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The May 2018 Issue



Stop Reacting and Take Initiative  

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Peter DeHaan, publisher and editorThough I no longer work in a call center, I remember those days well. There was always something demanding my attention, some urgent matter to attend to. I’d often spend an entire day, sometimes all week, just putting out fires. Charles Hummel called this the “tyranny of the urgent,” where urgent matters occupy all our time and push aside doing those important things that matter more.

This is true in the call center industry and even more so when you connect healthcare to it. Do more, do it for less, and do it faster. It seems there’s always a pressing need that demands our attention: an open shift, employee conflicts, and scheduling problems. There’s technical issues, vendor problems, and stakeholder complaints. It seems there’s never enough time to handle everything, let alone attending to what’s most important, such as making things better.

But working to make things better is exactly what we need to do. Here are some ideas.

Expand Agent Recruitment: A common call center complaint is not enough qualified applicants. Look at what you can do to change that. Is there a new labor market you can tap? What can you do to make your call center more attractive to the type of people you want to hire? Addressing this will require some creativity. It may help to seek assistance from knowledgeable people outside your organization and even outside medical call centers.

Improve Employee Screening: Another frequent call center issue is agent turnover. You hire promising individuals, spend time and money to train them, and then they quit. Look at why they leave. And consider those who stay. Seek to find patterns. Then apply these conclusions to your hiring practices.

Unless you can validate these findings, from a legal standpoint, you must be careful in how you use this information. Here’s one thought: At some point during the interview process, you could say, “We found that people with these characteristics tend to enjoy working for us. Do you feel this describes you?” This will help applicants self-select, with some ill-fitting candidates opting not to pursue the position further.

Enhance Training: A third concern is training, a task that is necessary, time-consuming, and expensive. Rethink how you train. Focus on what will make it more effective. Ask around and see what others are doing, both those at other medical call centers, as well as those outside the industry. Every organization needs to train employees. Learn what you can from others and apply it to your situation. Seek to make training fun, effective, and fast.

Expand Service Offerings: The idea of adding more to your workload may seem crazy, but often doing new things will invigorate staff. Look for additional ways to help your clientele. This will increase your call center’s value and serve callers more fully.

Investigate New Technology: Technological opportunities for medical call centers change fast. It seems each week there’s something new, something better, something more powerful that could help your staff do their job more effectively. Seek these tools. Test them and implement them. Your staff will thank you.

Don’t try to address all these opportunities at once. That will drive you crazy. Instead pick the one that will have the greatest impact on your operation and make it your priority. Let this become your important initiative that will take precedence over dealing exclusively with the urgency of day-to-day operations.

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


Featured Sponsor: Call 4 Health

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

Call 4 Health uses state-of-the-art technological initiatives to process up to 2,500 calls simultaneously. Each call is received with compassionate commitment using their interactive voice response (IVR) system, tailored to specific client requirements.

Their call representatives understand the difficulties in facing traumas and coping with treatments as well as the emotional and financial strains those challenges present. They place patients and their families first. Compassion is what drives them. Customer service excellence is not something they talk about; they deliver it every day.

Their call representatives create innovative solutions to meet the needs of clients and patients in today’s fast-paced world. Also, their staff takes pride in their commitment as a disaster relief call center for hurricanes or other local emergencies.

Learn more at www.call4health.com or 855-244-3258.

Call 4 Health and our other sponsors make Medical Call Center News possible. Please join us in thanking them for their support.


Healthcare Call Center Answers the Call to Do More

Medical call centers are being tasked with doing more. Take the largest call center within Indiana University Health, which is retooling to handle new work.

At the start of the year, the 105-person center in Indianapolis was handed a goal of creating a collections program, along with heightened focus on reducing initial payer denials by improved verification of insurance registration and eligibility. That’s on top of its previous job duties of scheduling and messaging support, as the virtual front desk for dozens of medical offices within IU Health’s largest physician network.

For Shelby Smith, director of the call center, the new tasks pose a challenge his team is ready to tackle. When Smith explained the change to his team, he played up the advantages. “Instead of focusing on the IU Health Physicians business unit, now we are part of the larger IU Health system,” he said. “That means more resources, the ability to have more networking, and give more full-service work. We truly can connect with patients differently now.”

The change puts the call center under the revenue cycle business unit. This requires retraining the center’s workforce, so they’re prepared to answer patient questions with the new processes being implemented. Once his staff is comfortable with the new duties, Smith said it no longer will be necessary to cold-transfer patients to another department to get their questions answered about insurance and billing issues. “Now that we have integrated into the revenue cycle team,” Smith said, “we have the ability to connect the patients better even if we don’t have the answer.”

The main point is to better serve patients.

“The idea gives us an opportunity to help the patient in different ways than before and be a more well-rounded partner with the service lines,” Smith said. He expects his staff will be fully trained to handle the new duties by mid-year.

Based in an office building in downtown Indianapolis, the call center is a busy place, handling 1.3 million calls last year (less than a third for primary care, the rest specialty care). Smith, who joined the call center four years ago when it had seventy-five employees, has helped wean the call center completely off temporary workers. Annual turnover has been cut to under 26 percent, from the over 66.3 percent when he began, a figure Smith would like to bring even lower.

Smith said the center has become more efficient through Lean process improvement techniques, which focus on managing for daily improvement. This includes daily work huddles that allow staff to pass on vital information between shifts.

As the center takes on more duties, Smith expects staff to keep growing, which would normally require more office space. But Smith introduced work-from-home options to employees. Currently, about a third of his staff work from their home. Over time, half of the center’s employees might work from home, using company-supplied computers and internet service, Smith said.

