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Pursuing Work-Life Balance in the Medical Call Center

Take Key Steps to Reduce Burnout and Increase Retention

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

We hear a lot about work-life balance. This is extra challenging in the healthcare industry, as well as with call center work. The combination of these two areas in the medical call center, results in a need to strive to achieve a work-life balance. Doing so will help reduce employee burnout and increase retention of both management and frontline staff.

Consider these areas.

Nurses and Frontline Staff

Strive to provide a separation between work and nonwork activities for all non-management staff. Employees in the office, taking calls are working. Nonwork time is when they’re not in the office taking calls. Don’t intrude on their nonwork time. This means not calling, texting, or emailing. Even if the interaction seems minimal, it sucks the employee back into a workplace mindset and detracts them from the nonwork activity they’re immersed in. Great bosses don’t do this.

Management and Administration 

It’s harder for people in management to not take their work home, be it mentally or physically. Yet when they do, it intrudes on their nonwork reality and threatens to unbalance their life. 

Managers, give supervisors and employees clear guidelines about when they should and shouldn’t contact you when you’re not in the office. Though you don’t want to shut yourself off from urgent communication, you also don’t want to open yourself to around-the-clock interruption. 

Two key steps to aid in this are empowering on-site supervisors and establishing on-call staff. When implemented properly, these two functions can help shield management from work-related interruptions when they’re not working.

Shift Supervision

Most call centers have shift supervisors. Train and empower supervisors to make decisions on your behalf when you’re not in the office. That is, when you’re not working and are attending to the rest of your life.

You may worry about the possibility of shift supervisors making an error in judgment. It will happen, but don’t view this as a mistake. Instead, consider it as a learning opportunity to equip them to perform their job with greater effectiveness.

On-Call Personnel

Some call centers have management and administration rotate on-call responsibilities. In this way, the on-call person deals with all emergency and urgent situations that arise in the call center outside of regular business hours. In doing so they shield all other management and administration from enduring work-related interruptions to their life. 

Ideally, the on-site supervisors should be so well trained and fully empowered that they’ll never need to reach the on-call person with a question or problem. This is how it should be, but for those exceptions, it’s great to have a designated contact person to assist the shift supervisor.

Conclusion

True work-life balance may be an illusion that we’ll never reach, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. Follow these steps to bring you and your staff closer to this important equilibrium. When you do, you’ll increase their job satisfaction, minimize the risk of burnout, and increase their tenure at your medical call center. And you’ll realize these same benefits for yourself.

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

The September 2019 Issue



Pursuing Work-Life Balance in the Medical Call Center

Take Key Steps to Reduce Burnout and Increase Retentio

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan-call center

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

We hear a lot about work-life balance. This is extra challenging in the healthcare industry, as well as with call center work. The combination of these two areas in the medical call center, results in a need to strive to achieve a work-life balance. Doing so will help reduce employee burnout and increase retention of both management and frontline staff.

Consider these areas.

Nurses and Frontline Staff: Strive to provide a separation between work and nonwork activities for all non-management staff. Employees in the office, taking calls are working. Nonwork time is when they’re not in the office taking calls. Don’t intrude on their nonwork time. This means not calling, texting, or emailing. Even if the interaction seems minimal, it sucks the employee back into a workplace mindset and detracts them from the nonwork activity they’re immersed in. Great bosses don’t do this.

Management and Administration: It’s harder for people in management to not take their work home, be it mentally or physically. Yet when they do, it intrudes on their nonwork reality and threatens to unbalance their life. 

Managers, give supervisors and employees clear guidelines about when they should and shouldn’t contact you when you’re not in the office. Though you don’t want to shut yourself off from urgent communication, you also don’t want to open yourself to around-the-clock interruption. 

Two key steps to aid in this are empowering on-site supervisors and establishing on-call staff. When implemented properly, these two functions can help shield management from work-related interruptions when they’re not working.

Shift Supervision: Most call centers have shift supervisors. Train and empower supervisors to make decisions on your behalf when you’re not in the office. That is, when you’re not working and are attending to the rest of your life.

You may worry about the possibility of shift supervisors making an error in judgment. It will happen, but don’t view this as a mistake. Instead, consider it as a learning opportunity to equip them to perform their job with greater effectiveness.

On-Call Personnel: Some call centers have management and administration rotate on-call responsibilities. In this way, the on-call person deals with all emergency and urgent situations that arise in the call center outside of regular business hours. In doing so they shield all other management and administration from enduring work-related interruptions to their life. 

