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Use a Quality Assurance Program to Improve Your Call Center

Use a Quality Assurance Program to Improve Your Call Center

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

In the last issue we talked about improving your call center by providing ongoing skills training. Now we’ll continue the discussion by addressing a quality assurance (QA) program.

In the call center industry, everyone’s talking about providing quality transactions. Quality call center work helps bring about quality healthcare outcomes, which starts with quality agent communication.

One essential step to keep the focus on quality is to have a quality assurance process. Most leading call centers have a QA program in place. Others plan to add one. And some had one but, in a rush to deal with the urgent, they put the practice on hold, which they later pushed aside.

Last are those call centers that don’t have a QA program, never did, and aren’t planning to. It’s time for this to change. Every call center that cares about its callers needs to put quality at the forefront of all they do, and a QA program is the surest way to accomplish that.

A QA program is a methodical system that regularly evaluates calls from each agent. These calls can be live or recorded. Regardless of the format, a trained quality professional evaluates each call according to established criteria. They then share the results with each agent, providing encouragement whenever possible and offering constructive criticism when appropriate. The goal of a QA program stands to reinforce the positive and offer corrections to improve the not so great.

Successful QA programs have an established process they follow without fail. And most programs have dedicated a trained quality professional to administer the program. Conducting QA evaluations and providing immediate feedback are generally this person’s sole responsibility.

To start a QA program or restart one on hold, think small. This might be performing one call evaluation per agent per month. As the process becomes fine-tuned and the practice becomes routine, increase the frequency to twice a month and then weekly. Some established robust QA programs evaluate their agents much more frequently.

In addition to dedicating a person to do QA evaluations, another key is to secure agent buy-in from the onset. This starts before launching the program and continues as a QA professional provides feedback to each agent. The goal of each feedback session is to celebrate what the agent did well. Make it a positive experience that they can anticipate. Then add one area to work on. Eventually, some calls won’t warrant any suggestions for improvement at all. And that’s the goal of a QA program.

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

The March 2020 Issue



Use a Quality Assurance Program to Improve Your Call Center

Tap a QA Program to Make Quality the Focus for Your Healthcare Call Center

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan-call center

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

In the last issue we talked about improving your call center by providing ongoing skills training. Now we’ll continue the discussion by addressing a quality assurance (QA) program.

In the call center industry, everyone’s talking about providing quality transactions. Quality call center work helps bring about quality healthcare outcomes, which starts with quality agent communication.

One essential step to keep the focus on quality is to have a quality assurance process. Most leading call centers have a QA program in place. Others plan to add one. And some had one but, in a rush to deal with the urgent, they put the practice on hold, which they later pushed aside.

Last are those call centers that don’t have a QA program, never did, and aren’t planning to. It’s time for this to change. Every call center that cares about its callers needs to put quality at the forefront of all they do, and a QA program is the surest way to accomplish that.

A QA program is a methodical system that regularly evaluates calls from each agent. These calls can be live or recorded. Regardless of the format, a trained quality professional evaluates each call according to established criteria. They then share the results with each agent, providing encouragement whenever possible and offering constructive criticism when appropriate. The goal of a QA program stands to reinforce the positive and offer corrections to improve the not so great.

Successful QA programs have an established process they follow without fail. And most programs have dedicated a trained quality professional to administer the program. Conducting QA evaluations and providing immediate feedback are generally this person’s sole responsibility.

To start a QA program or restart one on hold, think small. This might be performing one call evaluation per agent per month. As the process becomes fine-tuned and the practice becomes routine, increase the frequency to twice a month and then weekly. Some established robust QA programs evaluate their agents much more frequently.

In addition to dedicating a person to do QA evaluations, another key is to secure agent buy-in from the onset. This starts before launching the program and continues as a QA professional provides feedback to each agent. The goal of each feedback session is to celebrate what the agent did well. Make it a positive experience that they can anticipate. Then add one area to work on. Eventually some calls won’t warrant any suggestions for improvement at all. And that’s the goal of a QA program.

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.

To learn more: www.call4health.com or 855-244-3258.


9 Steps to Lead Your Team Through Uncertainty

By Kate Zabriskie

An effective leader will lead their team through change and do so with confidence that will inspire others. Here are nine tips to help lead your team through uncertain times:

1. Know That the Path Isn’t Always Linear: As a team deals with workplace change, it isn’t as simple as announcing it, adapting to it, and moving toward goals. It’s normal for employees to have shifting feelings throughout the process. Recognize and address these concerns as they arise is a healthy way to respond.

