The University of Michigan Department of Family Medicine pulled itself up by its own bootstraps to become one of the top research departments in the US.
Since its founding in 1983, the department has grown from a staff of four faculty members, to a staff of 80 with grants totaling over 3.6 million USD in 2014. The Department works to improve and sustain the well being of patients throughout Michigan, and offers training services from New York to Japan. Communication between faculty, fellows and patients is essential for the Department’s continued success. When the Department was struggling with setting up, maintaining, and affording conference calls, they switched to Twilio.
The Department of Family Medicine has faculty working in various time zones, on different schedules, on different projects. All of those staff members need to collaborate, and they use conference calls to do so synchronously. However, finding a time that works with everyone's calendar can be quite a challenge. The next window for a meeting could be days, or weeks. The Department doesn’t have the luxury of rescheduling conference calls to later dates when grant proposals, findings, reports and publishing deadlines are due. Unfortunately, they struggled to find a conferencing vendor that could match the flexibility and sense-of-urgency they needed.
With a Verizon powered conference line the Department was paying for virtual conference rooms it didn’t use, and had to call Verizon to reserve a room for a conference call weeks in advance, with no ability to change the time or date. If someone needed to reschedule a meeting a day before, the Department would still pay Verizon for the room they booked, and then have to wait a week until Verizon could schedule a new one.
“Sometimes fellows would call in from Qatar, in the middle of the night, and there would be no conference room available and no one to call for help” says Josh Budde, Systems Administrator for University of Michigan’s Family Medicine Department. To get a more flexible system that could operate at the speed of the Department, Josh took matters into his own hands and built a new conference solution with Twilio.
After seeing a Twilio-powered app at MHacks, Josh perused the Twilio docs and saw an opportunity. Within a few hours, he built a proof of concept for a new conference solution for the Department of Family Medicine. The next day, Budde brought his proof of concept to the office. “I went up to the secretaries who schedule the calls and said ‘Listen, the next time you guys have a conference call, use this’,” said Budde. After a few days, word spread around the office and Josh’s proof of concept became the de facto solution for Family Medicine. “It was so easy to set up, and it met all our needs,” said Budde.
We're saving a ton of money using Twilio. Whenever we want to use it, it's there. If we don't want to use it, it's still there. It's really flexible.
Now, University of Michigan employees can call into their Twilio line at the time of their meeting, without having to worry about reserving a virtual room. Twilio’s global reach also enables U Michigan fellows to call in from all over the world, with the same audio clarity and reliability of a domestic call. When the fellows call in, they know they won’t be zapped into a telephony void, without a conference room. The Twilio line is there every time the fellows need it, so they don’t waste the little time they have to talk together searching for a way to get into a virtual conference room.
It used to cost the Department hundreds of dollars per missed conference room with Verizon. With Twilio, they have 5 more conference lines then they did previously, can schedule or reschedule calls at any time, and only spend a few hundred dollars a month. “We’re saving a ton of money using Twilio,” says Budde. “Whenever we want to use it, it’s there. If we don’t want to use it, it’s still there. It’s really flexible.”