The March 2017 Issue

We Live in Exciting Times

By Peter L DeHaan, Ph.D.

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you

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

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Enhance Your Communication Skills

By Dr. David Thompson

Using verbal communication is known to decrease patient stress, while increasing satisfaction, rates of compliance, and symptom resolution. Consider these steps to enhance your communication effectiveness when talking with patients:

  1. Slow Down: What you say is familiar to you, but it’s likely new to the patient. Make sure they have the best chance to hear you by talking slower and more deliberately.
  2. Use Plain Language: Explain things in patient-friendly language. Instead of “chief complaint,” say “reason for calling.”
  3. Include Visual Aids: Use pictures or drawings to explain concepts. For telehealth encounters, using a diagnostic platform with an “image recommended” prompt may help patients who have trouble describing what their condition is. On the telephone this is hard to do, but not impossible. Paint word pictures or send a follow up email with relevant images or links.
  4. Explain Important Concepts: Convey the most important concepts, and use repetition to enhance patient recall.
  5. Teach-Back: Ask patients to repeat your instructions back to you. Better yet have them explain what they need to do.
  6. Encourage Questions: Create a shame-free environment, enlist family and friends, and promote the Ask-Me-3 (What is my main problem? What do I need to do about the problem? Why is it important for me to do this?)
  7. Body Language: Physical behaviors like sitting rather than standing can improve communication. Body language also applies when talking over the phone. Sit up straight, smile, and relax your shoulders.
  8. Keep it Simple: For written communication, use plain language that is appropriate for your patients’ age and culture. Write at, or below, a sixth grade reading level. Use short paragraphs or bulleted lists, type in a large font, and use words with one or two syllables. These are great tips when sending emails to follow up on phone calls.

Follow these eight tips to enhance your communications skills.

David Thompson, MD, serves as CEO and chief medical officer for Health Navigator, Inc.

 Healthcare Call Center News

TriageLogic Announces Continuwell

TriageLogic Management and Consulting, LLC, launched Continuwell®, a telehealth product for businesses and organizations to decrease employee healthcare expenses and reduce employee sick days. This service is designed to complement and enhance existing wellness or telemedicine offerings already in place or as a turnkey solution.

You take care of your patients, but who takes care of your staff? When your patients have a medical issue arise, they call your office or triage line to evaluate their symptoms and get professional advice on what steps to take next. Why not extend triage services to your staff by making Continuwell part of your employee benefits package?

Continuwell is a telephone healthcare service with a network of experienced registered nurses and doctors. Continuwell provides 24/7 on demand nurses and doctors to evaluate employees or members and determine appropriate care for their symptoms.

Continuwell differentiates itself with its nurse-first model, where nurses use doctor-written guided protocols to evaluate callers and determine the care needed to resolve their symptoms. Their nurses are able to provide the necessary care without the need of a doctor in three out of four cases, saving the cost of a telehealth doctor visit and making the system affordable for employers and employees.

For more information call 844-258-4325 or email

Record Revenue Helps Usher in Customer Direct’s 20th Anniversary

Customer Direct—a provider of outsourced contact center services in multiple industries, including healthcare—has entered its twentieth year of operations on the heels of record revenues.

What started in 1997 as an idea to deliver best-in-class, onshore, competitively-priced contact center services, has since grown into one of North America’s leading outsourced contact centers, with facilities in St. Ann and Arnold, Missouri, as well as an extensive work-from-home program. In addition, Customer Direct’s footprint is expected to grow with a significant expansion planned for the first half of 2017.

Based in St. Ann, Customer Direct provides multi-channel, multi-lingual Live Agent reservations, customer care, technical, and back-office operations support to leading companies throughout the U.S., and the world. Industries served include hospitality, publishing, healthcare, IT, retail, and e-commerce.

Spok to Add 60 Employees in Minnesota to Support Accelerated Solution Development

Spok, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Spok Holdings, Inc. announced the company’s expansion of its Minneapolis/St. Paul presence by approximately 45 percent, with the addition of more than sixty employees over the next two years, the majority of which will be added in 2017. As part of Spok’s ongoing capital allocation strategy, which includes making key strategic investments in its product solutions and infrastructure, the company is increasing its team to enhance Spok Care Connect®, a healthcare communications platform that is transforming how hospitals coordinate care.

