Problems that have occurred with a new Mercy Clinic telephone scheduling and registration system are being addressed, said the clinic’s president for this region.

While great strides have been made to improve the system for patients, more must still be done, said Dr. David Chalk.

The system problems unintentionally put a barrier between the patients and doctors, and Chalk said that is “unacceptable.”

He added that Mercy Clinic takes full responsibility for the problems.

Problems that were encountered early on included people being on hold for too long and patients’ calls not being answered quickly enough.

“We did receive complaints,” said Kate Miller, Mercy media specialist.

In some cases there were “abandoned calls” in which people got tired of being left on hold and just hung up, Chalk noted.

Chalk said he wants patients to know that Mercy Clinic is working to deliver a high standard of accessible health care.

The central scheduling and registration system is intended to improve communication between clinic staff and patients, Chalk noted. The system was launched March 4.

A big advantage to the system is that it allows clinic staff to focus on those patients in the building rather than having to take phone calls at the same time, he said.

Now, when patients call to schedule an appointment, they speak with someone in central scheduling and registration, which is located at Mercy Medical Building South in Washington.

The call center gets a lot of the patients’ preliminary information such as insurance, name and address.

While the new system intends to improve customer service, getting it going has been problematic because of the size and complexity of the clinic, Chalk said. The clinic’s phone system became overloaded.

Chalk said he apologizes that Mercy Clinic has not met its normal high standard of customer service in getting the system going. But he said the system has already been improved and will continue to be enhanced.

Strides to improve the system include additional staff training and increasing the telephone system’s capacity by adding phone lines.

The goal of the new telephone registration and scheduling system is to provide customers with a high- quality and compassionate experience, Chalk said.