Ideally the on-site supervisors should be so well trained and fully empowered that they’ll never need to reach the on-call person with a question or problem. This is how it should be, but for those exceptions, it’s great to have a designated contact person to assist the shift supervisor.

Conclusion: True work-life balance may be an illusion that we’ll never reach, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. Follow these steps to bring you and your staff closer to this important equilibrium. When you do, you’ll increase their job satisfaction, minimize the risk of burnout, and increase their tenure at your medical call center. And you’ll realize these same benefits for yourself.

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


Featured Sponsor: AccessNurse, a TeamHealth Company

AccessNurse

Formerly known as the TeamHealth Medical Call Center, AccessNurse is the premier provider of comprehensive medical call center solutions, serving more than 15,000 physicians, healthcare organizations, federally qualified health centers, universities, and health plans across the country. AccessNurse provides clients with a wide range of cost-effective healthcare services such as telephone nurse triage, answering service and virtual front desk services, post-discharge programs, and hospital call center partnerships. They are an industry leader in reducing inappropriate or unnecessary utilization of healthcare resources, enhancing risk management, and increasing patient satisfaction. For additional information, visit www.accessnurse24.com or call 844-277-6312.


Using Device Data and Nurse Triage to Improve Value-Based Care

By Ravi K. Raheja, MD

New technologies are transforming how clinicians deliver healthcare. At the same time, digital solutions alone aren’t enough to help patients. Incorporating some human component increases patient compliance and education, further reducing healthcare costs. Medical call centers should adopt software and increase the role of triage nurses to complement traditional care settings.

For example, digital diabetes prevention and treatment platforms connect users with support communities and health coaches who can remotely monitor chronic conditions such as weight, blood sugar, diet, and medicine intake. Setting thresholds and alerts can notify healthcare providers about abnormal, potentially abnormal, or dangerous values. While the devices can collect and transmit data, a medical professional still needs to interpret the data and direct patients on the next steps in context with their symptoms and health status.

Telephone triage nurses play a vital role in interpreting the data and providing appropriate follow up for patients who use these technologies. They act as the first line of screening when an alert or abnormal value is reported. They have the training to talk to patients, assess symptoms, and determine the next best steps based on combining the data with the full patient assessment over the phone.

To assess patients and direct them appropriately, the nurses need triage protocols. Most medical call centers use the gold standard protocols from Schmitt-Thompson to assess symptoms. Call centers should also incorporate robust protocol builders, a technology that enables an organization to modify existing protocols to meet their needs and create new protocols when required.

By using custom developed protocols, triage nurses can assess a patient using the data received from devices with appropriate next steps for medical care. As a result, triage nurses play a significant role in this new digital era driven by value-based care. Combining data from devices and other sources with innovative triage technology, triage nurses can act as a bridge between patients and providers. This creates a viable monitoring solution that provides cost-effective care.

In conjunction with custom protocols, organizations should use platforms to put in custom workflows. As an example, once a nurse has determined an appropriate level of care, they can further direct the patient to specific care locations, referral numbers, or provide handouts via text or email. This allows the triage nurse to serve as an effective first point of contact and get the patients to the appropriate next steps on the first call.

Finally, look for companies that provide an optional mobile app to enable patients to take advantage of increased self-service, access to customized resources, and insight into their own information. Technology is changing the access, monitoring, and delivery of healthcare. Value-based solutions are now possible to optimize your patient care and decrease healthcare expenses.

Ravi K. Raheja, MD is the COO and medical director of the TriageLogic Group. Founded in 2005, TriageLogic is a URAC accredited, physician-led provider of high-quality telehealth services, nurse triage, triage education, and software for telephone medicine. For more information visit www.triagelogic.com and www.continuwell.com


Healthcare Call Center News

TeamHealth Medical Call Center Rebrands as AccessNurse: Started in 1996 to support TeamHealth physicians, TeamHealth Medical Call Center evolved over time, outgrowing its brand identity and core message, which is a natural part of every dynamic, growing business. Now, more than two decades later, they have evolved to become a premier provider of medical call center solutions, offering services to more than 15,000 providers in individual and group practices, hospital systems, universities, community health centers, and other medical organizations across the country. Today they are more dynamic than ever, and their new brand of AccessNurse reflects this reality.