The newly hired associates will be based in Spok’s Eden Prairie, Minnesota, location. There, they will join the company’s collaborative teams that work with technology to create innovative product solutions. Healthcare organizations around the world rely on Spok to improve clinical communications by delivering information to care teams when and where it matters most to improve patient outcomes. Spok® solutions help hospitals evolve their communications strategy and technology from disparate systems to a single communications platform, which supports clinical workflows and allows for the seamless flow of data among departments.

A Thought For Today

“Would the boy you were be proud of the man you are?” -Laurence J. Peter







The January 2017 Issue

Happy New Year!

By Peter L DeHaan, Ph.D.

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

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

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

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

And may you be able to say the same thing!

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

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Addressing Health Literacy Challenges in Telehealth Settings

By Dr. David Thompson

For the estimated 89 million people in the United States who have limited literacy, managing everyday healthcare needs can be confusing and complicated. Health literacy, as defined by the Institute of Medicine, is the ability to obtain, process, and understand basic health information, services, and instructions. A person’s health literacy can be affected by their general literacy, age, job, insurance status, education, income level, or familiarity with English.

Physicians and healthcare professionals may have trouble identifying patients who have limited literacy, especially in telehealth encounters where clinicians and patients aren’t face-to-face. Cues that can alert providers to patients who may need extra help understanding their situation and care plan include missed appointments, lack of follow-through with laboratory or imaging tests, lack of response to referrals, and noncompliance with medication regimens.

Healthcare providers can make their office environment more supportive for all patients—not just those with limited health literacy—by considering the following factors:

  • Be Willing to Help: Telehealth and clinical staff can foster health literacy by offering assistance and providing information.
  • Schedule Appointments: Have real people schedule appointments, help patients prepare, and collect only essential information.
  • Office Check-in: Provide patient forms in easy-to-read formats and language, and be willing to help them complete forms.
  • Referrals and Supplementary Tests: Review referral information with patients, provide directions to the referral site, and offer guidance on insurance issues. It may also help to implement a telehealth platform that provides printable summaries of patient encounters for other physicians.
  • Provide Clear Instructions: Review important information and provide easy-to-read education materials. For telehealth providers, diagnostic platforms can immediately connect patients to aftercare instructions and informational resources.

Healthcare providers should also follow universal health literacy guidelines and consider licensing a telehealth platform that uses patient-friendly, plain language that can be coded into medical terminology. Such tools enable patients and providers to understand the telehealth encounter and related information in familiar terms.

David Thompson, MD, serves as CEO and chief medical officer for Health Navigator, Inc.

Survey Finds Increase in Mobility Planning but Gaps in Critical Infrastructure

Spok, Inc. released the findings of their fifth annual mobility strategies in healthcare survey. The survey is designed to assess mobile workflow enablement progress and trends in hospitals across the country. More than 550 healthcare organizations responded to the questions about mobile strategy documentation, bring your own device (BYOD) policies, communications infrastructure, and information security.

“The majority of hospitals and health systems are formalizing a mobility strategy, which helps define the goals and framework for all mobile-related projects,” said Vincent D. Kelly, president and chief executive officer of Spok Holdings, Inc.

The survey shows that mobile strategy plans and use cases continue to grow, with an emphasis on smartphones and apps. It also reveals there is a large gap in the infrastructure necessary to support these strategies and devices, including wireless network coverage and enterprise mobility management (EMM) solutions. “Fifty-four percent of respondents answered that Wi-Fi coverage is a current challenge for mobile device users, and 47 percent cited cellular coverage challenges. This gap will be critical for hospitals to address in an effort to mitigate security risks and enhance communications,” said Hemant Goel, president of Spok, Inc.

Survey findings reveal that the diversity of mobile devices is increasing as new types of devices (such as wearables) are added to the mix and existing tools remain firmly entrenched in clinicians’ workflows. “As the survey demonstrates, pagers continue to play a major role in communications,” added Kelly. “That’s why, as part of our portfolio, we maintain support for the paging demands of the market, including the introduction of our encrypted pager.”

