergencies.  

This quality improvement supports two of Capital Health’s strategic priorities: sustainability and transforming the person-centred health care experience.

“This is tangible evidence that we are building on our culture of customer service and we are innovating systems and processes for greater efficiency and quality,” explains Jane Pryor, director of Operations Support.

The online system is now in place across the district. The portal to the dispatch system is available on the internet or by typing "porter" right into the Internet address bar.

“The only complaint I have is that I wish we started this a long time ago!” McDonald says with a laugh.