The option to work remotely not only frees up costly office space but makes for happier employees. And happier employees are sure to lead to better service for the call center’s ultimate client: the patients.


Healthcare Call Center News

1Call Integrates with QGenda: 1Call announced that healthcare customers who manage on-call and physician scheduling with the 1Call and QGenda scheduling platforms, can now deliver calls and messages to the right people, at the right time, thanks to an integration initiative between 1Call and QGenda. 1Call’s comprehensive healthcare on-call scheduling and communications suite works seamlessly with QGenda’s physician scheduling software to provide a fully integrated scheduling platform.

The integration ensures that schedule assignments in both platforms are synchronized at all times. The result is a powerful tool that plays a critical role in helping nurses and doctors save lives each day. “The 1Call on-call scheduling platform is utilized by healthcare organizations for critical communications and secure HIPAA-compliant messaging,” said Tom Curtin, president of Amtelco and the 1Call Healthcare Division.

1Call systems send roughly 14.5 million messages a day or 5.25 billion messages a year. QGenda provides automated physician scheduling for more than 170,000 providers, covering 20 million monthly shift hours.

Register for 1Call’s 2018 Leadership and Training Seminar: 1Call opened registration for their 12th Annual 1Call Leadership and Training Seminar. The conference will be September 18-20, 2018, at the Park Hotel, located on Madison, Wisconsin’s Capitol Square. Topics will focus on MergeComm, miSecureMessages, and Genesis. It will also cover best practices for implementing IS and how 1Call provides a reliable, cost-effective enterprise solution.

This event provides attendees with a unique opportunity to learn how to use 1Call solutions to streamline communications throughout healthcare organizations. Additionally, it provides an opportunity to network with other healthcare communication professionals. Attendees can also talk directly with Amtelco implementation specialists, software developers, project managers, and field engineers.

Learn more at 1call2018.eventbrite.com.


A Thought for Today

“Kindness is always fashionable.” -Amelia Barr

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The March 2018 Issue



The Impact of Video Calls on Call Center Agents and Operations

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

In the last issue of Medical Call Center News, we Peter DeHaan, publisher and editortalked about using video in your call center. Three advantages are that video can help build caller rapport, aid triage, and elevate the professionalism of your call center.

However, before you embrace video, consider these elements and prepare accordingly:

Technology

Having the right video gear is critical to success. Don’t select the cheapest option, but pick the solution that provides great results. Just as you want your agents to have high quality headsets, you should want high-quality video as well. Your reputation as a professional communications provider is at stake.

Environment

Look at your operations room. Specifically, what will be in the background of every shot? People walking behind agents as they talk with callers will be distracting. And if a broken chair, cluttered cubicle, or overflowing wastebasket is visible to callers, that sends the wrong message. You may need to install a backdrop for some agent stations. Don’t neglect this and hope to figure it out later.

Agent Appearance

In the audio-only world of a call center, an agent’s voice is all that matters. In a video world, appearance is important, too. And while an attractive visual helps a great deal, it isn’t essential. But good grooming is. Many call centers already have a dress code in place. And if yours doesn’t, this is a good reason to have one. But beyond attire there are basic personal appearance issues which you should insist upon.

Training

Though some people are naturals, it takes practice for most of us to be comfortable in front of a camera, especially those who didn’t grow up in a video-centric world where every action could be recorded.

In agent training, we tell them to smile, because callers can hear the smile in their voice. With video, a smile is even more important because callers can see it, too.

First, get your agents use to the camera being at their station before turning it on. Teach them how to use it and what to expect. Then let them practice with coworkers. Only when they’re ready should they begin sharing their video with callers.

Implementation

It’s best to roll out a video initiative in phases. Don’t announce that on next Monday morning your call center is going 100 percent video enabled. You may suddenly find yourself short staffed. Instead phase in video.

Seek volunteers to pilot the program. Let the most eager ones go first. They can work out the bugs and help fine-tune your technology and processes. Building on this success, your agents who are sitting on the fence when it comes to video will begin to show interest. Work them into the schedule over time. Then deal with the outliers. It might be that a few agents will refuse. Know what you will do if this occurs. There may be an ongoing non-video role for them in your call center. If that’s okay, except it. Just be sure that all new hires are ready to embrace video.

Just as your callers will not all be ready for video at the same time, your agents don’t have to be ready either. But you do want to be able to direct video calls to video agents and keep audio-only calls to audio-only agents.

Though no one knows how quickly the move to call center video will occur, it could happen sooner than we expect. Now is the time to begin moving toward that future.

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


Featured Sponsor: Answering Service One

Offering A New Approach to Medical Answering Service

Answering Service One: medical answering service and healthcare call center servicesAnswering Service One doesn’t sell services or tout features. They offer solutions that provide tangible benefits and sought-after outcomes for the healthcare industry.

Answering Service One is a division of Call Center Sales Pro, and the two organizations work in partnership with each other. Call Center Sales Pro is the creation of industry expert Janet Livingston. Janet, a longtime answering service veteran, grew her first answering service into a three-time Inc 5000 winner before selling it to move into consulting and start Call Center Sales Pro. To accomplish this, Janet assembled a team of talented experts to serve the answering service and call center industry, with a focus on healthcare.

Christopher Calhoun leads the Answering Service One team as its president. His goal is for Answering Service One to “become your number one resource to handle all your telephone communication and customer service needs.”