2. Identify Key Leaders: Identify team members with true leadership qualities early on. They will be crucial in helping to instill confidence and keep the team moving together toward the stated goals.

3. Construct a Solid Plan: Address changes in processes, products, and expectations of the staff involved. Creating and sharing a plan with your team will go a long way toward giving them a feeling of stability as they move forward together.

4. State Goals: Clearly define objectives and how you will support your team in meeting them. If employees don’t have a firm sense of what they should move toward, they may just . . .  move on.

5. Adjust as Necessary: Rumors abound during uncertainty. When your team is unsure, they will speculate. This can produce confusion, worry, and employees looking for new jobs. Be upfront and communicate with your team any information you have as soon as you can.

6. Acknowledge the Past: Changes may mean discarding the old ways of doing things. This can leave team members who worked on such projects feeling slighted. Highlight those projects and salute accomplishments, while at the same time leading the team into the new direction.

7. Disclose Challenges: Don’t hide problems when they occur. Share them with your team. They may have valuable input and will feel more invested in helping overcome obstacles.

8. Listen to All Concerns: Make yourself available and truly listen to your team. Sometimes, simply venting about the changes will help someone deal with what is going on. And other times, their insight could be invaluable.

9. Restate Performance Objectives: Clearly state any changes in performance objectives and reviews. Employees will want to know exactly what’s expected. This will allow them to focus on their own objectives and give them confidence as they move forward.

Summary: Change can be scary, full of surprises, and extremely challenging. But, if you have a plan, communicate effectively with your team, and move towards new objectives with confidence—and have a team that is committed as well—you can survive and even thrive in the new environment.

Kate Zabriskie is the president of Business Training Works, Inc. She and her team help businesses establish customer service strategies and train their people to live up to what’s promised.

[Read Kate’s full article to learn more.]


Healthcare Call Center News

TriageLogic Offers Remote Patient Monitoring: TriageLogic applies its thirteen years of telephone triage experience to the emerging remote patient monitoring (RPM) market. As monitoring technologies continue to gain traction, the healthcare industry views RPM as a tool to help control the cost of care for those with chronic diseases such as congestive heart failure, COPD, asthma, and diabetes.

Monitoring devices collect enormous amounts of patient data. Each device has its own algorithm that flags abnormal conditions. Results from these devices appear on dashboards provided by the device company. A physician or their staff that’s monitoring multiple patients with multiple conditions spends a significant amount of time regularly reviewing every dashboard. This is time taken away from face-to-face patient care. “Most physicians don’t have the time or resources to monitor dashboards for multiple devices,” said Ravi Raheja, M.D., TriageLogic medical director and CTO. “TriageLogic’s resources allow physicians to do what they’re best at—spend quality face-to-face time with those who truly need medical intervention. We work closely with each physician group to ensure we understand their preferences and custom care plans for patients with chronic disease.”

Email us updates about your healthcare call center for the next issue of Medical Call Center News.


A Thought for Today

“Nothing great in the world has been accomplished without passion.” -Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

Improve Your Call Center by Providing Ongoing Skills Training

Improve Your Call Center by Providing Ongoing Skills Training

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

This year we’ll embark on a series of articles about how to move your healthcare call center forward to better meet the needs and expectations of your callers and patients. We’ll start by talking about providing your frontline staff with ongoing skills training.

For your call center, you begin by hiring the best staff, providing them with the detailed training they need to do their jobs well, and then scheduling them to handle calls. It’s a great start, but it’s just the beginning. 

Over time their skills will drift away from what you expect and migrate toward what is expedient. Even more of a concern, they will learn from their coworkers sitting next to them. Though they may acquire some good skills this way, they’re more apt to pick up less-than-ideal habits. It’s a given that what you don’t want to occur in your call center will much more readily permeate your entire staff then the best practices you desire them to emulate.

That’s why it’s essential to provide periodic training to your staff. Through this, you can reinforce the best skills in call handling, customer service, and patient satisfaction that you want them to consistently provide. And then you can teach them new, enhanced skills too. 

Just as vision is leaky, so too are call handling skills. Both require regular reminders. Therefore, you need to teach and reinforce the skills that you want your staff to use in your call center. Do this on a regular basis. You need to provide this to every frontline employee. 

Though you may want to start with the under-performing staff first, this is backwards. If you start with them, they’ll view your training as punitive, which will detract from your objective of enhancing their skills.