The survey also showed that more hospitals are hiring outside experts to help with clinical mobility, from planning through technology implementations and rollout. “Mobility enablement is far more complicated than just giving users an app,” Goel said.

Healthcare Call Center News

Robert Lancaster Promoted to 1Call Sales Manager: The 1Call Division of Amtelco announced that Robert Lancaster has been promoted to 1Call sales manager for the western region. Robert (Bob) has been working in miSecureMessages product sales for 1Call since joining the company earlier this year. In his new position, Bob will be working with many current customers to ensure they are meeting their ever-expanding healthcare communication needs. Bob will also help new customers find the ideal 1Call communication solutions that meet the specific needs for their organizations.

Jeff Griedl, 1Call vice president of sales, stated, “Bob has already done an amazing job contacting customers to keep them informed about the miSecureMessages encrypted messaging solution. We are thrilled to have Bob working with more of our customers to present all of the 1Call solutions available for healthcare organizations.” Bob can be reached at or 877-206-9159.

Health Navigator Partners With ERatHome: Health Navigator announced it has partnered with ERatHome, a network of retail clinics and home-based urgent care services, to expand access to providers and control the flow of medical information between patients and clinicians. As part of the collaboration, Health Navigator will support ERatHome’s Hive application, which is designed to share medical records and treatment history among care teams, provide patients with 24/7 access to doctors, facilitate appointment scheduling, send automated reminders and alerts, and share patient education resources.

Patients in the ERatHome network can use the Hive app to call or schedule a virtual visit with a doctor. Doctors use patient information to make a preliminary diagnosis based on symptoms and suggest the next steps to take. Health Navigator provides a diagnostic decision-support platform that features clinical codes, symptom checking intelligence, and process analysis for clinicians. By integrating Health Navigator’s comprehensive set of codes and analytics, ERatHome provides a more accurate, efficient diagnostic process, which can produce improved outcomes.

Andrew Mellin Named Chief Medical Officer for Spok: Spok Holdings, Inc. announced the appointment of Andrew Mellin, M.D. as Chief Medical Officer. In this new role, Dr. Mellin will be responsible for representing physician’s needs for communications software solutions to drive improvements in provider efficiency and patient care. Dr. Mellin joins recently appointed Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) Dr. Nat’e Guyton, in creating a clinical leadership team focused on using communication technologies to enable more effective workflow approaches that complement a health system’s investment in electronic records.

“We are delighted to welcome Dr. Mellin to our team,” said Vincent D. Kelly, president and chief executive officer of Spok Holdings, Inc. “He is an industry veteran, who brings over twenty years of healthcare experience—both as a physician and executive—to the position, and will play a key role in executing our long-term strategy to achieve growth in all healthcare markets.”

A Thought For Today

“A career is wonderful, but you can’t curl up with it on a cold night.” -Marilyn Monroe






The November 2016 Issue

Finish Strong

By Peter L DeHaan, Ph.D.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Good HIPAA Practices Make for Good Call Center Habits

By Janet Livingston

HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, has critical ramifications for medical call centers. A lack of compliance with HIPAA regulations can result in monetary damages in the form of fines for security breaches and reputation damages in the form of negative publicity over security violations.

While the full scope of HIPAA best practices are widespread, here are three areas of critical importance.

Address Internal Security: Not only does the call center facility need building security and secured access, but internal security is also a critical issue under HIPAA. Certain areas must be restricted to unauthorized personnel. For example, the operations room should be off limits to visitors and even some ancillary staff. Similarly the technology hubs, such as the computer room and telecommunications center, should be under lockdown at all times and accessible only to authorized technical personnel.

Enforce a Password Policy: Passwords are unpopular but necessary. Good passwords keep personal health information private. Call centers need a thorough password policy that is rigorously imposed. The policy should include periodic password changes, not reusing former passwords, and not sharing passwords with coworkers regardless of the circumstances.

