It’s just another day in the Naval Medical Center Portsmouth’s (NMCP) Pharmacy Call Center where staff members answer hundreds of calls a day to initiate and verify prescriptions to one of the densest populations of military beneficiaries during a global pandemic.
The Pharmacy Call Center was established prior to the pandemic to alleviate wait times in the clinic while also providing beneficiaries with a one-stop-shop to answer questions and transfer prescriptions to the convenient locations for the patient pick up.
“The Pharmacy Call Center was first initiated as an extension of customer service for the patient,” said Sheila Maxwell, an NMCP pharmacist and call center manager. “In 2018, we opened the call center for patients to call us and we would initiate their prescriptions over the phone, and then they just have to come in and pick it up. It shortened the wait time and provided customer service for the patient to foster a better patient experience.”
The call center simply took the first half of the process and provided an option to do that part over the phone rather than wait in the Pharmacy’s waiting area to initiate a prescription.
“We take the requests from patients and we are able to initiate their prescriptions over the phone before they get to the clinic,” Maxwell said. “We don’t want to have a large amount of people waiting in the lobby. So they call it in, we initiate it, and then a pharmacist will check it.”
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Pharmacy Call Center was already established and had a foundation that was no longer just a convenience, it was heavily relied on due to social distancing and COVID-19 precautions and protocols.
“When COVID-19 hit, we went from doing about 2,500 prescriptions a month to more than 12-thousand,” Maxwell said. “Things got really hectic so we had to start borrowing staff from the slower clinics to come over to help us.”
The Pharmacy Call Center receives more than 400 calls a day and continues to provide expedient and efficient options for military beneficiaries in the Hampton Roads area.
“I think it is a great benefit, I am very passionate about it,” Maxwell said. “Everyone wants to get their prescriptions in the shortest time possible and in the way that is the most convenient. I think the call center provides that.”
As the U.S. Navy's oldest, continuously-operating military hospital since 1830, Naval Medical Center Portsmouth proudly serves past and present military members and their families. The nationally-acclaimed, state-of-the-art medical center, along with the area's 10 branch health and TRICARE Prime Clinics, provide care for the Hampton Roads area. The medical center also supports premier research and teaching programs designed to prepare new doctors, nurses and hospital corpsman for future roles in healing and wellness.