Instead, you might want to start with your best-performing staff. They are apt to view the advanced training as a reward, making them much more likely to retain and implement the customer service techniques you teach them. Then roll the training out to the rest of your staff. They’ll receive your instruction more positively.

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

The January 2020 Issue



Improve Your Call Center by Providing Ongoing Skills Training

Unless You Remind Them, Employees Will Forget Their Training and Pick Up Bad Habits

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan-call center

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

This year we’ll embark on a series of articles about how to move your healthcare call center forward to better meet the needs and expectations of your callers and patients. We’ll start by talking about providing your frontline staff with ongoing skills training.

For your call center, you begin by hiring the best staff, providing them with the detailed training they need to do their jobs well, and then scheduling them to handle calls. It’s a great start, but it’s just the beginning. 

Over time their skills will drift away from what you expect and migrate toward what is expedient. Even more of a concern, they will learn from their coworkers sitting next to them. Though they may acquire some good skills this way, they’re more apt to pick up less-than-ideal habits. It’s a given that what you don’t want to occur in your call center will much more readily permeate your entire staff then the best practices you desire them to emulate.

That’s why it’s essential to provide periodic training to your staff. Through this, you can reinforce the best skills in call handling, customer service, and patient satisfaction that you want them to consistently provide. And then you can teach them new, enhanced skills too. 

Just as vision is leaky, so too are call handling skills. Both require regular reminders. Therefore, you need to teach and reinforce the skills that you want your staff to use in your call center. Do this on a regular basis. You need to provide this to every frontline employee. 

Though you may want to start with the under-performing staff first, this is backwards. If you start with them, they’ll view your training as punitive, which will detract from your objective of enhancing their skills.

Instead, you might want to start with your best-performing staff. They are apt to view the advanced training as a reward, making them much more likely to retain and implement the customer service techniques you teach them. Then roll the training out to the rest of your staff. They’ll receive your instruction more positively.

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


Featured Sponsor: TriageLogic

TriageLogic

TriageLogic is a leading provider of quality, affordable triage solutions, including comprehensive after-hours call center services and innovative online systems for use in both institutional and private practice settings. In 2005, board certified pediatrician Ravi K. Raheja, MD and Charu Raheja, PhD founded TriageLogic. TriageLogic is a healthcare company that creates leading-edge telephone medicine technology based on practical experience and a thorough understanding of the field. Whether a busy private practice in need of a phone triage system or a hospital seeking complete after-hours call center solutions, TriageLogic has a product to meet your needs.


How Telephone Triage Nurses Act as An Extension of Physicians and Practices

By Ravi K. Raheja, MD

In an era where there are multiple sources of medical advice and people frequently use Google to get answers, telephone triage nurses need to be mindful that they play a critical role in ensuring patients get the customized care directed by their physician. This is vital for consumer-focused patient care. That is why sophisticated triage systems have custom instructions and standing orders. These tailored directions are based on physician or practice preferences for triage nurses to follow once the appropriate care for the patient has been determined.

What Are Custom Orders? Custom orders are additional instructions that physicians and practices add to existing protocols. An example would be telling the patient to take ibuprofen over Tylenol or sending them to a certain ER or urgent care facility. Custom orders are designed to help the triage nurse function as an extension of the doctor, without having to always call the on-call doctor. With custom orders, patients receive continuity of care, reassurance, and the ability for physician follow up the next day.

How to Properly Represent the Physician and Group: Through the triage process of assessing the patient, choosing highest acuity protocol, disposition, and advising the patient per protocol guidelines, triage nurses need to keep in mind that they represent a specific physician or practice.

Since they never see the patient in person, it is important that triage nurses provide the empathy and care that will make patients feel better. Patients are not just a voice over the phone with a problem for nurses to solve. Every phone call has an impact, and one of the best ways nurses can care for patients is to establish and affirm the trust they have in their provider.

When giving protocol advice, triage nurses should first check for any specific practice orders that apply to the situation. Then, as they advise, they should use phrases like, “Your doctor would like you to…” or “Your doctor cares very much about their patients and would want you to…”

Summary: Telephone triage nurses are important in establishing that the patient’s doctor cares about their problem. They are a crucial link to the patient trusting the care and advice of their physician. Since triage nurses are with a patient for a moment, it is vital that they gain their trust and provide the best care. 