Deploy Shred Bins: While many dream of a truly paperless office, the reality is that despite well-meaning intentions, printed documents that contain sensitive information will still result. This might be through negligence, oversight, or expediency. Regardless, call centers must destroy these paper documents as soon as their usefulness ends. The best solution is to immediately shred such documents in a micro-cut shredder. However, shredders are loud devices that don’t align well with the call center’s need to minimize noise. The solution is to position shred bins at convenient locations throughout the call center and surrounding areas. Authorized personnel will routinely shred the contents of the locked shred bin according to documented security protocols.

These three elements are not only key for HIPAA compliance in healthcare call centers, but they are emerging as call center best practices across all industries.

Janet Livingston is the president of Call Center Sales Pro, a premier sales and marketing service provider and consultancy that provides custom training solutions for all levels of healthcare call center and medical answering service staff. Contact Janet at or 800-901-7706 to learn more about arranging specific training for your organization.

 Healthcare Call Center News

Call 4 Health Relocates to Delray Beach: Call 4 Health relocated its headquarters and call center from Boca Raton to a larger facility in Delray Beach, Florida, where it plans to hire more than one hundred employees over the next twelve months. The company was founded in Boca Raton nineteen years ago. Call 4 Health CEO Joseph Pores said the business has grown by more than 50 percent a year each of the last three years. The company ran out of room to grow in Boca Raton, where it occupied 8,000 square feet in several locations. They considered multiple sites from before leasing 17,800 square feet at 2855 South Congress Avenue in Delray Beach.

The call center agents help schedule appointments, field after-hours calls, and operate as a hospital switchboard, among other duties. Most of their calls are inbound, and they’re open 24/7. It cost about $600,000 to renovate the new offices. Pores said it gutted the building and replaced the flooring, lights, and furniture. Its offices include a sound-masking system to dampen the noise in the call center, a mothers’ room, standing desks, and a meditation room. “We were able to design it to suit our needs for the next ten years and beyond,” Pores concluded.

1Call Conference Sets Record: The 1Call 2016 Leadership Conference and Training Seminar set a new record for number of attendees for the second year in a row. Several attendees presented their success stories on topics including “How MergeComm Improves Notification Practices and Increases Efficiencies,” “How to Roll Out miSecureMessages,” “Increasing Agent Productivity with Soft Agent,” and “Best Practices of Applications and Reports.”

Additional leadership topics included, “You’re Never Far From Good Health,” “Improving Workflows with MergeComm,” and “Disaster Planning for Your Call Center.” Attendees learned about the newest Infinity features, the new Genesis software switching solution, MergeComm, and miSecureMessages. Training sessions covered directories, on-call scheduling, and scripting. One of the highlights this year was a trip to the SSM Health Dean Medical Group to see their call center in action. Attend next year’s conference, September 12-14, 2017, in Madison, Wisconsin.

A Thought For Today

“Out of the quarrel with others we make rhetoric; out of the quarrel with ourselves we make poetry.” -William Butler Yeats


The September 2016 Issue

How to Provide Quality Service

By Peter L DeHaan, Ph.D.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Crisis Call, Line One: Preparing and Training Staff for Crisis Callers

By Scott J. Terres

It’s critical that call centers are prepared to deal with callers in a crisis mode. This article focuses specifically on call centers that are likely to encounter crisis situations.

Start with the Definition: Define what you believe is a crisis caller. Crisis call centers attempt first to define both the crisis behavior and level of severity. Callers may have concerns about verbal, emotional, or physical abuse; chemical use or abuse; or thoughts of harm to themselves or others. Violence and threat of harm indicators may be passive (less extreme), active (actively planning or currently engaged), or pervasive (daily or ongoing regular planning or action). Chemical use and abuse is often present in conjunction with violence indicators but can also exist independently.

Determine Needed Action: Once a crisis is defined, the center must determine its role in assisting the caller. A crisis call center has the task of keeping the caller alive. With the role clearly identified, the actual workers need to be trained with these definitions and roles in mind and put into practice.

Provide Appropriate Training: Staff should have the education and background to handle callers in a competent and effective manner. They need training in how to talk about crisis frankly and openly. Additionally, workers in crisis call centers experience a higher rate of compassion fatigue than those in other centers, due to spending the majority of their days talking about horrific actions, plans, and thoughts. For this reason, they may need more than two fifteen-minute breaks during a workday. These workers also need ongoing training and education to keep current with standard practices in handling crisis situations.

