The July 2017 Issue

The One Sure Thing About the Future of Healthcare

By Peter L DeHaan, Ph.D.

Peter DeHaan, publisher and editorI don’t like to write about politics, but politicians in the United States are once again messing with healthcare. Some call it repeal, and others view it as repair. Some are for it and others oppose it. No one knows for sure how things will shake out or when it will happen, if anything happens at all.

Whether you view the status quo as good or bad, the maneuverings of the politicians and the soundbites of the pundits are disruptive. This makes it hard to plan: hard for healthcare providers, hard for healthcare insurance companies, and hard for healthcare consumers.

Regardless of the outcome, however, there is one thing I’m sure of. Medical call centers will continue to play a key role in the provision of care now and a bigger role in the future. Healthcare call centers stand in the healthcare gap, improving patient care, enhancing population health, and reducing per capita healthcare costs. No group is better positioned to achieve these three goals.

Yes, the one sure thing in healthcare today is that medical call centers will play a key role in providing quality, cost-effective solutions tomorrow. The only variable is how big that role will be.

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

Classified Ads

Content Marketing: Need content for your blog or website? Let Peter DeHaan, editor of Medical Call Center News, provide it for you. Rates are only $150 per page or post. Themes include healthcare call centers and customer service. Other professional writing services are available. Email Peter to learn more.

Email Valerie to place your classified ad in the next issue. Only $49 for 50 words.

The Receptionist Model for Telephone Triage Calls

By Mark Dwyer

Many triage call centers employ non-clinical staff to frontend the triage calls. This process is often referred to as the receptionist model. Hospitals that use this model typically provide the non-clinical staff with a predefined set of criteria to rank the acuity level of patients’ symptoms. These acuity levels are determined by key symptoms and terms used by patients when describing their symptoms.

Certain keywords together with certain known related conditions shape a likely emergent disposition. This is often done by providing the non-clinical staff with a list of key symptoms and conditions. If they exist, then direct the individual processing the call to interrupt a nurse currently on a call with a less acute patient. In this scenario, the nurse parks the current call, freeing her line to accept the potentially urgent call. If the call is deemed non-emergent, it is added to the nurses’ follow-up outbound call queue with the appropriately assigned acuity.

The best way to verify that each call added into the nurse callback queue has been assigned an appropriate acuity level would be to have all calls reviewed, assessed and, if needed, adjusted by acuity. To facilitate this, many sites have a charge nurse responsible for managing the queue throughout the day, making sure the highest acuity requests remain listed at the top of the “requests received for nurse callback” queue. Generally, callbacks should be made within thirty to forty minutes of receipt of the initial request.

Mark Dwyer is a 30-year veteran of the healthcare call center industry and the COO at LVM Systems, which provides healthcare call center software.

Healthcare Call Center News

Hospital CIOs Surveyed about Data Security and Clinical Mobility

Over the past twenty years, the avenues for sharing protected health information have multiplied, and data breaches have become much too common. In March 2017, Spok surveyed over 100 hospital CIOs to see how pressing the data security concern is for IT executives. They compiled the results and some interesting ones include:

Hospital secure texting:

  • 41 percent do not currently support HIPAA-compliant secure texting on any device but are planning to do so in the future.
  • 39 percent have secure texting only for personal devices.
  • 35 percent supply secure texting only on hospital issued devices.
  • 26 percent provide secure texting on both personal and hospital issued devices.

Secure communication methods used by clinical staff:

  • 88 percent use encrypted email.
  • 48 percent use HIPAA-compliant secure texting.
  • 48 percent use in-building Wi-Fi phones.
  • 17 percent use encrypted pagers.

Top four reasons why hospitals use pagers:

  • Most appropriate device for specific employee groups or departments
  • Reliability
  • Cost and time savings
  • Easy workflow integration

To underscore the severity of this data security issue, 95 percent of hospital CIOs are concerned about their data being compromised, but 26 percent are unsure how much PHI (personal health information) is being shared using unsecure technology.

Mobility and clinical process improvements are important to hospital leaders, and CIOs plan to make impactful changes,” said Spok. “However, the execution remains a work in progress. Greater than 30 percent of clinical staff cannot receive messages from colleagues on mobile devices.” This and other findings are presented in a revealing info graphic.

A Thought for Today

“We all have our time machines. Some take us back, they’re called memories. Some take us forward, they’re called dreams.” -Jeremy Irons




The May 2017 Issue

Uncertainty is the Only Thing That’s Certain in Healthcare

By Peter L DeHaan, Ph.D.

Peter DeHaan, publisher and editorI don’t like to write about politics, but politics is once again affecting the future of healthcare. With all the bluster about repelling and replacing the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), I was quite sure, that by now, we would have a new direction in place to chart our industry’s future. Alas, the bluster turned out to be no more than bluster.

It seems it’s much easier to criticize than to find workable solutions.

So, for now, Obamacare is the status quo. Whether we like it or dislike it, the Affordable Care Act is the framework in which we must work. All the while, we still hold our breath wondering if Obamacare might one day be replaced or more likely, amended. But will this make our jobs easier or harder? Uncertainty looms.

Regardless, the essential task is to ensure we keep our organizations viable so that we’re around to do our primary task of caring for people.

In this the call center will play a vital role. Of that, I am certain

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

Classified Ads

Content Marketing: Need content for your blog or website? Let Peter DeHaan, editor of Medical Call Center News, provide it for you. Rates are only $150 per page or post. Themes include healthcare call centers and customer service. Other professional writing services are available. Email Peter to learn more.

