Category Archives: Issues

The current issue of Medical Call Center News. (Scroll down to see past issues.)

The March 2019 Issue

Is It Time to Start a Medical Answering Service?

Begin Your Investigation with a Little Research

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

When I worked as a call center consultant (before moving full-time into publishing and writing) I advised hospital communication centers, healthcare call centers, and medical answering services. One hospital asked me to investigate the feasibility of them starting a medical answering service. Their doctors begged them to do so, and there was only one local provider that no one seemed to like.

I talked with some of the advocates of a hospital-based answering service and did a bit of investigation into the local provider. The initiative looked promising, and I ran the numbers. The hospital decided to move forward. But before they scheduled me to help them start their answering service, my contact abruptly retired and a change in management decided to pause the project. Next quarter they assured me, which became next year. They never did have me return.

I don’t know if they started their answering service or not, but I do know that what I would’ve charged them thousands of dollars for is now condensed in my new book How to Start a Telephone Answering Service, which came out in January.

If your hospital or healthcare organization is considering starting a medical answering service, you can hire an industry consultant to guide you or you can save a lot of money and buy my book.

And even if hiring a consultant is the way you want to go, start with my book as a primer. It’s available in paperback and Kindle and carries a 4.8-star rating.

Learn more at

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

Featured Sponsor: Answering Service One

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

Let Answering Service One become your number one resource for communicating with patients and callers. With Answering Service One, you can reduce expenses, provide excellence to patients, enhance communications, and realize increased focus.

The motto of Answering Service One says it all: “Number one in quality, number one in customer service, and number one in value.”

To learn more about Answering Service One’s 24-hour medical answering service and healthcare call center service for your practice, clinic, facility, or hospital, contact them at 800-901-7776 or

The Goal of the Telephone Triage Process

By Rose Moon, RN, BSN

Telephone triage processes are proven to improve access to care professionals, lower patient anxiety, save on ER costs, and prevent unnecessary health complications. The primary goal of the telephone triage process is to deliver safe, quality-oriented telephone triage partnered with outstanding customer service. The health, safety, and wellbeing of the patient is at the forefront of every telephone encounter.

The purpose of the telephone triage process is to assess the patient’s current signs and symptoms, concurrently evaluating their past medical history and current medications. It performs the patient assessment in accordance with protocols that guide the nurse to determine the proper triage disposition to direct care to the safest, most cost-effective solution available at that time.

To accomplish the goals of the telephone triage process, an organization needs to recruit, hire, train, and retain experienced telephone triage nurses. Two valued components that will result in quality patient outcomes are providing comprehensive, detailed orientation, as well as equipping the nursing staff with needed tools: gold-standard telephone triage protocols.

However, the final determining factor of quality phone triage lies in the training of nurses to utilize the protocol tool properly. Anyone can read a protocol. It is the knowledgeable triage nurse who applies enhanced assessment skills, superior judgment, prior nursing experience, and exceptional decision-making abilities to the protocol tool that results in safe, quality outcomes and cost-effective patient care.

Performing hands-on patient assessment allows the healthcare provider to visualize cyanosis, smell foul drainage, palpate an abdomen, and use a stethoscope to assess patients’ lung sounds. Telephone triage nurses don’t have such luxuries to assess patient needs. They’re limited to their ability to query and listen intently to the caller to obtain the necessary details of the patient’s medical symptoms and then direct medical care accordingly.            

Triage nurses don’t always have to be right; they just can’t afford to be wrong. Always err on the side of caution.

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

Healthcare Call Center News

1Call Introduces Intelligent Series Version 5.3: The 1Call Division of Amtelco announced the release of version 5.3 of their Intelligent Series (IS) software. It contains several updates and additions including:

  • the transfer of voicemail from Infinity to IS for use with the Genesis system,
  • ACD answer call setting to reassign parked calls to another ACD skill,
  • auto-answer announcement greetings,
  • the addition of conference join call recording to conference join and patch call states so that both conferences and patches can be recorded, and
  • an IS supervisor dashboard allowing users to configure multiple dashboard layouts that can be filled with a choice of widgets.

