All posts by Peter DeHaan

Peter DeHaan is the president of Peter DeHaan Publishing, Inc., (http://peterdehaanpublishing.com) the publisher and editor of Connections Magazine and AnswerStat, and editor of Article Weekly. Peter DeHaan’s personal website (http://peterdehaan.com) contains information and links to his blogs, newsletter, and social media pages.

Does Your Call Center Have a Fast-Food Hiring Mentality?

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Peter DeHaan, publisher and editorWhen I worked as a consultant, one healthcare call center client’s staff kept complaining, “People working in fast food make more than we do.” After hearing too many such complaints, I visited the seven fast-food restaurants within walking distance of the call center. The staff was wrong, but the misinformation had gone unchallenged. After hearing the lie too often, the staff soon believed it as truth. My client had some work to do.

Compensation is a huge issue for call centers. Pay too little and turnover shoots up, training costs increase, and morale decreases. Pay too much and expenses exceed income. No organization can remain viable if it loses money every month.

But what is an appropriate pay rate? Fortunately, the answer is close to home, back at our local fast-food restaurants.

Quite simply, if you hire call center agents at a fast-food wage, you’ll get a fast-food mentality and a fast-food performance. Yes, you will find the occasional star employee, but how long do you expect to retain him or her? Generally, you find people with little work experience. They view the job as temporary, don’t understand customer service, and fail to comprehend the necessity of being at work on time (much less giving two weeks’ notice before quitting).

To succeed, healthcare call centers must pay more than fast-food restaurants, but how much more? Even fifty cents an hour can make a difference. But a dollar or two will have a much greater effect – if you do it right.

What you must avoid when raising your starting wage is to merely make it easier to find the same caliber of people; you must raise your standards, too. When you pay more, you can expect more.

To determine the appropriate hourly rate for your call center agents you could pay someone thousands of dollars to do a wage study, or you could just visit your local fast-food restaurants. Then distinguish your hourly rate and corresponding expectations from theirs.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Medical Call Center News. He’s a passionate wordsmith whose goal is to change the world one word at a time.

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The March 2016 Issue



Does Your Call Center Have a Fast-Food Hiring Mentality?

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Peter DeHaan, publisher and editorWhen I worked as a consultant, one healthcare call center client’s staff kept complaining, “People working in fast food make more than we do.” After hearing too many such complaints, I visited the seven fast-food restaurants within walking distance of the call center. The staff was wrong, but the misinformation had gone unchallenged. After hearing the lie too often, the staff soon believed it as truth. My client had some work to do.

Compensation is a huge issue for call centers. Pay too little and turnover shoots up, training costs increase, and morale decreases. Pay too much and expenses exceed income. No organization can remain viable if it loses money every month.

But what is an appropriate pay rate? Fortunately, the answer is close to home, back at our local fast-food restaurants.

Quite simply, if you hire call center agents at a fast-food wage, you’ll get a fast-food mentality and a fast-food performance. Yes, you will find the occasional star employee, but how long do you expect to retain him or her? Generally, you find people with little work experience. They view the job as temporary, don’t understand customer service, and fail to comprehend the necessity of being at work on time (much less giving two weeks’ notice before quitting).

To succeed, healthcare call centers must pay more than fast-food restaurants, but how much more? Even fifty cents an hour can make a difference. But a dollar or two will have a much greater effect – if you do it right.

What you must avoid when raising your starting wage is to merely make it easier to find the same caliber of people; you must raise your standards, too. When you pay more, you can expect more.

To determine the appropriate hourly rate for your call center agents you could pay someone thousands of dollars to do a wage study, or you could just visit your local fast-food restaurants. Then distinguish your hourly rate and corresponding expectations from theirs.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Medical Call Center News. He’s a passionate wordsmith whose goal is to change the world one word at a time.


Gear Up for HIPAA Phase II in Your Healthcare Contact Center

By Geoff Mina

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is releasing several key updates to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996. As of now no official announcement has been made regarding when the second round of audits, referred to as HIPAA Phase II, will take effect.

One of the most important changes will affect the types of organizations targeted by HIPAA. Phase I HIPAA only affected healthcare providers. Under Phase II, however, business associates of healthcare providers (such as their call centers) will also receive random audits.

At first the OCR will look for areas with “heightened risk” or revealed to be in non-compliance after HIPAA Phase I was completed. These areas include processes such as notifying patients and customers about privacy practices, performing timely breach notifications and incident responses, and setting up strong data access controls for employees. Other areas include risk analysis and management, workforce member training, transmission security, and device and media controls.

