We Live in Exciting Times: The Advance of Medical Call Centers

By Peter L DeHaan, Ph.D.

Peter DeHaan, publisher and editorTen years ago, whenever I’d mention medical call centers to people outside the industry, I’d get blank stares, as if I was talking in another language. My have things changed. Now many people know what I’m talking about when I mention healthcare call centers, while the rest usually give a nod of understanding once I give them an example.

Medical call centers will continue to play an important role in the provision of healthcare services and support. And their significance will grow over time to meet increased patient needs, cost-containment pressures, and expectations for improved quality of care. We live in exciting times. This industry is never boring, that much is sure.

As our industry grows, Medical Call Center News will grow with it, too. We plan to provide you with expanded coverage and more content in 2017 and beyond.

To make this possible, a group of leading vendors has given their support to Medical Call Center News. These sponsors—patrons, if you will—provide the means for us to do what we do:

If you’re familiar with these companies, please join us in thanking them. And if you’re not familiar with them, please go to their websites to learn more.

Thank you

Peter DeHaan is the publisher and editor of Medical Call Center News and AnswerStat magazine.

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Finish the Year Strong and Set Goals for Next Year

By Peter L DeHaan, Ph.D.

Peter DeHaan, publisher and editorIn the last issue of Medical Call Center News, I encouraged you to work hard so you could finish 2016 strong. I hope that was the case and you were able to complete projects and tick items off your to-do list.

Though I accomplished much as the year wound down, I did not complete my number one goal for 2016. And this was despite blocking out the week between Christmas and New Years to wrap up my project. Alas the time filled up with critical yearend activity and work on my goal languished. I hope you had a different outcome for your projects (or your scheduled time off).

While I am disappointed over not completing all of my goals for last year, I’m happy for what I did finish and know that it’s important to set challenging goals that stretch me. And I was stretched in 2016, but it also shaped up to be a great year.

For 2017, I have again set challenging goals and will push myself to achieve them. In doing so, I hope that this year will be even better.

And may you be able to say the same thing!

Peter DeHaan is the publisher and editor of Medical Call Center News and AnswerStat magazine.

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Don’t Coast: Finish This Year Strong

By Peter L DeHaan, Ph.D.

Peter DeHaan, publisher and editorIs seems that 2016 is flying by. Before we know it, we’ll be turning our calendars over to 2017 (metaphorically speaking at least, since few people use paper calendars anymore). Halloween has just past, Thanksgiving will soon be here, followed by Christmas and then New Year’s. January 1, 2017 looms large.

How are you doing on your 2016 project list? If you’re like me your list for this year was more ambitious than the time available to complete it. Yes, I have many projects still to do. Though it’s tempting to coast through the rest of the year, doing only what needs our attention and starting anew on January first, remember that we still have two months left in this year. Let’s make the most of it.

How many of your pending 2016 projects and goals can you complete in the next two months? Make a plan and form a strategy to accomplish as much as you can. Not only will you finish the year with a sense of accomplishment – and relief – but you will also have fewer items to transfer to your 2017 list. (Please tell me that I’m not the only one to do that.)

As we look ahead to the rest of 2016, holidays, days off work, and a new year, remind yourself of one thing for these next eight weeks: finish strong.

The next issue of Medical Call Center News will come out in the New Year on January 3, 2017, and I’ll check with you to see how you did. Until then, remember to finish strong.

Peter DeHaan is the publisher and editor of Medical Call Center News and AnswerStat magazine.

 

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How to Provide Quality Service

By Peter L DeHaan, Ph.D.

Peter DeHaan, publisher and editorGrowing up, I heard a radio commercial with the tag line, “Service sold it.” Even as a young child I grasped the concept that quality service was great for business.

Over the years, I have heard this mantra repeated, either verbatim or conceptually, by various companies, medical answering services included. Yet I give this grand platitude only passing consideration. The phrase has a hollow ring; it seems a disingenuous assurance, holding an empty promise.

What was once good business turned into good ad copy and now gets lost in the clutter of promotions we no longer believe. In fact, the louder companies trumpet this claim, the less credence I give it. I assume their quality is lousy, and their ad campaign’s only goal is to convince us otherwise.

To paraphrase George Bernard Shaw, “He who can, does. He who cannot, talks about it.” It seems too few organizations provide quality service any more.

We all know someone who left one company because of poor quality and then subsequently left their competitor for the same reason. Eventually, having tried and rejected all available alternatives, they face the necessity of returning to a previously unsatisfactory provider. Their new goal is to pick the one who is least bad.