Amtelco’s vice president of research and development, Kevin Beale stated, “We are thrilled to be able to release this impressive software update. Countless hours have been spent researching, developing, and refining each feature, ensuring they will meet the needs of our customers and helping them improve communications with their patients and physicians.”

For more information: 800-225-6035,, or

New Book Explains How to Start an Answering Service: Longtime industry veteran Peter Lyle DeHaan released his insider’s guide to starting an answering service on January 29, 2019. Titled How to Start a Telephone Answering Service, the book concisely shares the essential information needed to start an answering service. Based on decades of industry experience and years of consulting, Peter DeHaan, PhD, released this book as a service to the industry.

“Starting an answering service is hard work, and I don’t sugarcoat it, but for those who want to move forward, I provide practical advice to help them succeed,” said DeHaan. “It’s a must read for anyone thinking about getting into the answering service industry.”

Learn more at

1Call’s Genesis Intelligent Series Receives Unify Certification: The 1Call Division of Amtelco received interoperability certification for the Genesis Intelligent Series call center console solution with the version 8.x Unify OpenScape 4000 PBX (private branch exchange) by the Unify Technology Partner Program, based in Munich, Germany, on December 3, 2018. Amtelco is a Unify Technology Partner, with Advanced Level status.

Testing the interoperability between 1Call’s Genesis Intelligent Series solution and Unify’s open SIP interface for the OpenScape 4000 PBX was conducted remotely in October by 1Call’s PBX Integration Lab staff in McFarland, Wisconsin, and the Unify Communications Development Lab in Beersel, Belgium.

1Call received interoperability certification from Unify in 2016 for the Infinity Intelligent Series call center console solution with the version 7.x Unify OpenScape 4000 PBX. According to Amtelco president Tom Curtin, “Amtelco is extremely excited to have this certification to bring to our wonderful partner-customers that are looking forward to getting the best of Unify and Genesis in one tight integration.”

For more information: 800-225-6035,, or

A Thought for Today

Every man is guilty of all the good he didn’t do. -Voltaire

The January 2019 Issue

What Message Does your Call Center Send?

Is Saying “Your Call Is Important to Us” Rhetoric or Reality?

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

Whenever I call a company, I pay close attention to what happens. You probably do too. I look for specific details that thrill me. I also look for areas that need improvement. And I especially note my overall reaction to the call. Did they delight me, treat me with respect, and leave me with a satisfied feeling? Or did I feel frustrated over their indifferent attitude, poor response, and haste to move on to the next call?

If I’m delighted, I look forward to my next call. If I’m frustrated, I don’t want to call again and will do anything to avoid it. Today’s results foretell future interaction.

Every call center says, “your call is important to us,” but sometimes they don’t act like it. As agents breathlessly rush from one call to the next, they send the opposite message, that my call is an eruption to them and causes irritation.

In the healthcare industry, call centers rise in importance as a key means to serve patients and enhance their overall level of care. While the call center can’t replace in-person interaction with a trained healthcare professional, a good call center can certainly supplement it and serve as an invaluable resource to advance the overall level of care.

This, of course, depends on the call center agent delighting the caller, of giving focused, unhurried attention. They must fully and professionally address the reason for the call. However, a medical call center that leaves patients feeling frustrated, hampers the overall provision of quality care and lessens the chance of the patient calling back the next time they have a need.

In your medical call center make sure the phrase, “Your call is important to us,” is more than a slogan or a hollow promise. Make sure you show each caller just how important they are by how you treat them and how you serve them. That’s the message your call center wants to send on every call. That’s the way to make your operation be an indispensable part of the overall provision of healthcare in your community.

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

Featured Sponsor: TriageLogic


TriageLogic is a leading provider of quality, affordable triage solutions, including comprehensive after-hours call center services and innovative online systems for use in both institutional and private practice settings.