Call 4 Health Wins Quality Awards: Call 4 Health received the 2019 Award of Excellence (for 5 consecutive years) and the Call Center Award of Distinction from ATSI, The Association of Teleservices International, Inc. The Award of Excellence involves an independent firm that mystery shops messaging services and grades the service they observe. The Call Center Award of Distinction is a sister program to the Award of Excellence that focuses on longer, more involved call handling designed to measure the skills of professional call center agents throughout North America.

1Call Partners with American Messaging: 1Call, a division of Amtelco, announced their partnership with American Messaging. Combining 1Call’s operator console with American Messaging’s critical messaging service will improve critical communications in healthcare areas that are designed to keep other wireless technologies out. 

Mike Friedel, 1Call’s vice president of sales stated, “This exciting partnership with American Messaging elevates the capabilities of our operator consoles to better serve customers who utilize paging services.”

Dave Andersen, American Messaging chief operating officer noted, “Paging remains the most reliable technology for critical healthcare communications, and our partnership with Amtelco helps to optimize current workflows for our customers.”

Email us with your news for the next issue.


A Thought for Today

Live a balanced life. Learn some and think some, and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some. -Robert Fulghum

Healthcare Call Center Work Can Be Hard

Don’t Focus on the Angry Masses but Grab onto a Good Call Whenever Possible

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

Working in a call center is challenging. Although it’s been a long time since I answered calls in one, I’m still aware of how hard it is. That’s because I’m now on the other end of the phone, such as for dealing with healthcare related issues.

In truth, I try to minimize my interaction with healthcare personnel, in large part because of the hassle that occurs once the appointment ends. I spend much more time trying to get the bill paid then I spent talking to the healthcare professional in the first place.

Attempting to get my provider to work with my payor is challenging at best, and a futile endeavor at worse. Neither party will talk to each other, which means me talking to them separately. This requires me phoning their respective call centers. Then I ping-pong back and forth, working hard to reach a resolution but making little progress. Too often I get a slightly different response each time I call. 

Currently, I have two outstanding medical invoices, which I’ve been working on for several months. It would be far simpler to ignore the negotiated fees and pay the billed amount in full, but because I must have insurance, I might as well try to use it. Right?

A recent call to my provider quickly escalated into a confrontation, with them threatening to turn me over to collections and me begging them to allow me to pay the negotiated fee as payment in full. They would have none of it. I may have raised my voice. I may have said some things I’m not proud of.

I hung up with equal parts remorse and frustration.

Three days later I called back for another round. I had new information. I knew I’d reach a different rep because they’re a large organization, and I’ve never talked to the same person twice.

Guess who answered the phone? Yep, the same person I failed to treat with respect on my prior call. I groaned to myself. I sucked in a lungful of courage and opened my mouth. “Hi! I talked with you a few days ago and wasn’t very nice. I’m sorry.”

She didn’t know what to say. Truly, she was speechless. After a silence long enough to make me wonder if I should apologize some more, she meekly said “Um . . . thank you.”

Although we had a civil conversation this time, I got no closer to getting my bill paid. I guess it’s time for another round of calls.

Call center work is hard, especially when callers don’t want to hear the information agents have to tell them. Difficult calls are common, so healthcare call center reps must take a small win whenever they can. If they hold onto it, it might help them weather the plethora of angry callers that are bound to follow.

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

The July 2019 Issue



Healthcare Call Center Work Can Be Hard

Don’t Focus on the Angry Masses but Grab onto a Good Call Whenever Possible

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan-call center

Working in a call center is challenging. Although it’s been a long time since I answered calls in one, I’m still aware of how hard it is. That’s because I’m now on the other end of the phone, such as for dealing with healthcare related issues.

In truth, I try to minimize my interaction with healthcare personnel, in large part because of the hassle that occurs once the appointment ends. I spend much more time trying to get the bill paid then I spent talking to the healthcare professional in the first place.

Attempting to get my provider to work with my payor is challenging at best, and a futile endeavor at worse. Neither party will talk to each other, which means me talking to them separately. This requires me phoning their respective call centers. Then I ping-pong back and forth, working hard to reach a resolution but making little progress. Too often I get a slightly different response each time I call. 

Currently, I have two outstanding medical invoices, which I’ve been working on for several months. It would be far simpler to ignore the negotiated fees and pay the billed amount in full, but because I must have insurance, I might as well try to use it. Right?

A recent call to my provider quickly escalated into a confrontation, with them threatening to turn me over to collections and me begging them to allow me to pay the negotiated fee as payment in full. They would have none of it. I may have raised my voice. I may have said some things I’m not proud of.