Chris’s leadership skills and business expertise, coupled with Janet’s vast answering service experience and compelling vision, lead an accomplished team who produces results using a fresh approach to handling calls and related communications. And you can benefit from all this when you partner with Answering Service One, a premier answering service designed from the ground up to be the nation’s number one answering service provider.

Learn more at sales@answeringserviceone.com or 800-901-7776.

Answering Service One and our other sponsors make Medical Call Center News possible. Please join us in thanking them for their support.


Mix Medical Answering Service with Telephone Triage for a Winning Combination

By Kurt Duncan

When patients call their doctor’s office after hours, they have one of two objectives. Either they want medical advice, or they need assistance managing their healthcare. Although these two needs seem similar, the ideal solutions come from different sources: telephone triage for medical advice and medical answering service for everything else. Here’s why:

Let Specialists Specialize

Just as you seek a specialist to address specific healthcare issues, so too should you tap the right provider to handle specific types of phone calls. You wouldn’t expect a cardiologist to set a broken bone. You’d choose the appropriate provider for your particular healthcare need. Do the same thing when it comes to phone calls.

Medical answering services specialize in helping patients manage their healthcare needs after business hours, when the office is closed. They do a great job at this, but they aren’t staffed with trained medical personnel to offer medical advice. Alternately, telephone triage call centers specialize in this exact thing. However, they’re ill prepared to set an appointment, take a message for your office staff, or give out information about your practice.

Get the Best of Both Worlds

This means you need a two-pronged approach to most effectively deal with the after-hours needs of your patients. Start with a medical answering service, and let them do what they do best: answer calls, take messages, and give out basic information. They can also set appointments, handle cancellations, or make changes.

Then, when someone needs to talk to a healthcare professional, the medical answering service makes a smooth handoff to a telephone triage provider. This delivers a complete solution for patients and allows them to address virtually any concern they may have when their doctor’s office is closed.

Realize Cost-Effective Solutions

Though it may seem more efficient to find a telephone triage provider who also handles answering service calls, this isn’t a cost-effective solution. The service structure of a triage provider could end up costing ten or twenty dollars for a basic non-triage call. In fact, most telephone triage providers won’t even entertain this as an option.

By having a medical answering service frontend all calls and handing off triage calls to a telephone triage provider, the result is a most cost-effective solution. This allows doctors to hold down costs while still providing a holistic service to patients.

Delight Patients

By having a medical answering service serve as the first point of contact after office hours, patients receive excellent service. They call the office number, which forwards to the medical answering service. The medical answering service will address the patients’ needs. If the caller needs a triage nurse, they’ll make a smooth handoff.

From the patients’ perspective, this is an ideal solution. This will delight them and earn their loyalty to the doctors’ practice.

Kurt Duncan is with the award-winning MedConnectUSA. Learn how their answering service can integrate with telephone triage to provide a winning combination. Get a free quote or call 888-216-8482 for more information.


Healthcare Call Center News

Call 4 Health Call Center Opens Third Facility

 Call 4 Health, a leading medical call center and nurse triage service, opened a third location in Spring Hill, TN. Headquartered in Delray Beach, FL, it also operates a center in Linthicum Heights, MD.

“The demand for call center services in the medical industry has exploded in recent years,” said Joseph Pores, Call 4 Health CEO.” With this new facility, we will be able to greatly increase our volume and bring our proprietary, innovative technology to even more hospitals and medical centers around the country.”

The expansion includes the procurement of a 15,000 square feet facility, which will house 200 call center agents and triage nurses.

Call 4 Health uses state-of-the-art technology initiatives, and currently processes up to 30,000 calls daily for 1,400 clients, creating a solution to the demand put on large health systems and hospitals. Call 4 Health serves clients nationwide in almost every state. Eighty percent of its clients are hospitals and healthcare systems, with the remaining 20 percent in homecare, hospice, and pharmaceuticals.

With the addition of the Spring Hill facility, Call 4 Health expects to increase its daily call volume to 50,000 and client base to 2,000.

TriageLogic Updates MyTriageChecklist

TriageLogic introduced the latest version of MyTriageChecklist®, a daytime telephone nurse triage software to triage and document patient phone calls. This upgrade includes new features with data analytics reports and the ability for providers to customize the care instructions their nurses give during triage calls.

MyTriageChecklist includes the ability to create custom reports. The new analytics feature allows practices to easily evaluate and monitor their clinical patient phone calls. They can see in real time the results of patient calls, including protocols used, disposition, and outcomes.

Another new feature of myTriageChecklist allows the creation of custom orders. With this technology, once the nurse has determined the appropriate level of care, they can follow tailored instructions based on physician or practice preferences. For example, some doctors prefer their patients use specific brands of medications when appropriate. Other examples include a specific urgent care center or ER to go to if patients need immediate treatment. This option allows the nurse to help patients without having to consult with the doctor on every call.

1Call Announces #How1CallHelps Hashtag for HIMSS18

The 1Call Division of Amtelco announced the use of a special hashtag, #How1CallHelps, to fit the HIMSS18 theme, “Where the World Connects for Health” to act as an anchor for eight core messages it will feature at the show. Attendees can use the #How1CallHelps hashtag to learn about 1Call’s role in helping healthcare organizations with code calls, directories, disaster preparedness, notifications, on-call scheduling, operator consoles, scripted workflows, and secure texting.

1Call will have two booths at HIMSS18: a primary booth at #4039 and another featuring the miSecureMessages secure texting app at #7308. “1Call is looking forward to another successful conference,” said Mike Friedel, 1Call senior vice president of sales. “We have continued to develop secure and useful communications solutions for professional healthcare organizations. Year after year these organizations visit the 1Call booths to help their organization become more efficient, profitable, customer-centric, and more successful overall.”