In 2005, board certified pediatrician Ravi K. Raheja, MD and Charu Raheja, PhD, saw a need for accurate, reliable, cost-effective triage services in both hospital and private practice settings. After extensive research and investment in the development of proprietary triage software technology, they founded TriageLogic

TriageLogic creates leading-edge telephone medicine technology based on practical experience and a thorough understanding of the field. Whether a busy private practice in need of a phone triage system or a hospital seeking complete after-hours call center solutions, TriageLogic has a product to meet those needs.

Eliminate Patient Irritation over the Phone Automation

By Aaron Boatin

To cut costs, too many medical practices have made the error of scaling back what they allow their answering services to do for them. In place of a real, live human being, the cost-conscious doctor makes a mistake of forcing automation on their patients when they call.

Though automation may save a few dollars a day on an already-affordable medical answering service bill, the impact of automation on patients’ regard for their providers is devastating. Automation replaces human interaction with impersonal technology. When a patient calls hoping for a listening, empathetic ear, the last thing they want to encounter is an answering machine, voicemail jail, or endless prompts to press various digits, which invariably fails to get them to their desired destination.

And that’s for providers who try to mix automation with a live medical answering service. What about practices that force their patients into a 100 percent automated solution?

What’s a patient’s common reaction? They hang up in disgust. Yes, they may pick up the phone again, but they’re more likely to call another provider then to call their doctor’s office back. When this happens, the small savings of automation comes at the expense of losing the lifetime value of a patient.

Yes, medical answering services should offer automated solutions to their clients who need them, but these answering services should also steer their clients toward live services whenever possible. This is the best way to serve answering service clients and their patients.

Aaron Boatin is president of Ambs Call Center, a virtual receptionist and telephone answering service provider that specializes in serving the healthcare industry.  This article is adapted from the post “10 Ways Your Patients Benefit from a Doctors Answering Service.”

Healthcare Call Center News

Call 4 Health Announces 5th Annual User Conference: Call 4 Health announced details for its 5th Annual User Conference, January 16-17, 2019 at the Delray Beach Marriott. The intensive, two-day event will focus on customer service satisfaction, in which participants will acquire the essential tools, resources, and solutions necessary to manage and elevate their business’s healthcare footprint. Conference features include informative industry lectures, networking opportunities, and interactive discussion pods to bring businesses to the next level and beyond.

“The Annual User Conference is our way of equipping industry clients and partners with the influential tools they need to thrive in the healthcare industry,” said Joseph Pores, CEO of Call 4 Health. “This year’s schedule of training sessions, networking opportunities, and entertainment is sure to make the 2019 conference unparalleled.”

Call 4 HealthSponsors include 1 Call, Compass IT Compliance, Commonwealth Purchasing Group, Crown Castle, and BlueStream. For more information visit

1Call to Exhibit at HIMSS19 Conference: 1Call, the division of Amtelco that specializes in offering enterprise-wide communication solutions for healthcare organizations, will again exhibit at the 2019 HIMSS conference, taking place at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida on February 11–15, 2019, booths 4549 and 1971. This year’s theme is “It’s All About the Why” to highlight 1Call’s commitment to deliver fast, secure, and accurate communications to help provide the best patient experience.

Demonstrations of their HIPAA-compliant miSecureMessages secure messaging app will occur at both booths to show how easy it is to send secure text, photo, audio, and video content. For more information on 1Call at HIMSS19, contact 1Call at 800-225-6035 or

A Thought for Today

It is by character and not by intellect the world is won. -Evelyn Beatrice Hall




The November 2018 Issue

Will You Help Us Get the Word Out About Medical Call Center News?

Please Tell Your Team, Coworkers, and Colleagues About Medical Call Center News

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

Medical Call Center News has a loyal group of subscribers. You appreciate our content and read most every issue. But our subscriber list also changes a bit from one issue to the next, with a 2.3 percent churn rate. Some people retire or move to other jobs, while new people join the industry or discover our publication. This is a constant reminder that the healthcare industry is undergoing constant change, perhaps more than any other industry.

Given these changes, our overall subscriber numbers stay fairly constant, but we’d like more people to receive Medical Call Center News. Will you do me a favor and help us get the word out?

Please take a few moments and think of team members, coworkers, and industry colleagues who might not be receiving Medical Call Center News. Will you please send them a quick email and ask them to check us out and subscribe?