I hung up with equal parts remorse and frustration.

Three days later I called back for another round. I had new information. I knew I’d reach a different rep because they’re a large organization, and I’ve never talked to the same person twice.

Guess who answered the phone? Yep, the same person I failed to treat with respect on my prior call. I groaned to myself. I sucked in a lungful of courage and opened my mouth. “Hi! I talked with you a few days ago and wasn’t very nice. I’m sorry.”

She didn’t know what to say. Truly, she was speechless. After a silence long enough to make me wonder if I should apologize some more, she meekly said “Um . . . thank you.”

Although we had a civil conversation this time, I got no closer to getting my bill paid. I guess it’s time for another round of calls.

Call center work is hard, especially when callers don’t want to hear the information agents have to tell them. Difficult calls are common, so healthcare call center reps must take a small win whenever they can. If they hold onto it, it might help them weather the plethora of angry callers that are bound to follow.

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


Featured Sponsor: LVM Systems

LVM Systems: Helping Healthcare Call Centers Help Patients

LVM Systems develops and markets software and related internet products exclusively for the healthcare call center industry. Their primary niche is solutions that support nurse triage, disease management, patient transfer, and referral/marketing services, including consumer-centered internet products.

They have proudly served this market for 30 years, with hundreds of healthcare organizations as clients. The company’s cornerstones are comprehensive software, outstanding customer support, and proven clinical content supported by Drs. Barton Schmitt and David Thompson. The LVM team also provides implementation services, on-site training, phone and remote-access support, network consultation, user conferences, customization of screens, and custom reports. Contact LVM Systems at 480-633-8200.


Bridging the Access Gap

By Tom Cox

For many patients, finding the right physician and booking an appointment isn’t consumer friendly. Unfortunately, the process isn’t much easier on the other end, either. Even the best call center agents struggle trying to field hundreds of calls a day and book appointments in a timely manner. They use multiple systems with disjointed information, or worse, they flip through binders trying to find the appropriate provider for the patient. These procedural flaws bring pain to everyone involved, but the fall-out is patients getting frustrated with the difficulty and disengaging—often never receiving the care they need.

But there is hope. New digital care coordination solutions enable call centers to bridge the access gap with automated business rules, guided search, and real-time scheduling in a single platform.

Getting There Faster with Guided Search: Before digital care coordination, patients had no other option but to schedule a doctor appointment by phone. Many of these calls—especially for larger healthcare organizations—went to call centers where agents fielded the calls and scheduled the appointment. In other cases, with no centralized call center, the providers’ office staff took the calls among their other duties. 

Underneath what may seem like a simple task of scheduling over the phone lies a much more complex process: searching through binders of scheduling protocols and then flipping between different customer relationship management (CRM), electronic medical record (EMR), and practice management (PM) systems, all while the patient remains on the line. Phone calls could take up to twenty minutes while agents manually sifted through pages of information or put the patient on hold to verify insurance and other scheduling details.

Now, guided search, provided by digital care coordination, automates all scheduling protocols. This enables call center agents to find the right physician quickly and then schedule an appointment. Call center agents ask patients a set of qualifying questions, and the platform uses those responses to match patients to the best fit provider based on their care need. Once identifying a provider, call center agents have a real-time view of the provider’s schedule, allowing them to book an appointment on that call. What once was a manual, time-consuming process is now completed in a few minutes.

Guided search is particularly useful for health systems and other provider organizations tasked with navigating the complex and complicated world of specialty care. Scheduling protocols are more particular for specialists. The dangers of scheduling the wrong specialist risks care delays, consequential outcomes, and wasted time for both patient and provider. 

Making It Better with Analytics: The other critical factor is the availability of real-time analytics. While guided search is important for connecting patients to the right care, ongoing, accurate, and easily dissectible analysis of the process is necessary for straightening out any kinks and maximizing system efficiency. 

Rather than manually generating a report that is just a snapshot in time, a platform with built-in real-time analytics capabilities can make that information—and more—available at any time. Analytics can point to trends, averages, and benchmarks useful for optimizing the appointment scheduling process. 

Customized reports can track items such as provider utilization, pinpointing any bottlenecks in the scheduling process and highlighting areas to preserve time and resources. 