Eventually they will consider encryption and decryption, breach reports, complaints, and facility access control as well. So it’s important that businesses start preparing ahead of time for these changes.

If your business is selected for an audit, you will have two weeks to respond to the request and submit the required information. Audits will take place over a three-year period.

In preparation for a possible audit, it’s important to assess your contact center’s compliance as it relates to HIPAA Phase II and focus on:

  • Securing protected health information
  • Encrypt all protected health information
  • Use VPN for offsite agent access
  • Avoid recording sensitive information (or securely protect its accessibility)
  • Enforce a strong password policy

By preparing ahead of time and assessing your current risk levels and areas that need improvement, you will reduce the likelihood of running into trouble.

Geoff Mina is the chief technology officer and founder of Connect First.


Healthcare Call Center News

Ameridial Announces New Executive VP and VP of Healthcare Sales

Ameridial, a customer service solution center, announced two notable promotions. With ten years of customer service and sales expertise, Matt McGeorge was named executive vice president of the privately held organization. Over the past seven years, McGeorge has immersed himself in the business, learning and mastering every nuance of the organization, from call center operations to client services. Matt has demonstrated a thorough understanding of the day-to-day operations and program management, with a proven record of accomplishment meeting and exceeding client goals and expectations. McGeorge will be responsible for the company’s overall sales and marketing strategy.

Similar in background and breadth of industry expertise, Craig Vretas was appointed vice president of healthcare services. A true call center professional, Vretas worked his way from managing the call center to project management, most recently serving as director of business development. Joining the Ameridial team in 1997, Craig’s expertise in customer service and support lend unparalleled professionalism and integrity to every project. Vretas will be responsible for developing and acquiring new business for Ameridial’s healthcare division.

1Call Adds New Member to Sales Team

The 1Call Division of Amtelco announced the recent addition of Pat Dye to the 1Call sales team. Pat will serve as the regional sales manager for Texas and Oklahoma. Pat started his career with Amtelco in 1999 as an installer. Pat has also served as a project manager, team leader, and in sales, including his most recent position as a sales manager for miSecureMessages.

1Call’s senior vice president of sales, Mike Friedel stated, “We are very excited to have Pat working the healthcare market in Texas and Oklahoma. Pat’s diverse background in installation, service, project management, and sales all provide him with the tools to develop new business, and provide quality sales assistance to our customers.”

 


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A Thought For Today

“One of the truest tests of integrity is its blunt refusal to be compromised.” -Chinua Achebe

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Implementing Change in Your Call Center

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Peter DeHaan, publisher and editorWith the new year often comes change. The first step to establish a change-oriented culture in your healthcare call center is to minimize employee fears towards change. Employees can accept change if: 1) the change is incremental or small, 2) they have a degree of input or control over the change, and 3) the change is clearly understood by all.

The key to this is communication. Address change head on. For every change, employees wonder how it will affect them. Is their position in jeopardy? Might you cut their hours or change their shift? Maybe they’ll need to work harder. Perhaps you’ll ask them to do something they find unpleasant. What happens if they can’t learn new skills?

These are all worries about the unknown. As with most worries, the majority of them will never happen, but with a lack of reliable information and management assurances, these irrational worries dominate everyone’s thoughts.

Communication must also be ongoing; not to key staff, but to all staff; not by one method, but many: group meetings, internal blogs, memos, and one-on-one discussions. An open door policy helps, too. Also critical is a positive, unwavering attitude from leadership. Celebrate milestones, thank staff at each step, and provide rewards at the end.

Taking these steps sends a strong signal to staff. Even though the change may still concern them, they’ll take comfort knowing they have accurate information about what will likely happen. And for each successful change, the next one becomes easier to bring about.

You’ll know you’ve created a change-friendly organization when your employees grow bored with the status quo and anticipate the next change. At this point, the potential of your call center balloons, your staff grows as individuals, and the future beckons. No one knows what that future will entail, only that things will change for the better. So, sit back, and enjoy the ride as an agent of change.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Medical Call Center News. He’s a passionate wordsmith whose goal is to change the world one word at a time.

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The January 2016 Issue



Implementing Change in Your Call Center

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Peter DeHaan, publisher and editorWith the new year often comes change. The first step to establish a change-oriented culture in your healthcare call center is to minimize employee fears towards change. Employees can accept change if: 1) the change is incremental or small, 2) they have a degree of input or control over the change, and 3) the change is clearly understood by all.

The key to this is communication. Address change head on. For every change, employees wonder how it will affect them. Is their position in jeopardy? Might you cut their hours or change their shift? Maybe they’ll need to work harder. Perhaps you’ll ask them to do something they find unpleasant. What happens if they can’t learn new skills?