As you may recall, subscribing to Medical Call Center News is a quick and easy process. We request four pieces of basic information and only require two: your email address and first name. To do things properly, it’s a double opt-in process, so once you submit your subscription information, you’ll receive a confirmation email. Just click on “confirm” and your good to go. It’s that easy.

And don’t worry. We won’t share your name or email with anyone or spam you. You may unsubscribe at any time, but if we do our job right, I don’t think you will.

That’s my request. Now it’s your turn. Please let your call center team, coworkers, and colleagues know about Medical Call Center News.

Thank you!

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

Featured Sponsor: Pulsar360

Pulsar360 provides carrier services and disaster recovery for medical answering services

Pulsar360, Inc. has served the telecommunications requirements of SMB to Enterprise business customers since 2001 and the medical call center industry since 2008.

Pulsar360 services over 160 medical-centric answering services, meeting their special requirements, which includes, at no additional charge: 20 percent burstable trunking; SIP trunking, toll free number and national network redundancy; and an infinite number of automatic fail over alternatives.

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

Pulsar360 and our other sponsors make Medical Call Center News possible. Please join us in thanking them for their support.

How Healthcare Call Centers Can Increase Patient Satisfaction

By Aaron Boatin

Doctors answering services have been around for a long time. But that doesn’t mean they’re obsolete. In fact, they may be more important now than ever before. Over time the medical answering service has continued to evolve to meet healthcare providers’ needs and their patients’ expectations. With an emphasis on the personal touch, a medical answering service applies the latest technology to their service offerings so they can provide best-in-class service to their healthcare clients.

As a result, a medical answering service is a critical tool for healthcare providers in the provision of medical services. This is due to the positive, always-available professionalism that a medical answering service has on a practice’s patients and callers.

In healthcare, providers face three challenges: offer a higher level of service, provide it faster, and do it for less. In this never-ending balancing act of quality, speed, and reimbursement rates, it’s easy to lose sight of the why.

Patients exist in the center of healthcare. Without patients, there would be no reason to practice medicine. Keep this in mind with everything you do and every decision you make. Patient satisfaction is the key to success.

However, that success doesn’t just happen during office hours. It extends around-the-clock, seven days a week. But how can you satisfy patients when you’re not in the office seeing them?

This is where a medical answering service comes in. They’re available 24/7 to interact with your patients and callers anytime of the day or night, whenever they happen to call. This might be during dinner, at 3 a.m. or during your commute to the office. It could also be on weekends and holidays.

Though there’s little you can personally do to enhance patient satisfaction outside of regular business hours, you make a smart move when you enlist the aid of a medical answering service. They can help keep patients as a priority and delight them every time they call by having a real person available to talk to them.

Aaron Boatin is president of Ambs Call Center, a virtual receptionist and telephone answering service provider that specializes in serving the healthcare industry.  This article is an excerpt from the post “10 Ways Your Patients Benefit from a Doctors Answering Service.”

Healthcare Call Center News

Technology Solutions for the Home Healthcare Industry: In addition to being a strategic partner with over 160 medical-centric call centers, Pulsar360, Inc. has partnered with MEDsys, provider of web-based home care and private duty care management solutions.

A key component is their electronic visit verification solution, “which is where we come in,” states Michael Dozier, president and CEO of Pulsar360. “Our customized interactive voice response application and highly reliable network integrated with their software provides mobile visit verification, integrated scheduling, payroll, and billing into one platform that is available every hour of every day.”

This customizable solution provides real-time data exchange to manage the check-in and check-out visit confirmation through IVR and GPS technology and the scheduling component. This also provides a security element for the agency and their staff.

Upon arrival at the patient’s home, the caregiver calls a toll-free number to clock-in and enters their MEDsys secure ID number, which automatically clocks them in. When their shift is over they call their toll-free number and enter their MEDsys secure pin. That clocks them out. The caregiver can also add the plan of care into the phone, which Pulsar360 updates in real time.