Faster, Easier Access to Care: Bridging the access gap is more than improving the scheduling process. Organizations should also consider the elements behind scheduling that prevent patients from getting the care they need in a timely manner. In most cases, there are two factors: the ability to identify the right doctor for a specific care need, and the ability to track scheduling and referral patterns, identifying areas for improvement. 

Tom Cox is the CEO of MyHealthDirect, a leading provider of digital care coordination solutions.


Healthcare Call Center News

Call 4 Health CEO Joe Pores Receives Excalibur Award

The Sun Sentinel honored six business leaders with its annual Excalibur Award, including Call 4 Health’s CEO Joe Pores. The Excalibur Awards recognize outstanding contributions to their organizations and communities. 

Awarded May 7, 2019, the Excalibur Awards honor business leaders in South Florida for 2018. The awards recognize business achievement and civic contributions each year, starting in 1978. The winners for this esteemed business leader of the year award were selected by a panel of the Sun Sentinel Media Group and nominations from the public.

Call 4 Health employs 300 people in Delray Beach, with offices near Baltimore and Nashville, where it employs 200 more. The company, which handles 1.5 million calls each month, generates more than $20 million in annual revenues, with an annual 25 percent growth rate.

Formed in 1997 as a medical answering service, the company expanded over the years from answering doctor office’s calls to offering advanced healthcare services including patient registration and appointment services for healthcare systems, hospitals, and hospice organizations. Additionally, some hospitals outsource their internal switchboard function to Call 4 Health


A Thought for Today

“Experience makes us see an enormous difference between piety and goodness.” -Blaise Pascal

The Weak Link of Medical Call Centers

Advances in Agent Performance Can’t Overcome Deficiencies in Backend Systems

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan-call center

Whenever I place a phone call to a business, I carefully observe what happens. After spending most of my adult life in some aspect of the call center industry, I can’t help it.

Based on my observations, I’m happy to say that I’m encouraged by the quality of the agents I interact with. They are more personal and professional than agents who used to answer the phone even a few years ago. They have a positive, can-do attitude. Most of the time, I enjoy talking with them.

Unfortunately, quality agents don’t automatically make for satisfying phone calls. The technology that’s supposed to help them do their job better continues to hamper their work. Based on my experience, this is most pronounced in the healthcare industry. Other industries appear to be dealing with this frontend/backend disconnect with varying degrees of success, yet healthcare—for all its technology—still struggles to produce satisfying outcomes for their patient callers.

I wish I could say this article is the result of one bad experience. Unfortunately that’s not the case. This is a result of several bad experiences. It’s a saga of multiple calls without resolution. At this point I’m prepared to never experience a satisfactory outcome. In case you’re wondering, it’s a billing snafu.

Part of it hinges on faxes sent multiple times but never received—or at least never connected with my account. In the day of digital communications and electronic health records, why are we still using faxes anyway?

In case you’re interested, faxing started in the mid-1840s, only a decade or so after the telegraph. Yet we’re still using fax technology today. (Thankfully we’re not using the telegraph. Can you imagine looking to hire agents who know Morse Code?)

Anyway, how can agents do their job with excellence when they’re using technology that’s over 170 years old? While other technological hurdles agents face aren’t as old, these obstacles still present a cumbersome challenge and thwart attempts at customer service.

Today’s call center technology can integrate incoming channels, but in the healthcare industry it’s still challenging to integrate the various information silos with any degree of success.

Let’s applaud our call center agents for the job they do, despite technological roadblocks. Then let’s work at fixing backend system integrations so agents can do the job they want to do and serve patient callers the way they expect—and to do it on one phone call. It’s first call resolution (FCR), and it’s time for the healthcare industry to embrace it.

Imagine what your healthcare call center traffic would look like if you could achieve first call resolution on every call. It would change everything.

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

The May 2019 Issue



The Weak Link of Medical Call Centers

Advances in Agent Performance Can’t Overcome Deficiencies in Backend Systems

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

Whenever I place a phone call to a business, I carefully observe what happens. After spending most of my adult life in some aspect of the call center industry, I can’t help it.

Based on my observations, I’m happy to say that I’m encouraged by the quality of the agents I interact with. They are more personal and professional than agents who used to answer the phone even a few years ago. They have a positive, can-do attitude. Most of the time, I enjoy talking with them.

Unfortunately, quality agents don’t automatically make for satisfying phone calls. The technology that’s supposed to help them do their job better continues to hamper their work. Based on my experience, this is most pronounced in the healthcare industry. Other industries appear to be dealing with this frontend/backend disconnect with varying degrees of success, yet healthcare—for all its technology—still struggles to produce satisfying outcomes for their patient callers.