When the patient call ends, their continuity of care is in the hands of their physician. Telephone triage nurses help the patient beyond the call when they nurture that trust in the doctor they represent.

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

Email us with your news for the next issue.


A Thought for Today

A man should never be ashamed to own he has been in the wrong, which is but saying, in other words, that he is wiser today than he was yesterday. -Alexander Pope

5 Reasons to Be Thankful for Your Job

Working in a Medical Call Center is Hard, but Don’t Forget the Good Parts

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan-call center

Have you ever left your call center and wished you didn’t have to come back? Of course you have. Yet you return. Having this feeling means you care and proves you’re normal.

Working in a medical call center has its stresses, difficulties, and frustrations. But don’t let this cloud the good parts. And there are many. 

Let’s press pause for a moment and reflect on what you can be thankful for through your work at a medical call center. Here are five ideas to get you started.

1. Enjoy Financial Provision

At a basic level we work to earn a living. Yes, every employee wishes they made more and thinks they should. But overall you’re doing great. Your job covers your basic needs and then some. Don’t look at the 1 percent in the United States who have far surpassed you. Consider the 99 percent in the rest of the world who wished they had your standard of living.

2. Work with a Great Team

Every day you work alongside some amazing and talented people. Yes, there may be one or two that irritate you, but this is true in every job, as it is with every family and every social gathering. Remember, you’re a team, and you get things done. Together you’re stronger, more effective, and meet your mandate call after call.

3. Help Others

Handling call after call can have its drudgery. But remember that each caller is a real person who needs your support. They’re calling you for assistance. And you’re able to help. Call after call, you help people. Because of you, their lives are little bit healthier. You’re doing your part to make our world a better place.

4. Save Lives

Working in the medical call center can also have its life and death ramifications, especially if you’re doing telephone triage. Though it may not happen every day, each life you save is the ultimate reward that enables you to persevere. But beyond saving physical lives, all healthcare call center work helps save people emotionally, spiritually, or financially. Each call represents an opportunity for you to make a difference in the caller’s life.

5. Possess Purpose

Some jobs are boring, and others carry no meaning other than a paycheck. Not so when you work in a medical call center. You have purpose, a critical purpose. You and your coworkers help others on every phone call and save lives—whether literally or figuratively—on a regular basis.

Conclusion

You’re bound to have bad days in your call center. That’s normal. But don’t let them obscure the good days. Remember how much you have to be thankful for. You have a job that provides for you, benefits society, and carries significance.

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

The November 2019 Issue



5 Reasons to Be Thankful for Your Job

Working in a Medical Call Center is Hard, but Don’t Forget the Good Parts

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan-call center

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Have you ever left your call center and wished you didn’t have to come back? Of course you have. Yet you return. Having this feeling means you care and proves you’re normal.

Working in a medical call center has its stresses, difficulties, and frustrations. But don’t let this cloud the good parts. And there are many. 

Let’s press pause for a moment and reflect on what you can be thankful for through your work at a medical call center. Here are five ideas to get you started.

1. Enjoy Financial Provision: At a basic level we work to earn a living. Yes, every employee wishes they made more and thinks they should. But overall you’re doing great. Your job covers your basic needs and then some. Don’t look at the 1 percent in the United States who have far surpassed you. Consider the 99 percent in the rest of the world who wished they had your standard of living.

2. Work with a Great Team: Every day you work alongside some amazing and talented people. Yes, there may be one or two that irritate you, but this is true in every job, as it is with every family and every social gathering. Remember, you’re a team, and you get things done. Together you’re stronger, more effective, and meet your mandate call after call.

3. Help Others: Handling call after call can have its drudgery. But remember that each caller is a real person who needs your support. They’re calling you for assistance. And you’re able to help. Call after call, you help people. Because of you, their lives are little bit healthier. You’re doing your part to make our world a better place.

4. Save Lives: Working in the medical call center can also have its life and death ramifications, especially if you’re doing telephone triage. Though it may not happen every day, each life you save is the ultimate reward that enables you to persevere. But beyond saving physical lives, all healthcare call center work helps save people emotionally, spiritually, or financially. Each call represents an opportunity for you to make a difference in the caller’s life.

5. Possess Purpose: Some jobs are boring, and others carry no meaning other than a paycheck. Not so when you work in a medical call center. You have purpose, a critical purpose. You and your coworkers help others on every phone call and save lives—whether literally or figuratively—on a regular basis.