Hospitals and clinics consistently report that using 1Call’s enterprise-wide communication solutions leads to improved patient satisfaction, reduced operator training times, fewer communication errors, and increased productivity.


A Thought for Today

“There is always more goodness in the world than there appears to be, because goodness is of its very nature modest and retiring.” -Evelyn Beatrice Hall

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The January 2018 Issue



What’s Your Call Center’s Position on Video Calls?

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Peter DeHaan, publisher and editorLast time we talked about web chat and it’s growing use in the call center. Another interesting technology that will make inroads in the call center is video. Just as text messaging is driving demand for web chat, the use of Skype, Face Time, and other video apps will spur interest in video calls to your call center.

Here are some advantages of video calling in your call center:

Builds Rapport: Most communication happens from body language, which puts call center agents at a definite disadvantage. All we can go on are the words spoken and the tone of voice, because when we’re on the phone, we miss the visual cues so critical in face-to-face communication. But with video, we open ourselves to a fuller communication experience. This will help us communicate more effectively and build rapport with our callers and patients.

Aids Triage: In a telephone triage environment, video calls can pay off huge. No longer is the triage nurse limited to verbal interaction to decide on the best course of action. With video, healthcare practitioners can see the patient and incorporate important images and visual cues in their assessment. Not only will this make for more accurate results, but it will also get there faster.

Elevates the Call Center: For too many people, especially younger generations, the call center is low on their list of communication choices. Too many view a phone call as an option of last resort, while some dismiss it altogether. However, these same people are open to video. Providing video as an option will draw some reluctant patients back to your call center. They’ll consider it as a viable, and even preferred, option to find answers to questions and communicate with your organization.

Where do you stand on video for your call center? Perhaps you’ve already embraced it. Or maybe you’re moving in that direction, by researching, planning, and even testing.

Though possibly you’re doing nothing with video. This might be because you’re too busy with other things, worry about how your staff will react to video, or need more technology to make it happen. But doing nothing is not a solution.

Take some time to consider the role of video in your call center. And to help you with this thought process, next time we’ll talk about how video will affect your agents and impact your operation.

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


Sponsor Spotlight: TriageLogic

TriageLogicTriageLogic is a leading provider of quality, affordable triage solutions, including comprehensive after-hours call center services and innovative online systems for use in both institutional and private practice settings. TriageLogic is a healthcare company that creates leading-edge telephone medicine technology based on practical experience and a thorough understanding of the field.

Triage Logic and our other sponsors make Medical Call Center News possible. Please join us in thanking them for their support.


Responding to New Trends in Insurance Coverage for ED Cases

By Mark Dwyer

The Problem: Denying Insurance Coverage for ED Cases Later Deemed Non-Urgent

According to a December 22, 2017 article in Modern Healthcare by Steven Ross Johnson, Senator Claire McCaskill is taking on insurance giant Anthem over its controversial policy to deny coverage for emergency department treatment for cases later determined not to have been emergent. This policy exists in Missouri, Georgia, and parts of Kentucky. Anthem plans to expand it to Indiana, New Hampshire, and Ohio next year.

“Anthem’s policies are discouraging individuals from receiving needed care and treatment out of fear they may personally be fully financially responsible for the cost of treatment, even though they have insurance,” McCaskill wrote in a letter sent to Anthem’s CEO on Wednesday, December 20, 2017.

Although this new policy will likely be of great value to Anthem, it comes at a price to healthcare providers and the patient’s they serve. While researching his article, Steven Ross Johnson contacted Dr. Ryan Stanton, an emergency physician in Lexington, Ky., and a spokesman for the American College of Emergency Physicians for comment. Johnson learned that during the previous four months, Anthem had denied hundreds of claims from providers all over the state.

Providers are concerned this policy may encourage people to wait at home, allowing their symptoms to become worse, before finally heading to the ED. This may leave physicians unable to help the patient.

Dr. Stanton explained that Anthem often reviews ED cases deciding based solely on diagnostic ICD-10 codes instead of medical records. If Anthem denies a case, the provider can appeal and the insurer may review the patient’s medical records.

Mr. Johnson added that Dr. Stanton warned the policy forces patients to diagnose themselves to avoid the risk of paying out of pocket for their ED visits. He fears such a scenario will increase their health risk.

The Solution is Healthcare’s Best Kept Secret: The Nurse Triage Call Center

Often sequestered in the bowels of the hospital, in off-site locations, or in individual remote nurses’ homes, too many organizations still perceive the triage call center as merely a side program with little real overall value. The limited number of triage call centers across our country demonstrates this.

I have written for years on the importance of the healthcare call center, both clinical and marketing. If you are a nurse triage call center, you know the solution is simple: Right Care, Right Time, Right Place. To accomplish this, while addressing Anthem’s new policy, a patient could be required to contact the triage nurse to determine whether the patient’s symptoms warrant an ED disposition.

If so, the patient receives an authorization code to present upon arrival at the ED. This code would also appear on the patient’s triage chart sent to the ED. Implementing this process not only eliminates non-emergent patients from congesting the ED, it also assures the patient’s insurance will cover the appropriate ED costs.

If your call center provides nurse triage services, especially for patients insured with Anthem in the affected states, consider including pre-ED authorization. If you do not offer nurse triage services, now is the time to consider adding them.