Does anyone provide quality service anymore? Fortunately, the answer is yes.

The key is the personal touch. For each positive example I’ve encountered, it was always a specific person who made the difference. This was someone who genuinely cared and had a real interest in the outcome, someone who was willing to make me his or her priority and do what was required.

Every medical answering service claims to offer quality service, but is this reality or a hoped for fantasy? Do you provide a one-on-one personal relationship to clients? Can you honestly say, believe, and prove your telephone answering service provides quality service? If not, what changes do you need to make?

Peter DeHaan is the publisher and editor of Medical Call Center News and AnswerStat magazine.

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Set Realistic Expectations for Your Call Center

By Peter L. DeHaan, PhD

Peter DeHaan, publisher and editorI’m a planner. I can’t help it.

The problem is that things seldom go as planned. After a while I began padding my plans for the unexpected. Sometimes the cushion was enough; other times, not so much.

Consider air travel. I used to have the expectation that airline schedules were an accurate representation of what would happen. When airlines began padding their schedules to boast a higher on-time arrival rate, I was still often disappointed. Eventually I realized a more reasonable attitude was to assume the plane would be late and to celebrate each on-time arrival.

Let’s say a trip has two flights there and two flights back. Assume each flight has an on-time arrival of 70 percent. That means for the two flights to get to your destination, you only have a 49 percent chance that both flights will be on time. To include your return flights, you only have a 24 percent chance of all four planes being on time. And if you have three flights (two hubs) in each direction and all six have a 70 percent on-time arrival, your odds of all six being on time drop to 11 percent. Therefore, it’s highly likely you will encounter a delay at some point during your journey.

However, in setting realistic expectations, I assume a problem will occur, which reduces my chances of disappointment. This isn’t pessimism versus optimism; it’s realism.

We likewise need to set realistic expectations for our call center. Whether it’s technology, staff, or callers, we shouldn’t expect everything to go as expected every time. Having a realistic expectation helps us accept glitches and not let them ruin our outlook.

Setting realistic expectations reduces stress and increases contentment. And every call center, and every call center manager, will benefit when this occurs.

Peter DeHaan is the publisher and editor of Medical Call Center News and AnswerStat magazine.

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What is Your Level of Influence?

By Peter L. DeHaan, PhD

Peter DeHaan, publisher and editorWith allergy season upon us, I recall when I realized I sneezed just like my dad. Not that there was anything wrong with how Dad sneezed, just that it was distinctive. At first, I chalked this up to heredity, but that wasn’t it. Instead, it was likely a byproduct of environment.

As I spent more time with my dad, the more I became like him. Not just physiological idiosyncrasies, but I picked up traits that are more significant, such as character, work ethic, and worldview. If I unknowingly learned these things by being around my dad, what do others learn and model after spending time with me?

On the negative side, when parents see distressing behavior in their children, they often do some soul searching, asking, “Where did they learn this? Although kids have many areas of influence, parents are a key source. Parents send a powerful example to their offspring through their words and actions.

I also see this principle in the workplace. Let’s consider patients and callers. Every organization has a few difficult ones – the kind you wish would just go away. But what if many are challenging? Maybe these people are merely reflecting the organization’s culture and how it treats them.

From the employee aspect, I’ve seen this occur on different levels. Once, I witnessed a call center shift supervisor’s negative influence on all the agents she oversaw. They were apathetic, took long breaks, and had no employer loyalty. The worst offenders were fired and replacements trained, but they fell into the same mode. Eventually the supervisor was scrutinized. She had grown haughty in her position, had become apathetic, took long breaks, and disrespected her employer. Her charges merely emulated what they saw in her. A new supervisor was hired, and she turned things around.

I’ve also seen this happen in an entire a call center. It seemed that good employees could not be found. Each new hire lied, manipulated, and disregarded policies and procedures. Their manager was a compulsive liar, a shameless manipulator of her staff, and a source of open contempt for her employer. After replacing the manager, the new leader suddenly found good employees to hire. It took years to overcome the damaging effects of the bad manager’s influence. However, with fresh leadership, the operation slowly began to turn around.

When a consistent trend of unacceptable behavior is evident in an entire group, it might be time to look at its leadership as the source of the problem.

Our influence on others is nothing to sneeze about.

Peter DeHaan is the publisher and editor of Medical Call Center News and AnswerStat magazine.

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