Email Valerie to place your classified ad in the next issue. Only $49 for 50 words.

The Contact Center’s Role in Care Coordination and Management of Patient Transitions

By Traci Haynes, MSN, RN, BA, CEN

The need to coordinate care and manage patient transitions is growing fast. The ever-increasing number of chronic conditions in both adults and children has placed greater demand on healthcare resources and services. US healthcare spending reached an all-time high of $3.4 trillion in 2016. The Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease reported in 2015, 191 million Americans had at least one chronic disease and 75 million had two or more chronic diseases. It’s estimated that 15 to 18 percent of children in the US live with at least one chronic health condition.

Many of the complications of the most common and costly chronic conditions—such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, COPD, and asthma—could be prevented or better controlled. In addition, many individuals who struggle with multiple conditions also have combined social complexities. Even the most clinically astute patients have difficulty navigating the complex and fragmented healthcare systems, especially when the responsibility falls to the individual alone without effective support or partnering. This often results in inefficiencies, increased costs, and poor outcomes.

In 2012, The American Nurses Association (ANA) stated that “Patient centered care coordination is a core professional standard and competency for all nurses and should be the foundation for all care coordination programs.” They also said, “Nurses need to position themselves within the interprofessional team to perform this core nursing process and contribute to better patient outcomes.”

Correct care coordination is systematic, organized, and involves teamwork including the patient and family; it requires communication among all participants.

Currently, care coordination is a primary concern with the National Quality Agenda and one of the six priorities of the National Quality Strategy (NQS). A coordinated effort, involving an interprofessional team with the patient and their family, can help to achieve the Institute of Healthcare Improvement’s (IHI) Triple Aim goals of better care, better health, and reduced costs.

The contact center can play a vital role in the effort to manage and improve the patient’s condition. By routinely checking on the patient at predetermined intervals and monitoring the individual’s plan of care, the contact center can communicate with the interprofessional team providing a picture of the patient’s current and recent status at that point in time. Using telecommunications can provide invaluable connectivity not only to monitor patients, but also to provide a meaningful 24/7 clinical assessment capability for episodic care and interventions, should the need arise.

Nursing organizations including ANA, the American Academy of Nursing (AAN), the American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing (AAACN), and the American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE) have contributed resources to care coordination in the form of position statements, whitepapers, frameworks, policy briefs, a core curriculum, courses, and a certification in care coordination and transition management. There are also effective models and tools, along with hospital and community initiated programs.

Care coordination and transition management is a win for our healthcare system, for the providers (interprofessional team), and, most importantly, for our patients.

Traci Haynes, MSN, RN, BA, CEN is the director of clinical services at LVM Systems, Inc.

Healthcare Call Center News

New Study Examines the Challenges of Healthcare Switchboard Operators

A whitepaper by Parlance looks at the many different call handling and non-call handling duties assigned to healthcare switchboard operators, which can create difficulties in balancing service for callers with support for hospital operations and internal communications. The paper also recommends ways hospitals can better support operators to allow them to easily meet their many competing responsibilities.

Voice communications continue to play a crucial role in healthcare for both internal resources as well as external patients, vendors, insurance agencies, and other public callers. The common denominator among these disparate caller communities is the switchboard operator.

Beyond greeting callers, prioritizing their needs, and connecting them to the appropriate destinations or resources, operators are frequently tasked with a wide array of additional duties, such as announcing and tracking medical codes, coordinating emergency responses and medflights, or monitoring medical gas supplies and facility alarm panels. The workload related to these additional responsibilities, some of which are a matter of life and death, can detract from an operator’s core function of delivering excellent service that improves the patient experience and builds the hospital’s brand.

Learn more at

TriageLogic CEO Honored at Enterprising Women of the Year

TriageLogic CEO, Charu Raheja, PhD, was honored at the Enterprising Women of the Year Awards. The Enterprising Women of the Year Awards is a prestigious recognition program for women business owners. Dr. Raheja was recognized April 2 at the 15th Annual Enterprising Women of the Year Awards Celebration & Conference.

“The recipients of the 2017 Enterprising Women of the Year Awards represent an amazing group of women entrepreneurs from across the United States and as far away as The Netherlands, South Africa, Uganda, the United Kingdom, and Canada,” said Monica Smiley, publisher and CEO of Enterprising Women. “We could not be more proud to recognize their accomplishments as CEOs of fast-growth companies, community leaders, and role models and mentors to other women and girls.”

TriageLogic was also recently certified as a Women’s Business Enterprise and a Women Owned Small Business by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC).

Visit for more information.

A Thought for Today

“To put everything in balance is good, to put everything in harmony is better.” -Victor Hugo


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.

Classified Ads

Content Marketing: Need content for your website? Let Peter DeHaan, editor of Medical Call Center News, provide it for you. Rates are only $150 per page or post. Themes include healthcare call centers, customer service, and more. Email Peter for details.

Email Valerie to place your classified ad in the next issue. Only $49 for 50 words.

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.

Classified Ads

Content Marketing: Need content for your blog or website? Let Peter DeHaan, editor of Medical Call Center News, provide it for you. Rates are only $150 per page or post. Themes include healthcare call centers and customer service, as well as website content. Email Peter to learn more.

Email Valerie to place your classified ad in the next issue. Only $49 for 50 words.

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.

Classified Ads

Content Marketing: Need content for your blog or website? Let Peter DeHaan provide it for you. Rates are only $175 per page or post. 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.

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.

Classified Ads

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

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

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