These are all worries about the unknown. As with most worries, the majority of them will never happen, but with a lack of reliable information and management assurances, these irrational worries dominate everyone’s thoughts.

Communication must also be ongoing; not to key staff, but to all staff; not by one method, but many: group meetings, internal blogs, memos, and one-on-one discussions. An open door policy helps, too. Also critical is a positive, unwavering attitude from leadership. Celebrate milestones, thank staff at each step, and provide rewards at the end.

Taking these steps sends a strong signal to staff. Even though the change may still concern them, they’ll take comfort knowing they have accurate information about what will likely happen. And for each successful change, the next one becomes easier to bring about.

You’ll know you’ve created a change-friendly organization when your employees grow bored with the status quo and anticipate the next change. At this point, the potential of your call center balloons, your staff grows as individuals, and the future beckons. No one knows what that future will entail, only that things will change for the better. So, sit back, and enjoy the ride as an agent of change.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Medical Call Center News. He’s a passionate wordsmith whose goal is to change the world one word at a time.


HIPAA Contact Center Essentials

By Donna Fluss

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) and its impacts are felt by Americans almost daily. From the HIPAA privacy notifications we receive from hospitals, doctors, dentists and others, to the lines we stand behind at the pharmacy counter to allow privacy for the person ahead of us, we frequently encounter HIPAA-initiated situations. While these are relatively minor inconveniences, HIPAA can have more significant implications for contact centers that routinely interact with protected health information (PHI).

Contact Centers Impacted by HIPAA: Any contact center, regardless of size, that has access to PHI must adhere to HIPAA regulations. This includes “covered entities” (health plans, healthcare clearinghouses and healthcare providers) such as hospital business offices as well as “business associates” (persons or organizations contracted by covered entities), like out-sourced third-party debt collectors. It also includes benefit management companies, one- or two-person doctor’s office “contact centers,” and many others. The good news is that the Act recognizes “one size does not fit all” when it comes to volume of PHI or risk of exposure from one organization to another. To allow for these differences, the Act includes “flexible” and “scalable” standards; however, it does not mean that no standards apply.

HIPAA Guidelines: Contact centers working with PHI should take time to understand applicable HIPAA requirements. Start with the two primary building blocks: the Privacy Rule (protecting personally identifiable health information) and the Security Rule (operationalizing the privacy rule – keeping PHI safe electronically, on paper and verbally).

Here are some of the essentials from the Privacy Rule and Security Rule that contact center leaders should know:

  • Ensure responsibility for HIPAA compliance within your company. The Act requires a Privacy Official and Security Official be designated; however, depending on the size of the organization, they may be the same person.
  • Address the three HIPAA areas of concern: administrative safeguards, physical safeguards, and technical safeguards.
  • When it comes to PHI, it is all about “minimum necessary.” PHI includes virtually all information, from patient names to medical procedures. The Act requires usage of the least amount of PHI to accomplish a task. Minimum necessary compliance should be monitored in the quality assurance process and modeled in conversations within the contact center.
  • HIPAA does not include a certification process. It is up to each organization to understand which HIPAA requirements apply to them and to comply with those standards.

Final Thoughts: HIPAA compliance should not be taken lightly. Failure to adhere to HIPAA regulations can result in fines and, if violated with malicious intent, prison sentences. If your contact center is looking for assistance in becoming HIPAA compliant, contact Jana Benetti at Jana.benetti@DMGConsult.com or 623-935-4111.


News

HealthStream Introduces Echo Inc. to Deliver Contact Center Solutions

HealthStream announced the launch of Echo Inc., its newly formed company that combines its HealthLine Systems and SyMed Development businesses (acquired in March 2015 and October 2012 respectively). Echo addresses medical staff credentialing, payer credentialing, provider enrollment, provider analytics, and contact center solutions. Echo offers five primary solutions for healthcare organizations, which can be deployed individually or integrated. They are EchoCredentialing, EchoOneApp, EchoAccess, EchoAnalytics, and EchoOnboarding.

Amtelco Receives ShoreTel Certification

The 1Call Division of Amtelco completed testing with ShoreTel and has received certification for the Infinity system. Infinity interfaces with ShoreTel via SIP-trunking. The Infinity system provides intelligent attendant console functionality to streamline communications throughout an organization. Infinity helps manage all types of calls and eliminates errors with features such as intuitive guided scripting, on-call scheduling, directories, and automated communications.

