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Cheers! An Epic partnership between Hummingbird and Henry Ford Health

Pravin Sapre, Director of Customer Focused Digital Solutions at Henry Ford Health, sat down with Nick Zussman, Patient Access as a Service (PAaaS) Architect at Hummingbird, to discuss Henry Ford Health’s work to improve patient access operations with an Epic-first strategy in their recent Cheers implementation.


Nick: Henry Ford Health has a large, centralized contact center. Can you describe the size and scope of services the contact center provides?

Pravin: Henry Ford is an academic medical center with six hospitals, more than 2,300 total beds, 250 ambulatory clinics, and more than five million outpatient visits per year. Our contact center supports many of these facilities and services. The main contact center is staffed by 400 agents, and they handle 700,000-800,000 calls per month with services for appointment scheduling, prescription refills, information requests, clinic messages, MyChart support, and more.

Additionally, our referring provider office (RPO), international patient services, and behavioral health intake were also included in the project scope.




Nick: Prior to our partnership, the contact center used Salesforce Health Cloud as its CRM. What went into the decision to transition to Epic Cheers – Call Management (aka CRM) for this critical part of your patient access services? What areas did you choose to focus on for the initial Call Management go-live?

Pravin: Our decision was really simple: Henry Ford has always had “Epic-first” as our IT strategy. Sometimes Epic’s first version of a product isn’t as good as that of competitors who have been in the market for many years, but Epic Cheers is a strong comparable offering.

One big advantage is that contact center agents use an integrated workflow in a single system for call documentation and scheduling workflows. Another advantage is the data insights we can gain with end-to-end data in a single system, such as being able to identify access issues by understanding how many patients call for appointments but don’t get one scheduled and why.

The licensing cost for Epic was also much lower than our previous solution, which created a strong financial ROI as well.

Nick: In addition to case documentation, there was also a knowledge management component to Salesforce as well. What solution did you employ to account for this piece of the workflow?

Pravin: This is the part of the workflow that Epic doesn’t yet have a solution for that met our needs. Our agents use knowledge management to quickly access information they need to serve patients on a call. I give credit to your team, Nick, for coming with the option to use Microsoft SharePoint since Hummingbird has seen this implemented successfully at a previous client. As a Microsoft shop, we had all of the infrastructure and internal support in place, so it was an easy decision to go with SharePoint, and, looking back, I think the right decision.

Nick: Can you talk a little bit about your partnership with Hummingbird Healthcare? What are some of the benefits we provided as you went through the implementation?

Pravin: We couldn’t have done this project without Hummingbird, for sure not in the timeframe we had. The Cheers implementation deadline was driven by the end date of our contract with our existing CRM vendor. Henry Ford was also making a lot of operational changes in the contact center as well as changing the telephony system.

So, constraints were there, and we made an early decision to hire a partner to help us do this transition. That was the best decision, and Hummingbird came through as a true partner. Early on, we were able to establish trust between the Henry Ford and Hummingbird teams and with Epic. All three teams were on this journey, and there was good, open, and fair communication between all the teams.


I really appreciate the flexibility and creative solutions you brought to meet the tight timeframe. The best part of the engagement was the subject matter expertise you brought, with a good balance of contact center implementations and Epic and Cheers knowledge. This complemented knowledge from the Henry Ford team on internal processes, stakeholders, data, project management, and internal communications.

The project wouldn’t have been successful without the change management efforts, including training, and the efforts toward knowledge management as we realized that this would be a larger scope item.

It was really a true partnership, and I think the success is because of that.


Nick: What were some challenges that you encountered along the way? 

Pravin: The tight timeframe was obviously the biggest challenge.

As we got into knowledge management, we realized that there was a lot of data in Salesforce that was updated through extracts. SharePoint is a more static solution that we were building to make maintenance easy for operational teams, without incoming feeds.

This triggered a lot of analysis to understand data details, sources, and accuracy, which delayed the knowledge management build. I’m grateful that Hummingbird was able to bring in additional resources to supplement the build work that was lagging because of the additional up-front analysis.

Another challenge was the Epic upgrade occurring during the implementation. We had limited time to get Cheers build into the appropriate environments on the upgrade timeframes. We also didn’t get access to some of the brand new Call Hub functionality until a few months before go-live as part of the upgrade, which put pressure on testing timelines. We were again able to act in the true spirit of partnership and pull in additional help on the Henry Ford side for additional testing.

Nick: We understand you were an early adopter of another aspect of Epic’s Cheers – Campaigns. Can you talk about your philosophy of taking advantage of new Epic features?

Pravin: Epic has worked well for us since we started our Epic journey in 2012. I previously worked on the Enterprise Data Warehouse team, where we implemented Epic Caboodle very early on with their first release. We helped Epic build some of the data marts. That was there in the back of my mind as to what we were getting into, but Cheers was a much, much more mature product.

Campaigns was another product that we implemented before we started implementing Call Management. That worked out pretty well replacing our marketing system, enabling us to get the ROI of a marketing campaign because the data is in one system instead of two or three.

That’s always the biggest advantage of being in Epic – the integrated workflow and integrated data. When Epic puts their mind to a line of products or functionality, they catch up pretty quickly with competitors. It’s always worked well for us when we implement new products.

Nick: You went live on April 18th – what key performance indicators (KPIs) were you measuring to assess the success of the project? How are you doing with these KPIs?

Pravin: Some critical KPIs we’re tracking are average handle time, average wrap-up time, overall volume of cases, and 70% of calls with less than 30 seconds of wait time for the patient. These all look very strong since go-live, with average handle time in the same range as prior to go-live at 5 minutes, 10 seconds, and average wrap-up time faster than prior to go-live, in the 2-minute range.

We’ve created more than a quarter of a million cases in Cheers in 5 weeks, and we were able to return to our benchmark of at least 70% of calls with less than 30 seconds wait time within the first week of go-live, which was pretty awesome.

Nick: Can you share what’s next on the horizon? Are there additional areas that you’d like to roll Cheers out to, and/or new features on Epic’s roadmap that you are looking to utilize in the future?

Pravin: With the data we have now from Cheers, we can understand areas for improvement in the contact center that we’ll use on our Front Door Transformation initiative.

In Phase 2 of the Call Management project, we’re looking to capture even more granular data without compromising agent experience and rolling out to the Billing and Financial Care Assistance call centers.

Beyond that, we are discussing Epic’s functionality for Next Best Action, which suggests actions based on the patient’s chart, like health screenings, to agents while they are on the phone with patients. Can we nudge patients to get those things done to improve clinical outcomes?

Further down the road, we’re also looking at adding additional channels for patients, like chatbots. This is just the beginning.


Connect with us to talk to one of our Epic Cheers experts or read more about how a Healthcare CRM can be a win-win for patients and providers in our blog post here!