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


Make Telemedicine Services Successful in 2018

By Dr. Ravi Rajeha

A new study found that healthcare organizations are opening up to telemedicine and expanding to provide quality services and generate revenue. With this, there are many available telemedicine options. Here are some considerations.

Increased Telemedicine Adoption: A 2017 Foley Telemedicine and Digital Health Survey, revealed that more than three-quarters of those surveyed are using or plan to provide telemedicine services to patients. Just three years ago this survey showed that 87 percent of respondents did not expect most of their patients would be using telemedicine services by 2017.

Improved Telemedicine ROI: The Foley survey shows that telemedicine provides an opportunity to see a financial return. Over 70 percent realized cost savings from telemedicine. Nearly a third saw more than 20 percent savings. Although many companies see a positive ROI, telemedicine service provider selection is key to determine the level of success.

Critical Telemedicine AIMS:

  • Adaptive: The healthcare industry continues to evolve. Success requires being able to adapt. Look for a company that listens to clients and makes upgrades to meet needs.
  • Integrated: The telemedicine software should integrate seamlessly with current workflows. It needs to be cohesive and allow for easy data transfer.
  • Measurable: Choose a platform that includes different portals for clients to look at data and analyze it.
  • Supported: The telemedicine service should have training and support available to troubleshoot any concerns.

These are some of the key factors to consider when implementing or expanding telemedicine services. It is important to do research to find which solution will be best for your organization.

Dr. Ravi Raheja, is the medical director at TriageLogic, which is a leader in telehealth technology and services. Visit www.triagelogic.com for more information.


Healthcare Call Center News

Call 4 Health Earns 2017 Award of Excellence

Call 4 Health, headquartered in Delray Beach, Florida, has been honored with the exclusive 2017 Award of Excellence. The award is presented annually by the Canadian Call Management Association (CAM-X). Call 4 Health received the award at the CAM-X 53rd Annual Convention and Trade Show held at the Marriott Pinnacle in Vancouver, BC.

“We are truly honored to receive this prestigious award,” said Joseph Pores, CEO of Call 4 Health. “This achievement underlines our commitment to delivering quality customer service and compassionate care to patients.”

Independent judges are contracted by CAM-X to evaluate message services over a six-month period. The scoring criteria include response time, agent courteousness, call accuracy, account knowledge, and overall impression of the call.

“Huge congratulations to Call 4 Health for winning this prestigious award. The responsibility and effort required to participate, and succeed, in the Award of Excellence program is a direct reflection of the commitment to quality and service excellence demonstrated by Call 4 Health,” said CAM-X president Dana Lloyd.

1Call Announces Major Transformer Update

The 1Call Division of Amtelco announced a major update to the capabilities of the Transformer data importing utility. This update features an improved user interface, along with many new capabilities, saving countless hours for new 1Call customers and current customers upgrading to newer platforms such as Genesis.

The Transformer speeds and simplifies the process of moving data by using a set of utilities to import data (including SQL, LDAP, and delimited files), directories, on-call schedules, ACD tables, agent settings, client information, greetings, and images. These utilities are run separately and include the ability for users to determine how the source data will be transformed.

Vice president of research and development, Kevin Beale, commented, “Our software engineers have spent many hours refining the Transformer tools to meet current and future customer needs. The result is a new streamlined process that has impressed many customers who have already used it.”


A Thought for Today

“What a child doesn’t receive he can seldom later give.” -P.D. James

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The November 2017 Issue



Will Web Chat Take Over the Healthcare Call Center?

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Peter DeHaan, publisher and editorWith the Millennial generation’s love for texting and general avoidance of placing a phone call, it’s tempting to project the demise of the call center. Although this may make for a logical conclusion, it’s not going to happen any time soon. Though tomorrow’s healthcare call center will undoubtedly have more chat transactions than it does now, the telephone will remain its primary communication device.

Why?

The reason is the simple fact that calls are superior in several key situations, and these significant advantages will not go away any time soon.

Talking is More Effective: Speaking is faster than typing. When describing complex medical situations, speaking our words is more effective than typing them. With the status of our health at stake, we want to communicate quickly and to get it right the first time. The telephone allows us to do this.

Our Tone Carries Meaning: Emotions are easier to communicate verbally and to be understood. Humor, desperation, and pain do not come across well in written form. How many times have you had a text message or email be misunderstood because your tone of voice did not come across?

Likewise, healthcare provider empathy comes across better when talking, instead of typing. It’s hard to communicate compassion through a chat box.

Yes, we do have emojis, a graphical representation of various emotional states, yet emojis are prone to misunderstandings, offering confusion almost as often as clarity.

Pick Up the Phone: In stressful situations, people of all generations, will gravitate to the phone. It provides for fast and efficient communication in time-critical, stressful situations. Often, when people reach out for medical help, the situation is both time-critical and stressful. The telephone offers a simple, no-hassle way to communicate. That’s why it’s the go-to tool for difficult situations.

Yes, texting is the newer technology that all the cool kids use, while the telephone seems stodgy and old school in comparison. Yet when critical, timely, and accurate communication is essential, the telephone wins most every time.

In the future, your healthcare call center will undoubtedly handle more chat communications. However, the telephone will continue to ring for most situations.

To prepare for the future, embrace chat technology, if you haven’t already done so. But don’t lose sight of the telephone. It will continue to be the cornerstone of your healthcare call center operation for many years to come.

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


Telehealth: The Future of Telecommunications in the Healthcare Industry

By Vicotria Rodriguez

Around sixty years ago when someone in your family was sick, you called a doctor. The doctor would show up at your doorstep a few hours later with his duffle bag of medical equipment ready to diagnose and treat. Today the face of the healthcare industry has changed significantly as the introduction of telehealth and telemedicine solutions arise.