1Call’s 2018 Leadership and Training Seminar Report: The 1Call Division of Amtelco completed their most successful 1Call Leadership and Training Seminar to date. On September 18–20, 2018, healthcare customers, prospects, and Amtelco staff, gathered at the Park Hotel in downtown Madison, Wisconsin, to help clinics and hospital organizations enhance their enterprise-wide communications.

Customer attendees, representing hospitals from all over the United States, enjoyed presentations given by healthcare call centers who use 1Call’s products, such as Genesis, MergeComm, and miSecureMessages. These customer-led presentations proved beneficial to the healthcare communication and IT professionals in attendance.

Attendees learned how to improve efficiencies, eliminate errors, and enhance the patient experience from peer presentations. They also could speak directly to 1Call’s software development and implementation specialists to discuss how to solve some of their interoperability and communication challenges.

A Thought for Today

Every student needs someone who says, simply, “You mean something. You count.” -Tony Kushner




The September 2018 Issue

Do You React to Today or Plan for Tomorrow?

How We Handle Each Day Prepares Us for the Next One

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

In the medical answering service and call center industry, there’s always more than enough to do to fill each day. Between staffing issues, client or caller crises, and technical problems there’s not enough hours to attend to them all. Given this pressure from the present, how can we ever prepare for the future?

Here are some thoughts about how to handle the workload at your medical call center.

Put Out Fires: The default mode of operation at most answering services and call centers is putting out fires. A problem arises, and we react. Sometimes more than one issue shows up at the same time. Then we triage them and handle the most pressing one first, hoping we can get to the next one before it’s too late. We do this from day to day, week to week, and month to month. It’s all too easy for this management approach to continue year after year. There must be a better way.

Be Strategic: Wouldn’t it be better to control the day instead of letting the day control us? To do this, we need to plan. We must be strategic. This means we schedule our day, our week, and our month. We know what we will do each hour, and we don’t let anything distract us from it.

Seek Balance: Of course, having a rigid plan is idealistic. Though this strategic approach deals with what’s most important, it ignores the unexpected urgent things that are bound to come up. If all we do is prepare for tomorrow, who will take care of today? That’s where balance comes in. We need to balance putting out fires to being strategic, with reacting to being proactive.

To do this, make part of each day strategic and then allow the rest for reacting to the urgent matters that will crop up. This works best by blocking out an hour or two each day where interruptions are not allowed. I prefer first thing in the morning. Spend this time working on projects that will make your call center better. Focus on doing things today that will reduce the fires to put out tomorrow.

This is hard to do it first, but each time we’re successful it brings us one step closer to running our call center better and to do it with less stress. Are you ready to begin?

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

Featured Sponsor: TeamHealth Medical Call Center

With twenty-two years of experience and eleven million calls from primary care physicians, specialists, hospitals, universities, health plans, and other healthcare organizations, TeamHealth Medical Call Center (THMCC) is a premier provider of medical call center solutions. THMCC serves more than 10,000 physicians, health plans, home health and hospice organizations, and employers.

THMCC is a cost-effective leader in reducing inappropriate or unnecessary utilization of healthcare resources, enhancing risk management, and increasing patient satisfaction, as well as promoting patient acquisition and generating referrals within a healthcare system. Their flexible services meet the unique needs and goals of healthcare systems, making them an invaluable client advisor.

THMCC is passionate about contributing to the success of their clients. They have their finger on the pulse of the changing healthcare industry and are creating and exploring new technologies to make their provider clients’ lives easier, providing analytics and reporting that positively position clients, meeting the consumer demands for service delivery, and bringing greater quality and cost containment to clients and the healthcare industry.

For additional information, visit or call 888-203-1118.

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

Is It Time to Expand Your Medical Call Center’s Services?

By Traci Haynes

The ever-changing healthcare environment has impacted medical call centers throughout the years. Historically, medical call centers were often a physician and service referral program to assist callers with finding a physician or service near them that offered the type of care or service they requested and during times that were convenient for them. Soon after, medical call centers began offering access to nurses who could assess the level of care needed and provide advice based on the information supplied by the caller.

