Members of the 1-800-EINSTEIN team, from left: Miriam Martinez,Toni Smallwood, Joan Treatner, Marlene Parrish
When patients and prospective Einstein Healthcare Network patients need assistance with scheduling or rescheduling appointments, to learn more about our services, or request a doctor referral, they call 1-800-EINSTEIN. And when they call that number, Toni Smallwood’s voice is often one of the first they hear.
They couldn’t ask for better. “I like helping people,” says Smallwood, the Contact Center manager who heads up a staff of fellow call Contact Center workers whose job it is to quickly and clearly respond to the 3,000-plus queries they receive every month. “I like being able to solve a problem.” Three to four Contact Center workers staff the phones every weekday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Solving problems is what 1-800-EINSTEIN is all about.
Smallwood wants to be clear: Einstein’s handy helpline is not about answering medical questions. “We don’t diagnose,” she says. “We’re not clinicians.” Rather, the people who answer the phones for 1-800-EINSTEIN help patients connect with a physician, practice, department or hospital—leaving the practice of medicine to those who do just that.
And perhaps needless to say, but no one should call 1-800-EINSTEIN with a medical emergency. That’s what “911” is for.
All the same, the best way to make contact with Einstein’s medical experts and services in the first place is through those who know the network best—the people who pick up the phone at 1-800-EINSTEIN.
Over the years, the range of services 1-800-EINSTEIN provides has broadened, Smallwood says. “I think of us now as a concierge service,” she says. “Patient referral is not half of what we do.”
For example, the Contact Center receives many calls about registration for the Network’s many events and programs—everything from bariatrics information to the diabetes support group to prenatal yoga. The Center also receives emails with questions from prospective patients who live outside the United States.
With the advent of health care reform, Smallwood says, there are also more and more questions about insurance, what services are covered, and which plans are accepted where.
“I would say there are people now who, because of healthcare reform, are new to insurance as well, so they don’t have any idea of how the plans they’re signing up for work," Smallwood says.
Again, Contact Center operators are not experts on the ins and outs of health insurance, particularly the plans available under health care reform. The Center’s job is to help connect patients with doctors and practices who take their insurances. The Contact Center also receives calls from representatives of the insurance companies themselves. “They call us to find out whether we have providers that part in their plan,” Smallwood says.
No matter the question, Smallwood and her crew are dedicated to finding the answer. Like everyone else who answers the call, she says, “I’m gonna dig and dig until they can get an answer to their question."
Have a question? Contact 1-800-EINSTEIN.