Medicare shuffles VoIP calls nationally

Medicare shuffles VoIP calls nationally

Summary: Health agency Medicare Australia has recently started trialling a call centre solution based on internet protocol (IP) telephony that allows calls to be routed to regional offices during peak periods.

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Health agency Medicare Australia has recently started trialling a call centre solution based on internet protocol (IP) telephony that allows calls to be routed to regional offices during peak periods.

The agency's centralised call centres have generally taken all phone calls in the past, while its branch offices have handled face-to-face queries. However, following an upgrade to its bandwidth, and rolling out Cisco's IP (Internet Protocol) contact centre, the agency has started changing how it handles call centre workloads.

"We embarked on it in March this year and implemented a Cisco IP contact centre which we have integrated with our existing infrastructure to route Medicare's public calls to branch offices to handle overflow and utilise capacity at these centres," Stan Thompson, Medicare's director of IT projects said yesterday at an Optus media briefing.

Around 15 offices were currently taking part in the trial, however, Thompson told ZDNet.com.au it would likely be expanded to other offices.

Last year, as part of Medicare's bandwidth upgrade for its offices, the agency deployed Cisco IP phones at 239 sites. The upgrade to its Optus-maintained broadband infrastructure has in some instances quadrupled internet speeds from 256Kbps to 2Mbps, said Thompson.

"It means we've been able to reorient our structure... We have a blended workload for our staff," he said. "Rather than just contact centre work or just processing work, they're now focusing on customer segments such as pharmacists or indigenous customers, which improves staff retention — we hope."

"Our intention is to extend this to state headquarters, particularly so we can utilise a 'skills-based' routing capability and further reach out to extra capacity in the network."

Thompson said he expected the changed workloads would be useful in retaining staff, by offering varied work, but admitted staff have had "some small issues with how to manage a Cisco phone".

"But most have embraced it and are adjusting fine," he said.

While it has plans to siphon more calls to regional centres, Thompson said future deployments would depend on the roll-out of its Easyclaim technology — a payment system that enables clients to access refunds at medical clinics on the spot.

Topics: Broadband, Cisco, Health, Microsoft, Networking, Telcos, Unified Comms, Optus, NBN

Liam Tung

About Liam Tung

Liam Tung is an Australian business technology journalist living a few too many Swedish miles north of Stockholm for his liking. He gained a bachelors degree in economics and arts (cultural studies) at Sydney's Macquarie University, but hacked (without Norse or malicious code for that matter) his way into a career as an enterprise tech, security and telecommunications journalist with ZDNet Australia. These days Liam is a full time freelance technology journalist who writes for several publications.

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