The Telephone Triage Handbook

The TriageLogic Group released their new e-book, The Telephone Triage Handbook: A Convenient Guide for Providers, written by Charu G. Raheja, PhD. This book shares telemedicine innovations, relevant data, benefits of telephone nurse triage, and insights from the TriageLogic Group, which has taken over one million telephone triage calls in the last ten years. The handbook is available in the Amazon and Kindle stores for $0.99 and is available for free PDF download from triagelogic.com.

Guthrie Wins Innovation Award for Patient Satisfaction

Guthrie, an integrated health system based in north central Pennsylvania and south central New York, is the winner of the 2015 Spok Innovation Award for creatively using Spok® solutions to improve patient satisfaction for the inventive way it delivers periodic updates to patients’ families during lengthy surgical procedures. Family members at Guthrie Robert Packer Hospital in Sayre, Pa. are given a tablet loaded with the Spok Mobile® secure texting app in the waiting room, and Guthrie’s operating room nurses send them timely updates about the patient’s care and progress. Nurses launch these messages from any computer in the hospital via Guthrie’s Spok web directory, which delivers messages to a variety of endpoints, such as pagers, wireless IP phones, smartphones, and in this case, tablets.


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Content Marketing: Need content for your company blog or website? Let Peter DeHaan provide it for you. Rates start at $150 per post for exclusive content. Themes include healthcare call centers, customer service, general business, and more. Email Peter or call 616-284-1305.

Email Valerie to have your classified ad appear in our next issue.


A Thought For Today

“Use the talents you possess, for the woods would be a very silent place if no birds sang except the best.” -Henry van Dyke


 

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Increase Your Call Center’s Internal Visibility

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Peter DeHaan, publisher and editorDoes upper management consider your healthcare call center a profit center or a cost center? Are you under the control of another department, such as telecommunications, IT, or marketing? Who does your call center director report to? Does that person understand the critical role the call center plays in your organization? Do they comprehend your technological needs and the importance of a reliable infrastructure? Or is their primary concern that you don’t make waves?

Regardless of how your call center fits into your organization, its place in the money stream, your department assignment, or the boss’s affinity for your operation, there is a common need for ongoing, positive visibility. Increased call center visibility is critical for two key areas. The first is budgeting; the second is your center’s ongoing status and viability. Relating to both of these is staffing levels, technology upgrades, and additional software. And then there is respect.

One option is to do nothing and hope for the best, which typically ends in frustration. The other option is to be proactive. Does this mean making demands and becoming a general irritant to upper management? No. But it does mean taking intentional steps to elevate your call center in order to garner the attention of key decision makers.

Look for ways that other people can do this for you.

Will other departments vouch for you and let everyone know the vital role you play? Has your call center won any awards or garnered positive media attention? Has staff earned new certifications, received advanced training, or attended industry events? Have you, your staff, or your operation been awarded or recognized by your vendor? What about life-saving phone calls? A poignant caller testimonial can accomplish much.

Make sure upper management knows about all of these. Each time you remind them it tips the balance in your favor. Take steps to increase your call center’s internal visibility today so you can enjoy the benefits tomorrow.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Medical Call Center News. He’s a passionate wordsmith whose goal is to change the world one word at a time.

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The November 2015 Issue



Increase Your Call Center’s Internal Visibility

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Peter DeHaan, publisher and editorDoes upper management consider your healthcare call center a profit center or a cost center? Are you under the control of another department, such as telecommunications, IT, or marketing? Who does your call center director report to? Does that person understand the critical role the call center plays in your organization? Do they comprehend your technological needs and the importance of a reliable infrastructure? Or is their primary concern that you don’t make waves?

Regardless of how your call center fits into your organization, its place in the money stream, your department assignment, or the boss’s affinity for your operation, there is a common need for ongoing, positive visibility. Increased call center visibility is critical for two key areas. The first is budgeting; the second is your center’s ongoing status and viability. Relating to both of these is staffing levels, technology upgrades, and additional software. And then there is respect.

One option is to do nothing and hope for the best, which typically ends in frustration. The other option is to be proactive. Does this mean making demands and becoming a general irritant to upper management? No. But it does mean taking intentional steps to elevate your call center in order to garner the attention of key decision makers.

Look for ways that other people can do this for you.

Will other departments vouch for you and let everyone know the vital role you play? Has your call center won any awards or garnered positive media attention? Has staff earned new certifications, received advanced training, or attended industry events? Have you, your staff, or your operation been awarded or recognized by your vendor? What about life-saving phone calls? A poignant caller testimonial can accomplish much.