Provide Needed Resources: A well-trained staff equipped with relevant resources can make a significant difference in the life of a crisis caller. Ideally, these resources should be available at a moment’s notice. Crisis call centers also need to make safety planning a normal part of all crisis calls. Safety plans can vary widely depending on the need.

Consider Confidentiality: When the goal is to keep the caller alive at all costs, companies need to be aware of their respective state laws about confidentiality, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and duty to warn as established by Tarasoff vs. Regents of the University of California. Crisis call centers accredited by AAS must be willing to break confidentiality and inform law enforcement when callers will not agree to a safety plan or provide a verbal no-harm contract.

Seeking Successful Outcomes: Call center workers rarely know what awaits them when the phone rings, but a well-trained staff with appropriate resources has the ability to stabilize a crisis call, providing relief to both the caller and the answering agent. Safety planning and a clearly defined contingency plan round out the ways in which any call center can operate more effectively.

Scott J. Terres, MA, LPC-S, PhD, serves as vice president of Alliance Work Partners, a professional service of Workers Assistance Program, which has provided employee assistance programs since 1977.

[This article first appeared in Connections Magazine. Read the full text online.]

Healthcare Call Center News

Jean-Paul Maas Joins 1Call Sales Team: Jean-Paul Maas has joined the sales team at the 1Call Division of Amtelco, serving as the vice president of international sales. He has extensive experience in unified communications and healthcare IT for international markets, and he has held numerous management and leadership roles. Having worked in international sales for companies such as Avaya and NEC Unified Solutions, Jean-Paul has an in-depth knowledge of international software integration needs.

Originally from the Netherlands, Jean-Paul has also lived in London and Dubai, United Arab Emirates. He currently lives in Chicago, Illinois. He stated, “I’m very excited to join the Amtelco family and help Amtelco grow their international presence.”

Amtelco president Tom Curtin added, “Amtelco’s 1Call healthcare division is so excited to have Jean-Paul on board. His broad knowledge of international business and his ability to jumpstart our communications workflow solutions abroad will help healthcare systems help their patients throughout the world.”

ICMI Releases Program for 2016 Contact Center Demo & Conference: ICMI announces the return of Contact Center Demo & Conference in Dallas. Focused on helping professionals improve customer and employee engagement, elevate satisfaction, and deliver results, the conference will empower attendees through a range of rich educational content.

The conference will take place October 25-27 at the Intercontinental Dallas in Addison, TX. Spanning three days, the conference will explore the top trends of the contact center industry, including managing people, processes, and technology. The combination of inspirational keynotes, in-depth educational sessions, hands-on workshops, tours of local contact centers, powerful networking opportunities, and an exhibit hall will heighten the knowledge and skill level of contact center professionals. More than seventy-five speakers across fifty sessions and eighty exhibitors will join forces to bring attendees an unforgettable week in Dallas.

“As customer service excellence becomes increasingly important, there’s more opportunity than ever for the contact center to contribute to its organization’s mission and bottom line. It’s critical for today’s customer management professionals to expand their skill sets by learning new techniques and processes,” said Patty Caron, ICMI event director. “Our event keeps professionals up to date on new practices, trending topics and technologies – all while expanding their network of industry connections.”

For more information and to save $200 on a conference pass by September 9, please visit: Two and three-day passes are available. Register with code CM-PR and save $200 off current pricing.

Nat’e Guyton Named Chief Nursing Officer for Spok: Spok Holdings, Inc. appointed industry veteran Nat’e Guyton as chief nursing officer (CNO), effective July 6, 2016. In her new role, Guyton will be responsible for effectively representing nursing communications needs in a clinical setting to drive enhancement of Spok’s critical communications software solutions. She will also work with nurses at healthcare facilities globally in order to share best practices and implement programs for improved patient care and satisfaction.