Conclusion: You’re bound to have bad days in your call center. That’s normal. But don’t let them obscure the good days. Remember how much you have to be thankful for. You have a job that provides for you, benefits society, and carries significance.

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


Featured Sponsor: Pulsar 360

Pulsar360 provides carrier services and disaster recovery for medical answering services

Pulsar360 provides SIP Trunking and disaster recovery solutions for medical answering services. Pulsar360, Inc. has served the telecommunications requirements of SMB to enterprise business customers since 2001 and the medical call center industry since 2008.

Pulsar360 services over 170 medical-centric answering services, meeting their special requirements, which includes at no additional charge: 20 percent burstable SIP trunking; SIP trunking, toll-free number, and national network redundancy; T38 faxing that meets HIPAA compliance regulations; carrier services; and an infinite number of automatic failover alternatives.

In addition, Pulsar360 offers hot-standby business continuity/disaster recovery solutions designed for medical call centers. If the call center’s premise system is down or cloud system is off-line, calls automatically failover and are delivered directly to operator desktops with calling party ID and customer name or account number. Also included are cloud-based IVR, multiple call queues, and skills-based routing when in failover mode.

With Pulsar’s SD-WAN offering they can provide QoS over the internet to their data centers. Their 24/7 internet quality of service monitoring and issue alerting, which includes scheduled VoIP quality tests with archived test results, insures they deliver the reliability to meet and exceed their customer’s expectations.


Customizing Care for Patient Populations with a Nurse Triage System

By Ravi K. Raheja, MD

Patients today have more options than ever to receive care outside of their primary care—if they even have one. Having more options may seem like a good thing. However, many times the consumer is confused about the best care to address their symptoms. In the process, they end up either over-utilizing services or underestimating serious medical symptoms, creating both a drain to the healthcare system as well as a possible threat to their lives.

In a population health setting, this can lead to inappropriate use of resources which ends up frustrating the patient and expensive for the health system. Managing patient populations requires providers to use a customized approach to provide better care for patients, create a healthier population, and reduce healthcare costs. Providing access to a robust, nurse triage call solution with custom orders is a critical step in enabling this approach.

Managing multiple chronic diseases for a single patient requires complex scheduling, medicine regimens, and monitoring tasks, not to mention the counseling and patient education that is crucial to effective self-care. In addition to caring and helping their patients, providers benefit from offering high-quality telephone care for their chronically ill patients because it improves treatment effectiveness and compliance. Time and cost burdens for managing a whole population of such patients can be a significant problem for providers.

Key Features of a Nurse Triage System

  • Incorporate Gold Standard Protocols from Schmitt-Thompson
  • Record all calls
  • Use licensed registered nurses
  • Call back time less than 30 minutes
  • Customizable standing orders where the nurses follow instructions specific to practice or physician
  • HIPAA-compliant secure texting to the MD’s smartphone
  • Encounters sent via fax, email, FTP, or online access to notes
  • Optional integration module
  • Optional telehealth app

Telephone triage nurses serve as a continuation of a provider’s staff, allowing patients access to medical care and appropriate advice beyond the employed staff and their hours. Triage nurses use a combination of protocols and clinical directives. When a nurse triage service allows for custom orders, the nurse can follow tailored instructions based on physician or practice preferences once the nurse has determined the appropriate level of care. 

For example, some doctors prefer their patients use specific brands of medications when necessary. Other examples include a particular urgent care center or ER if patients need immediate treatment. This option allows the nurse to help patients without having to contact the doctor after every call. The software should also provide data analytics reports allowing doctors and practices to understand their patient groups and frequent questions better.

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 premiere provider of medical call center solutions, offering services to more than fifteen thousand providers in individual and group practices, hospital systems, universities, community health centers, and other medical organizations across the United States. Today they are more dynamic than ever, and their new brand of AccessNurse reflects this reality.

1Call Expands Architecture Solutions Team: 1Call, a division of Amtelco and a leader in developing software solutions and applications designed for the specific needs of the healthcare call center marketplace, announced the promotion of Amber Schroedl to solutions architect. “Amber has been a key part of our success, and brings a unique, real-world set of skills to our department,” said Kevin Mahoney, director of solutions architecture. “We are thrilled to promote her to this important position and serve our customers better by reducing implementation and go-live times.”

Email us with your news for the next issue.


A Thought for Today

Every creature is better alive than dead, men and moose and pine trees, and he who understands it aright will rather preserve its life than destroy it. -Henry David Thoreau