The scope of service of medical call centers has expanded to include prescription refill lines, pre-admission and post-discharge communication, disease management programs, complex care management, health coaching, satisfaction surveys, and hospital transfers. Some medical call centers are now communicating with individuals via video technology.

Your organization’s strategic plan and corporate vision should guide expanded functionality of the medical call center. The medical call center has the potential to offer innumerable opportunities to improve information flow between patients, healthcare providers, hospital departments, health plans, and organizational decision makers.

Before planning for future expansion or growth, it’s important to review the status of your medical call center’s operating performance to determine operating efficiency, clinical quality, and customer service levels.

Important considerations include:

  • Leadership: Start with strong leadership that possesses the essential job qualifications and the vision to move the medical call center forward in alignment with the organization’s strategic plan and a fluid healthcare environment.
  • Medical Director Participation: Medical oversight is essential to the medical call center and includes reviewing clinical updates of the decision support tools, care plans, medication information, continuous quality improvement, and outcomes, as well as additional oversight based on the scope of service.
  • Performance Standards: Standards should address call management, documentation, communication, and professional development.
  • Staffing Mix: Considerations should include the appropriate mix of clinical and non-clinical support to manage the different types of interactions within a pre-determined timeframe.
  • Policies and Procedures: Written and approved policies and procedures should be updated and known by all staff members.
  • Welfare: Items to address include HIPAA, ergonomics, environmental factors, length of shift, and so on.
  • Security: Cover the physical safety of staff, as well as the security of the call center and systems.

Realization of the medical call center’s potential to support the organization’s goals and to provide optimal service often requires an assessment of current operations to recognize strengths and areas for improvement before implementation of future initiatives.

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

Healthcare Call Center News

Startel & Professional Teledata Complete HIPAA Assessment: Startel and Professional Teledata successfully completed their Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) assessment. This marks Startel’s fourth and Professional Teledata’s first assessment for HIPAA compliance and reinforces the companies’ commitment to protecting consumer data and privacy. SecurityMetrics performed the third-party compliance assessment.

Following an evaluation of Startel and Professional Teledata’s offices, data centers, and software solutions, SecurityMetrics determined that the companies implemented policies and procedures to fulfill its obligations under HIPAA and Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH). Both companies received scores of 100 percent.

1Call Hires Brad Swift as a Contract Services Sales Manager: 1Call announced that the company is entering into a contract with Brad Swift to support healthcare organizations and their growing need to quickly have access to the newest 1Call software features.

Brad will help healthcare organizations get up-to-date with current technologies, assist with projects such as acquisitions and department mergers, and help with growth and future development. “Brad had a successful eighteen-year sales career with us in the past, serving our customers in Canada,” said Tom Curtin, president of 1Call. “Our customers will be able to outsource to 1Call to help get work done that they can’t find resources for.”

A Thought for Today

“Normal is the average of deviance.” -Rita Mae Brown




The July 2018 Issue

The Work-At-Home Option for Medical Call Centers

 By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

Some healthcare call centers embrace the work-at-home option, while others are categorically against it. Let’s explore the pros and cons of using home-based agents, along with the potential risks of embracing or dismissing this option.

Benefits of Home-Based Agents: There are two primary reasons to use home-based agents to staff your medical call center. The main reason is to tap into a larger labor pool of qualified employees. This is especially critical given the nationwide shrinkage of credentialed healthcare workers.

A secondary reason is the potential to attract lower-cost personnel. This is because they live in areas with a lower cost of living. Though reducing labor costs should never be the driving force in pursuing work-at-home staff, it may be an exciting side benefit.

Concerns About Home-Based Agents: Opponents to hiring work at home staff site management challenges and HIPAA concerns. This is certainly understandable. Employees who are physically present are easier to oversee. When they work from home, who knows what they’re doing?

However, keep in mind that in the healthcare industry, on-site call center workers receive more scrutiny than most and are the easiest to manage. Whereas, off-site call center workers have a level of supervision comparable to most other healthcare workers.