“Nat’e brings over fifteen years of healthcare experience to the position,” said Vincent D. Kelly, president and chief executive officer of Spok Holdings, Inc. “She will play a vital role in executing our long-term strategy to achieve significant growth in all markets, by being a trusted partner with CNOs (chief nursing officers) and nursing professionals worldwide. She has an impressive track record of success in delivering effective clinical consultations as well as utilizing strong management skills and critical thinking to lead clinical product teams.”

“I am excited to join the Spok team and to take advantage of the tremendous opportunities to help clinicians and patients,” said Guyton. “Response time is a critical factor in patient care. Most CNOs are looking to improve the efficiency of nursing workflows and address patient safety, outcomes and satisfaction. Spok can help with those challenges.”

A Thought For Today

“Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.” -James Matthew Barrie


The July 2016 Issue

Set Realistic Expectations for Your Call Center

By Peter L. DeHaan, PhD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Email Valerie to place your classified ad in our next issue.

Why Healthcare Professionals Are Making the Big Shift

By Dr. Liza Alcances MD

A healthcare career is considered one of the noblest of careers in the Philippines. It is not unusual to ask a child about his dream career and get an answer of doctor or nurse. Doctors and nurses in the family are treated as heroes, more so those who ply their trade in foreign shores.

The Supply and Demand of Filipino Nurses: Filipino nurses have been working abroad since the 1970s, but it was not until the early 2000s that the demand for nurses grew to epic proportions. Anywhere in the world, there was a job waiting for a Filipino RN. The US was a big destination, enticing Filipino RNs to make an exodus to the “promised land.” Other countries in the Middle East and in Europe soon opened their borders to Filipino nurses.

In 2005, around 50,000 nurses took the local Nursing Licensure Exam. This ballooned to 175,000 in 2010, most aiming to pass both local and US board exams. But by 2015, only 36,391 nursing students took the Nurse Licensure Exam. Schools that had as many as thirty sections per batch saw a big decrease in enrollments; some nursing schools closed altogether.

The law of supply and demand had prevailed. The talent pool was over-saturated. Locally, the hospitals could not afford to employ all the graduates, with some unscrupulous ones taking advantage of the oversupply by requiring payment from RNs to work in their hospitals as volunteers. The increased demand for a US visa in the nursing classification led to a retrogression – visas for foreign nurses were used up, and without them the nurses could not work in the US. The European Union prioritized applicants from member countries. The Middle East still employed nurses, but preferred those with work experience.

By 2008, there were about 100,000 unemployed or underemployed nurses in the Philippines, growing to around 200,000 by 2011. Lacking options in the healthcare field, nurses opted to seek employment elsewhere. Some found employment in the burgeoning BPO/call center industry and some went to small healthcare BPO companies.

The Rise of the HIMS Industry: Around the same time, the Healthcare BPO industry in the Philippines was slowly making its presence known. Following the remarkable growth of the BPO industry, the healthcare information management service (HIMS) space started to blossom, powered by the healthcare professionals who entered the workforce because they did not find a place in the clinics. They had the desired skills – a combination of western-based medical education and English language fluency. In addition, many of the nurses were USRN’s, proof that they meet US certification standards and allowing them to work on US documents.

The growth of the Philippine HIMS industry is nothing short of phenomenal. From generating $102 million in 2010, it grew exponentially, reaching the $1 billion mark in 2013. It ended 2015 with revenue approaching $1.8 billion. The 30,000 full-time employees (FTEs) in 2013 doubled to 60,000 in 2014. By 2015, the workforce was around 116,000 strong, composed of healthcare professionals, a majority of which are nurses. The industry has attracted companies from all over the world, with a lot more companies entering the Philippine BPO space.

The Philippine HIMS industry was the answer to the plight of unemployed and underemployed nurses, and the nurses did not let it down. As its progress continues to rise, other healthcare professionals are also making the shift. Pharmacists, doctors, physical therapists, dentists, and other healthcare professionals will find that there is a place for them here.

Dr. Liza Alcances MD, RN, CPC, CPC-I, CIC, is the assistant manager, training – healthcare at TeleDevelopment Services.

Healthcare Call Center News

Health Navigator Adds Spanish and German: Health Navigator expanded the language capabilities of its diagnostic platform to include Spanish and German translations to increase access to telehealth solutions for providers and patients. This makes it easier for non-English speaking patients to utilize e-health tools and applications, ensuring greater accuracy when they use virtual care.