Telehealth is the use of medical information shared from one site to another using electronic communications to improve patient’s clinical health status. With the rise of healthcare costs and physician shortages, there are too many healthcare losses. Telehealth is the perfect resolution and provides a convenient, timesaving experience for both healthcare professionals and patients. It is easily accessed through basic technology like a telephone, internet, or computer.

According to the American Association of Medical colleges, there will be a shortage of 46,000 to 90,000 primary care physicians by 2025. While this is a significant problem for the entire healthcare system, it’s specifically an issue for those in rural areas, that are already underserved.

This is where telehealth especially comes in handy, due to its ability to be at patients’ fingertips anywhere, anytime. Typically, these sessions involve the physician reviewing an electronic medical record that contains the patient’s history, lab findings, x-rays, and other medical testing done in typical medical centers.

Telehealth is an expansion to small practices and many specialties including allergy and immunology, anesthesia, cardiology, critical care, dentistry, dermatology, internal medicine, neurology, pediatrics, psychiatry, and urology.

Telehealth providers can deliver the same care that an in-person provider can, with 86 percent of physicians saying they were satisfied with the quality of care provided while utilizing a telehealth system. While there are many arguments opposing the accuracy of the telehealth experience, it’s here to stay and will become more of an asset to telecommunication as technology advances.

Victoria Rodriguez is marketing specialist for Call 4 Health, a leading medical call center that serves the healthcare industry and offers telemedicine services


10 Signs That It May Be Time to Outsource Your Hospital Call Center

By Keith Slater

Healthcare executives may not know when it’s time to pull the plug on a deficient in-house call center and outsource to a professional hospital call center. Here are ten signs that it might be time:

  1. You Miss Key Call Center Benchmarks: If 5 percent or more of patients hang up before they’re helped, hold times are longer than 60 seconds, or call routing accuracy is under 99 percent, your call center may be understaffed or lacking training.
  2. Patient Satisfaction Scores Are Dropping: In healthcare, 96 percent of patient complaints relate to customer service. If your scores are trending down, your call center may be a big part of the problem.
  3. High Call Center Staff Turnover: Many healthcare providers fill call center jobs with entry-level people who have front desk or scheduling knowhow rather than professional customer service experience. As a result, people leave for a nominal pay increase somewhere else. Others are terminated because they don’t have the skills or empathy to handle patients.
  4. You Don’t Review Recorded Calls: The key to a successful call center is to reduce variation by scripting and enforcing telephone protocols. Often, healthcare leaders don’t have the time or technical telephony resources to evaluate service quality. This exacerbates patient dissatisfaction and leads to complaints.
  5. Call Center Staff Doesn’t Receive Ongoing Training: A lack of training affects patient satisfaction. It also leads to a revolving door of frustrated employees who feel unprepared to deliver quality service. Continuous quality improvement, agent coaching, and reinforcement training is key to lower turnover and increase patient satisfaction.
  6. You Don’t Track Revenue Losses from Patient Leakage: Loyalty is less important to patients than convenience. To protect and grow revenue, healthcare providers must monitor appointment volume, chase no-shows, and proactively call patients to encourage preventive care or return visits. Few providers have the staff to do so.  
  7. Referring Providers Are Frustrated: If a referring provider can’t get through to make an appointment for their own patients, it puts revenue and future physician referrals at risk. Many healthcare organizations don’t have the resources to handle these calls any differently than patient calls. This results in resorting to archaic processes such as voicemail and faxing referrals.
  8. Inconsistent Patient Experience: A seamless patient experience is especially important in large healthcare systems. Without an efficient centralized call center, patients must make multiple calls or be routed from one department to another with inconsistent service and procedures.
  9. Poor Data Entry: When internal call center representatives fail to verify insurance, set payment expectations, or enter patient information correctly, it can lead to rejected claims, more work on the backend, and patient frustration.
  10. Providers Face Work Overload and Unbalanced Schedules: Physicians deal daily with the chronic strains of working with too many patients and having frequent stressful encounters with both patients and staff. If your internal call center has insufficient resources to manage large patient volumes, your providers can be at risk for burnout. In addition to focusing on patient satisfaction, it’s equally important to improve provider satisfaction to retain top medical talent.

Since a majority of patient care occurs in physician offices and patients must call for an appointment or to have questions answered, why risk using inadequate internal resources to manage an in-house call center? Instead consider outsourcing to a professional healthcare call center that’s up to the challenge.

Keith Slater is vice president of business development at Change Healthcare. Contact him at performanceinfo@mckesson.com. Download their new e-book to learn more about industry insights into patient satisfaction and key strategies to improving the total patient experience. For more information on outsourcing your medical call center, visit www.mckesson.com/callcenter.


Healthcare Call Center News

TriageLogic Integrates Nurse Triage Software with Salesforce

TriageLogic© introduced a Salesforce integrated version of their nurse triage module. With MyTriageChecklist, the new comprehensive triage module, medical call centers with Salesforce can add nurse triage protocols to create a clinical call center out of the box. TriageLogic will be at Dreamforce November 6-9 to announce the new version of MyTriageChecklist at the largest enterprise software conference in the world.

Salesforce has recently gained momentum in providing the healthcare industry with their CRM platform to improve the patient experience. However, there is no actual clinical content in Salesforce. This is why TriageLogic and Silverline teamed up to develop a seamlessly integrated nurse triage module for Salesforce. With MyTriageChecklist, providers can access gold-standard Schmitt-Thompson protocols directly in their Salesforce platform to provide patients with quality nurse triage services.