I wish I could say this article is the result of one bad experience. Unfortunately that’s not the case. This is a result of several bad experiences. It’s a saga of multiple calls without resolution. At this point I’m prepared to never experience a satisfactory outcome. In case you’re wondering, it’s a billing snafu.

Part of it hinges on faxes sent multiple times but never received—or at least never connected with my account. In the day of digital communications and electronic health records, why are we still using faxes anyway?

In case you’re interested, faxing started in the mid-1840s, only a decade or so after the telegraph. Yet we’re still using fax technology today. (Thankfully we’re not using the telegraph. Can you imagine looking to hire agents who know Morse Code?)

Anyway, how can agents do their job with excellence when they’re using technology that’s over 170 years old? While other technological hurdles agents face aren’t as old, these obstacles still present a cumbersome challenge and thwart attempts at customer service.

Today’s call center technology can integrate incoming channels, but in the healthcare industry it’s still challenging to integrate the various information silos with any degree of success.

Let’s applaud our call center agents for the job they do, despite technological roadblocks. Then let’s work at fixing backend system integrations so agents can do the job they want to do and serve patient callers the way they expect—and to do it on one phone call. It’s first call resolution (FCR), and it’s time for the healthcare industry to embrace it.

Imagine what your healthcare call center traffic would look like if you could achieve first call resolution on every call. It would change everything.

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


Featured Sponsor: Call 4 Health

Call4Health

Call 4 Health is a leading medical call center with a genuine understanding of the patient’s perspective. Delivering compassionate commitment with quality medical solutions to their clients since 1997, Call 4 Health has a keen understanding of what it is like to face trauma and has developed a sound system to seamlessly balance professionalism with compassion.

Their call representatives understand the difficulties in facing traumas and coping with treatments as well as the emotional and financial strains those challenges present. With an altruistic approach, they place patients and their families first. Compassion is more than just a word at Call 4 Health, it drives them. Customer service excellence is not something they just “talk about.” They deliver it every day. For more information, visit www.call4health.com or call 855-244-3258.


The Golden Rules of Telephone Triage

By Rose Moon, RN, BSN

Successful triage nurses live by the following golden rules of the telephone triage process:

  1. Every call is life threatening until proven otherwise.
  2. Complete an ABCD assessment with every telephone encounter: Airway, Breathing, Circulation, Deficit (Neuro).
  3. Assessing patients over the phone is high risk; therefore, take the callers word as truth.
  4. Follow your sixth sense: protocols are decision support tools; nursing judgment determines outcomes.
  5. Know your patients’ medical history and current medications.
  6. Assess your callers as well as your patients. Be a patient advocate.
  7. Never provide a dosage of a medication without a complete patient assessment.
  8. Always confirm labeled dosage of a medication as well as the means in which the caretaker plans to administer the drug.
  9. Always assess the caller’s level of comfort with the established plan of care before ending the call.
  10. “Are you comfortable with these recommendations?”
  11. “Now tell me what you plan to do next.”
  12. If it is not documented, it didn’t happen. Use defensive documentation. Paint a picture.
  13. Regardless of the reason for the call, always obtain a rectal temperature on an infant under the age of three months.
  14. Document the exact mechanism of injury.
  15. Be alert for red flags. Any time a caller uses or implies one of the following phrases be sure to clarify the underlying meaning. Carefully analyze your disposition and recommendation for follow-up care:
  16. Grunting or moaning
  17. Lethargic or listless
  18. Sleeping more than usual
  19. Just doesn’t look right, act right, or is fussy
  20. Sleeps through a rectal temperature
  21. High pitched cry or unusual, funny cry
  22. History of sickle cell or immune deficiency
  23. Frequent caller
  24. Caller that expresses anxiousness or numerous questions after discussing a plan of care
  25. Patient symptoms of headache, dizziness, disorientation, nausea, fatigue, or irritability; flu versus carbon monoxide exposure
  26. At the conclusion of the patient telephone encounter, instruct callers to call back or seek medical evaluation if current symptoms become worse or additional signs and symptoms of concern develop.

Learn more about telephone nurse triage and how to implement successful triage nurse centers by downloading the free e-book: Telephone Nurse Triage Handbook.


Healthcare Call Center News

Email us your news for the next issue.


A Thought for Today

A timid question will always receive a confident answer. -Charles John Darling