“We are making it easier for healthcare providers to engage and facilitate communication with patients along the healthcare continuum,” said Dr. Thompson, MD, founder and CEO of Health Navigator. Additionally updates are in progress to add simplified Chinese and French language capabilities. There is no additional charge for secondary language functionality for Health Navigator clients.

Attend the 2016 1Call Leadership Conference & Training Seminar: 1Call has opened registration for the Tenth Annual Leadership Conference and Training Seminar, September 27-29, 2016, at The Madison Concourse Hotel, in downtown Madison, Wisconsin. According to Mike Friedel, senior vice president, “We are looking forward to another record-setting year. This year’s tour of Dean Health’s new call center will be a highlight for many.”

For information contact 1Call at 800-225-6035, email, or visit

8 In 10 ER Docs Say Patients Sacrifice Care Because of Out-Of-Pocket Costs: Nine in ten emergency physicians responding to a new poll say that health insurance companies are misleading patients by offering affordable premiums for policies that actually cover very little. Nearly all (96 percent) said that emergency patients do not understand what their policies cover for emergency care.

According to the poll, eight in ten emergency physicians are seeing patients with health insurance who have sacrificed or delayed medical care because of high out-of-pocket costs, co-insurance, or high deductibles. This is more than a 10 percent increase over six months ago when emergency physicians were asked the same question.

This survey was conducted online in the United States by Marketing General Incorporated on behalf of the American College of Emergency Physicians between April 4-11, 2016, among 1,924 emergency physicians in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, providing a response rate of 7 percent and a margin of error of 2.2 percent.

Syntel Strengthens Delivery Capabilities for Health Insurers: Syntel, Inc. announced that it has enhanced its ability to deliver technology solutions for healthcare insurers by achieving Gold partner certification status in theHealthEdge Strategic Partner Program. HealthEdge provides the only integrated financial, administrative, and clinical platform for health insurers.

To achieve Gold partner certification status, Syntel resources completed in-depth classroom and hands-on training on the HealthRules product suite, providing them with valuable experience and expertise related to the key aspects of HealthRules implementations.

“By becoming a Gold-level strategic partner, Syntel has demonstrated its commitment and ability to deploy well-trained and experienced HealthRules technical resources at health insurance organizations across the country,” said Ray Desrochers, Chief Marketing Officer of HealthEdge.

Harley Street Concierge to Centrally Manage Remote Call Centre Agents: Sesui, provider of cloud-based telephony and contact center technology, is enabling Harley Street Concierge to securely monitor and improve the patient experience provided by its geographically dispersed network of call center agents.

Harley Street Concierge, a private cancer support services provider, helps patients suffering with cancer to access the most appropriate doctors, testing, and treatment they might otherwise be unaware of or unable to organize. Call center agents are the first point of contact with Harley Street Concierge and play a vital role in setting the standard for the quality of service and support patients will come to receive.

Stuart Lees, head of operations, Harley Street Concierge, comments: “Given the sensitive nature of our calls, the manner in which call center agents interact with our patients and their professionalism when communicating our services, is of upmost importance. With agents located all over the UK, however, it was crucial for us to implement a method of call recording that could be used independent of location and across both mobile and land lines.”

A Thought For Today

“History is a vast early warning system.” -Norman Cousins






The May 2016 Issue

What I Learned From Sneezing

By Peter L. DeHaan, PhD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our influence on others is nothing to sneeze about.

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

Classified Ads

Help Wanted: Health Navigator, Inc. is seeking a qualified professional to join our business development team. Qualifications include a proven track record of healthcare sales experience, outstanding communication and negotiation skills, and telemedicine market knowledge. Preference for Chicago-based candidate. Email Patty Maynard for more info.

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 place your classified ad in our next issue.

Why Do Patients Call After Hours?

By Marci Lawing, RN, BSN

Winter months are normally associated with a higher number of patients calling with symptoms related to cold, flu, and influenza. Surprisingly this year we did not see the common influx of influenza-related patient phone calls that we normally observe. Cyndi Heaton, TriageLogic’s nurse manager, noted, “We are observing a different pattern of patient calls this year. Our nurses are triaging many calls that are associated with coughing and vomiting. Patients calling with these symptoms can normally be triaged with home care.”