“With the current trend in healthcare, having nurse advice available to every patient is critical to provide cost-effective, compassionate care. By integrating this module into Salesforce, any organization can set up a clinical call center,” said Ravi Raheja, MD, medical director for TriageLogic.

Some of the key highlights of this robust module include:

  • Nurse triage protocols from Schmitt-Thompson, daytime and after-hours
  • Preconfigured to work seamlessly inside Salesforce
  • The fastest and most efficient interface in the industry
  • Medication dosage charts; click to add to triage documentation
  • Email and text handouts and encounter-specific care advice to callers

Visit www.triagelogic.com for more information.

2017 1Call Leadership and Training Seminar Wrap-Up

The 1Call Division of Amtelco completed another successful 1Call Leadership and Training Seminar. 1Call customers, along with prospects and Amtelco staff, gathered in Madison, Wisconsin, September 12–14, 2017, to experience sessions to help healthcare organizations enhance their enterprise-wide communications.

After the informative “Generations Collide” keynote presentation by Chad Kopitzke of NeXtGen Advantage, attendees learned about Genesis, MergeComm, and miTeamWeb, along with new features for miSecureMessages and the Intelligent Series. In addition, customers presented sessions on MergeComm, web chat, miSecureMessages, and Intelligent Series.

Attendees shared positive comments about the seminar, including, “Excellent”; “I look forward to what you come up with for next year”; “the Amtelco team has a knack for facilitating an approachable networking environment”; “Friends and family: Never change this! Too few companies understand this”; “I learned something at all the sessions”; “Intrigued by the endless possibilities of MergeComm”; and “Each session was a learning experience.”

Next year’s 1Call Leadership and Training Seminar will be held in Madison, Wisconsin, on September 18–20, 2018, in a new location at The Park Hotel, on Madison’s Capitol Square. Learn more at 800-225-6035 or seminars@1call.com.


A Thought for Today

“Do unto those downstream as you would have those upstream do unto you.” -Wendell Berry

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The September 2017 Issue



The Promise of Telephone Triage and Physician Locator Services

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Peter DeHaan, publisher and editorTelephone triage is a great solution that meets the healthcare needs for many patients. However, though I write about telephone triage, I have no first-hand experience. Alas, there are no telephone triage services available to me—or at least none that I’m aware of. I wish there were.

It may shock you to know I don’t have a primary care physician. But it’s not for a lack of trying. Here’s the short version: Years ago I called my doctor’s office to make an appointment when I was down with a cold. The doctor wouldn’t see me because I hadn’t recently seen him when I was well. When I was better I called to schedule an annual check-up. They declined. My paper records were in storage and apparently it was too much hassle to retrieve them. I suggested they treat me as a new patient, but my doctor wasn’t accepting new patients. Apparently he had fired me. That was ten years ago. I haven’t had a primary care physician since.

Over the past five years I’ve required medical attention four times. Once was a trip to ER for stitches. The other three times were to urgent care to snag a prescription for antibiotics. On my last visit they encouraged me to find a primary care physician. I agreed. After recovering, I went online searching for a conveniently-located doctor.

I ended up at the website of a large healthcare provider. I entered my ZIP code and asked for doctors nearby. The closest match was .06 miles away. That’s 317 feet, but this doctor was actually over twenty miles away, a thirty-five-minute drive. I checked the next fifteen providers, all of whom were reported to be within five miles. None were. I gave up.

I wish I could call a physician locator service, but there aren’t any in my area, at least none that I know of.

I’m convinced healthcare call centers can fill a vital need in the provision of healthcare services, both telephone triage and doctor locator services. If only they were available in my area. Hopefully the reality of what is will soon catch up with the potential of what can be. Until then I hope I don’t get sick.

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


Reduce Unnecessary ER Visits with Telephone Triage

By Charu Raheja, PhD

Telemedicine has been gaining acceptance as a means of lowering healthcare costs and decreasing the unnecessary use of the ER. Telephone nurse triage has become part of the telemedicine solution. By using standardized protocols to advise patients on their symptoms and indicate the appropriate care, triage nurses decrease unnecessary ER visits, resulting in significant annual healthcare savings. In addition, having nurses as the first line of care encourages patients to call since patients aren’t sure if they need a doctor to evaluate their symptoms.

Unnecessary ER visits cost patients, hospitals, and insurance companies approximately 4.4 billion dollars a year according to the RAND Corporation. This problem has become such an issue that earlier this summer Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia told patients with individual policies that they will not cover ER claims if the patient doesn’t have a legitimate emergency. They recommend patients use urgent care centers, retail health clinics, and 24/7 telehealth services.

The improper use of ER places a high financial burden on the entire US healthcare system. With the US healthcare system in serious need of cost-cutting, there is increased pressure to minimize unnecessary use, while ensuring people who truly need care receive it in a timely manner, thereby reducing the potential for life-threatening conditions.

One important, but often overlooked aspects of nurse triage is the human aspect of the service. Most callers are truly concerned about their symptoms, and having access to a triage nurse provides reassurance and guidance. It’s difficult to put a price on peace of mind. In addition, some callers may not realize the severity of their symptoms and may fear being responsible for the ER bill, thus delaying care for potentially life-threatening conditions. About one in fourteen callers thought their symptoms weren’t serious prior to the nurse sending them to the emergency room. Providing patients with a qualified telephone triage nurse prevents these patients from improperly self-diagnosing and ensures that they get the treatment they need.