Make sure upper management knows about all of these. Each time you remind them it tips the balance in your favor. Take steps to increase your call center’s internal visibility today so you can enjoy the benefits tomorrow.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Medical Call Center News. He’s a passionate wordsmith whose goal is to change the world one word at a time.


Is Artificial Intelligence Ready for the Healthcare Call Center?

By Curt Gooden

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is an automated solution gaining traction in the customer contact industry. AI is the culmination of several technologies that have been steadily improving IVR’s performance over the years. It entails utilizing natural speech recognition throughout the call and an “intelligent” brain on the backend to interpret, and even predict, the user’s responses to drive call flow and processing accordingly.

In some industries, like healthcare, where customers might need to select from a variety of solutions – and the customers themselves might be older, speak a different native language, or be otherwise hindered from using the system – AI as an option likely is further out.

As such, AI is not quite ready for wide-scale implementation. The cost of AI will keep it viable only for those larger organizations that either can afford the application or will realize benefits by slicing a few minutes off each call or a few calls from each agent.

It also will find acceptance in certain industries before others. For their part, customers in the travel and hospitality segment are typically more technologically adept and quicker to adopt new solutions.

However, once AI matures, the healthcare industry might realize some of the greatest benefits from it. Along those lines, the cost/benefit analysis of AI is a simple calculation. If a provider is charging by the minute or call, every minute saved or call deflected, translates to savings. In fact, a simple revamping of traditional IVR or an improving of the call tree can yield cost savings. With AI, the chance to increase deflection can be exponential.

Though comparatively costly now, AI can be a justifiable expense for the right organizations. In time, it will become the industry standard – especially for those organizations hoping to reduce the time agents spend on calls.

Curt Gooden is the Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer at C3/CustomerContactChannels.


News

Spok Consulting Services Addresses Efficiency
Sentara Healthcare has enhanced operator workflows and improved the efficiency of their call center by more than 12 percent with the help of Spok Consulting Services. This is especially significant because the call center handles a heavy volume and sends more than 300,000 pages per month.

Sentara engaged Spok to examine the non-profit hospital system’s call center processes to recommend improvements to align operator workflows with the latest industry best practices. After discussing project goals, the team delivered a dozen specific action items to help maximize the call center’s paging capabilities and fully utilize system capabilities.

“Although we’ve just begun to implement changes, the consulting engagement has already been an excellent use of our time and resources,” said Greg Walkup, IT director at Sentara Healthcare. “It has been really worthwhile to uncover some things we didn’t know about. We’re also considering bringing Consulting Services back to do a deep dive into the clinical communications at one of our hospitals.”

1Call Introduces Scripting Professional Services Team
1Call welcomes Carolyn Sonnefeld as a Script Pro team member. Carolyn currently works as a telecommunications analyst at Mercy Medical Center in Canton, Ohio. In this position Carolyn uses the 1Call Intelligent Series (IS) platform to meet her organization’s call handling needs. Using her script-building expertise while also incorporating best practices for healthcare facilities, Carolyn is now available to consult with 1Call healthcare partners.

Carolyn has experience writing HIPAA-compliant scripts for physician answering service, code calls, surveys, Web scripts, on-call, prescription refills, and help desk. Having worked as an operator, Carolyn focuses on creating scripts that are easy to use and ensure her organization and physicians receive all needed information on every call.

TriageLogic Releases 2015 Pediatric Office Hours Protocol Update
TriageLogic updated MyTriageChecklist™, which incorporates Barton-Schmitt Pediatric Office-Hours Telephone Triage Protocols. This update adds fifty new protocols to ensure comprehensive symptom coverage and standard of care for any office that handles patient phone calls. The new protocols include a wide variety of symptoms associated with issues such as anxiety, ear piercing, and Ebola protocols (originally released during the 2014 Ebola outbreak). Clients who use MyTriageChecklist always have easy access to updated triage protocols in an electronic format that can be used with any other electronic medical system.

A service provided to all MyTriageChecklist clients is comprehensive training and access to an experienced triage nurse. All clients have the option to attend free weekly training sessions, where a registered nurse with triage experience explains how to use the software and answers questions. As practices hire new nurses, they can attend these sessions, learn how to triage safely in a clinical setting, and apply the content to their practice. This is supplemented by the free telephone triage online learning center, which has comprehensive material for both new and experienced triage nurses.


New Call Center Novel
Butts in the Seat, a call center novel by Ree Miller


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A Thought For Today

“Never bear more than one trouble at a time. Some people bear three kinds – all they have had, all they have now, and all they expect to have.” -Edward Everett Hale


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