Patients often call because they have a medical symptom, and they need a professional to help guide them to the appropriate care and provide them with reassurance. Looking at outpatient caller data for November 2015 to January 2016, TriageLogic found the most common reasons for phone calls included:

  • Cough
  • Colds
  • Sore throat
  • Medication question call
  • Vomiting without diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Eye puss or discharge
  • Earache
  • Head injury
  • Abdominal pain

The responses of what nurses told the caller patients to do were: 44 percent, home care treatment; 33 percent, see doctor; 17 percent, go to ER; 7 percent, follow up from office visit. They had the same number of patients sent to the ER as usual (around 17 percent). One big change from the previous data analysis in November 2015 is an observed increase in the number of patients sent to see a doctor in the next 24 to 48 hours. That is more likely because of the higher level of acuity in winter compared to other months.

As these results demonstrate, even with the cold season, most patients who called a triage nurse line could be treated with home care. Regardless nurses were able to ensure all caller patients received standardized, high quality care.

Doctors were also able to provide continuity of care for their patients by reviewing the nurse triage notes and following up with patients if necessary. Patients received peace of mind knowing they had a triage nurse available 24/7.

Marci Lawing, RN, BSN is a nurse manager and nurse educator at TriageLogic. Founded in 2005, TriageLogic is a URAC accredited, physician-led, provider of telephone nurse triage services. For more information visit

Healthcare Call Center News

Startel’s Healthcare Solution Offering

Myriad challenges face today’s healthcare industry – hospital and clinic consolidations, technology integration projects, EHR adoption plans, regulatory compliance demands, capital budget cuts, and staff shortages.

In the ever-evolving world of healthcare it is critical to have solid partners with experience that can cost effectively help call centers navigate through the labyrinth of challenges. Startel Corporation is such a partner, with over thirty-five years of healthcare experience. While there is no silver bullet that will solve all the issues faced by healthcare professionals, Startel’s comprehensive and affordable healthcare solutions and best-of-class support can help overburdened IT and technology staffs overcome many of today’s challenges.

Startel hopes readers will enjoy this short video that highlights the main features of their healthcare solution.

McKesson Specialty Health Honored

McKesson Specialty Health announced its Reimbursement, Access & Safety Services Solution Center received the Sterling Award in the Big Business category from the Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce. The Sterling Award, which the Chamber has presented for the past thirty years, includes a rigorous application, judging, and selection process. The award for the Big Business category goes to an organization with one hundred or more employees that makes a significant impact on the economic fabric of the community, as well as the lives of its employees. McKesson’s Solution Center administers programs on behalf of manufacturers that provide support to physicians prescribing their medications and to the patients taking the medications for complex and chronic diseases.

“I’m extremely proud to be a McKesson employee,” said Ruthymae Liggins, manager of Reimbursement Operations for McKesson Specialty Health. “Our work is aimed at improving the lives of patients. It’s humbling to be recognized for making a difference in the community and knowing that we matter to the people around us.”

Study Explores How Changes in Benefit Structures Affect Utilization and Spending 

Along with increased spending on physician services, expanded coverage of outpatient physician visits contributed to higher spending on advanced imaging, diagnostic tests, minor procedures, and prescription drugs, according to a new study, Balancing Access and Costs: Health Benefit Structures for Privately Insured People, from the nonprofit, nonpartisan National Institute for Health Care Reform (NIHCR).

Health insurance benefit structures, particularly cost-sharing amounts, can either encourage or discourage patients from seeking care. The goal is to strike the right balance so out-of-pocket costs don’t discourage people from getting needed care but to prompt them to consider costs before seeking discretionary care.

In 2011, contracts between the International Union, UAW, and Fiat Chrysler, Ford and General Motors significantly changed the structure of autoworker health benefits. Generally, coverage of outpatient physician visits was expanded while additional cost sharing was imposed for emergency department visits unless the patient is admitted to the hospital.

A Thought For Today

“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” -E. M. Forster