As telemedicine expands into new services, providing innovative and cost-effective care, it’s important to remember that the benefits reach beyond budgetary significance. Nurse triage saves lives and provides comfort to callers worried about their symptoms and would have otherwise gone to the ER. However, a significant portion of the US population lacks access to telephone nurse triage. Implementing telephone medicine to a greater population can save lives and improve health outcomes.

Charu Raheja, Ph.D., is the CEO of TriageLogic and Continuwell. Both companies focus on telehealth by integrating communication solutions with medical expertise. TriageLogic is a leading provider of quality, affordable triage solutions, including comprehensive URAC accredited after-hours call center services and innovative online systems for use in both institutional and private practice settings. Contact TriageLogic to get a quote or set up a demo.


Is it Time to Consider Hospital Call Center Outsourcing?

By Keith Slater

“Patient experience,” “customer service,” “patient satisfaction scores,” and “value-based performance” are part of hospitals’ and healthcare providers’ everyday vocabulary. Value-based care pushes them to achieve many more financial objectives and improve the patient experience. Providers who lose patients because of poor customer service or inefficient physician referral processes feel a direct hit on revenue and, ultimately, on the bottom line.

Plus, there’s another financial incentive to improve customer service. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) requires hospitals subject to the Inpatient Prospective Payment System (IPPS) annual payment update provisions to collect and submit data from the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey to receive their full IPPS annual payment update. If they don’t, their annual payment update may be reduced by two percent. The HCAHPS survey measures patients’ perceptions of their hospital experiences, which include responsiveness of hospital staff and other service measures.

Balancing Customer Service and Clinical Care: Many hospitals and healthcare providers struggle to focus on the patient experience and customer service because of competing priorities. Value-based care; clinical, quality and safety initiatives; mergers and acquisitions; integrating employed physicians; software conversions and migrations; and supply management often monopolize their attention. Too often, they ignore call centers.

C-suite executives and leaders responsible for the patient experience are overburdened. Staff members often wear too many hats, leaving customer service and call centers to suffer. In most cases it’s not intentional. Healthcare organizations with in-house call centers don’t always monitor calls or track call metrics from a patient access or experience perspective. Many don’t realize they have a problem until revenue shortfalls and patient satisfaction scores show otherwise.

Signs of Medical Call Center Vulnerability: Perhaps the biggest reason in-house healthcare call centers fall short is because they’re not run like true call centers. It’s typical for a hospital or healthcare system to put existing front desk or scheduling staff in a central location to try to gain efficiencies and improve service. Many times they don’t emphasize the importance of excellence in customer service skills or invest in the rigor required to run a true call center.

Then they end up with unhappy employees, high staff turnover, and frustrated patients. Healthcare executives may not know when it’s time to pull the plug on a deficient call center and outsource those hospital call center services to a professional firm.

Why Medical Call Center Outsourcing Works: Running a call center requires specialized expertise—even more so when the calls entail patient questions about health issues and possible financial challenges. Outsourced medical call centers know how to hire representatives with good listening skills, a calm demeanor, a service mentality, and empathy for patients. They provide agents with ongoing, in-depth training on the medical aspects of the job and how to represent healthcare providers as if they were members of their clients’ staff. Good call center providers have advanced technology and tools to help ensure quality and report results.

Since 70 percent of all patient care occurs in a physician office setting and patients must call for appointment scheduling or to get their questions answered, why would you risk putting inadequate resources in place to manage your call center? Why not outsource to a professional healthcare call center that can get the job done?

Keith Slater is vice president of business development at Change Healthcare. Contact him at performanceinfo@mckesson.com. Download their new e-book to learn more about industry insights into patient satisfaction and key strategies to improving the total patient experience. For more information visit www.mckesson.com/callcenter.


Healthcare Call Center News

Ambs Call Center Honored For Excellence

Ambs Call Center received the ATSI 2017 Award of Excellence. This annual award is presented by the Association of TeleServices International (ATSI). Call centers from across North America and the United Kingdom take part in the program, which uses independent judges to place test calls to participating call centers. These secret-shopper calls occur over a six-month time frame. “Companies that earn this award are continuously focusing on delivering excellence in customer call handling,” said ATSI president Doug Robbins.

The award started twenty-one years ago to improve the quality of the telephone answering service industry. Now a fourteen-time winner Ambs Call Center earned the Emerald Award. “I am extremely proud of our team for earning this year’s award. Making sure that we deliver an exceptional customer service experience to our customers 24/7/365 is no small feat,” said Aaron Boatin, president of Ambs Call Center.

The healthcare division of Ambs Call Center provides medical answering service, patient satisfaction, physician referral, and class registration. Ambs Call Center is family owned and has been in business since 1932.

Schmitt-Thompson Clinical Content Joins the Air Force

Schmitt-Thompson Clinical Content (STCC) announced they have been awarded a ten-year agreement by the Air Force Medical Operations Agency (AFMOA) for the delivery of electronic triage protocols for telehealth nursing to medical treatment facilities enterprise-wide. This would entail a deployment over the next twelve months of the Office Hours content to all seventy-six Air Force military treatment facilities.

Each of the Air Force bases has a military treatment facility. Patients are seen in their walk-in clinics. Supplementing this is a triage telecom service (medical call center) with nurse staff ranging from as few as four telephone triage nurses per site (Air Force base) to as many as eighty-five nurses.


A Thought For Today

“An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made in a very narrow field.” -Niels Bohr

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The July 2017 Issue



The One Sure Thing About the Future of Healthcare

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


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The 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

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