The Risk of Using Home-Based Agents: This concern over management brings up the risk of hiring work-at-home staff for your call center. Call center managers fear a HIPAA breach and PHI being abused and misappropriated. The key, however, is not location but employee ethics. An unethical employee is just as likely to misuse PHI on-site as off-site. It’s just that they must work harder to access and misuse information if they’re on-site. By the same logic, an ethical employee will treat PHI appropriately whether on-site or off-site. The fear over hiring off-site call center staff is understandable, but hiring the right staff negates this concern.

The Risk of Not Using Home-Based Agents: The chief risk of not using work-at-home agents is the risk of not being able to fully staff your call center. That’s a disservice to callers and causes your existing staff to work even harder, which may result in burnout and resignations. Tapping home-based agents is a smart way to avoid this from happening.

When determining if work-at-home agents are the right solution for your call center, look at the pros and cons. Then factor in the risks. That will guide you to the right decision.

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

Featured Sponsor: LVM Systems, Inc

LVM Systems Provides Advanced Products for Healthcare Call Centers

LVM Systems logo

 Hundreds of healthcare call centers around the world depend on LVM Systems, Inc. to provide best-in-class customer support, leading-edge reporting methodologies, and customization capabilities.

Founded by Les Mortensen in 1988, LVM Systems is a privately-owned company that provides software solutions exclusively to healthcare organizations. It has grown from one software developer with a dream to a thriving company that is a recognized software solution provider for healthcare call centers.

LVM’s flagship software product, Centaurus, is a powerful healthcare call center software platform. With Centaurus, healthcare call centers perform functions such as nurse triage, CRM and marketing, care coordination, and hospital readmission reduction.

The power of Centaurus lies in its ability to manage vast databases and create reports that show the quantifiable results healthcare call centers produce. LVM encourages call centers to explore why so many healthcare call center managers trust Centaurus for their software needs. Their sales team is comprised of professionals who built successful healthcare call centers before joining LVM. They will take the time to listen and understand your needs.

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

Why Telephone Triage Nurses are a Perfect Complement to Telemedicine

By Dr. Charu Raheja, Ph.D.

Telemedicine has been a medical buzzword for several years, and the variety and depth of services provided have grown dramatically. Telemedicine is a great way to supplement traditional medical practices. The advantages are clear: more convenient care for patients, more doctor availability, and less time spent driving or in the waiting-room. But like any other new evolving field, there is still a learning curve and a need for developing a process that makes telemedicine viable, profitable, and doesn’t require doctors to work 24/7 to meet patients’ requests.

One of the biggest hurdles for doctors is their limited time with patients. In a traditional office setting, doctors have a nurse start patient visits. Nurses take vitals, talk to patients, and evaluate their needs before a doctor walks in the room. The same type of process needs to be designed for telephone medicine, with the difference being that the nurse will do her job remotely, just like the doctor.

First, some practices have nurses in their office taking patient calls and scheduling visits with a doctor. When managing these calls, the nurse performs two tasks. First, the nurse must evaluate whether the patient needs the doctor at all or whether the nurse can help the patient over the phone with home care advice. Second, the nurse must document patient symptom information before the patient speaks to a doctor.

Nurse-First Telehealth Method

This is where having a good platform to document patient calls and ensure standard protocols are followed to ensure patient safety can help make the process efficient. Medical protocols ensure a standard care every time a nurse takes a call. These protocols are also available electronically, making them easier to use then textbooks. The electronic protocols also allow for the documentation of care advice directly on the patient chart for review by the physician during the telehealth visit.

However, not all doctors offering telehealth services have their own nurses available to answer patient calls. An alternative for these doctors is to hire a telephone nurse triage service to work with them. A nurse triage service can serve as an extension of the office by providing patients with a trained nurse to evaluate patient symptoms to determine what actions to take.

What sets a high-quality telephone nurse triage service apart is the ability for the physician to have custom orders and preferences built into the system so that the nurses can act as a true extension of the physician. A high-quality nurse triage nurse service is also able to schedule patient appointments for those that need one.

Providing patients with access to triage nurses also helps doctors who don’t have the ability to provide telehealth services 24/7 because the nurses are still available for the patients. If given the appropriate instructions, triage nurses typically resolve half the callers’ issues without the need for a doctor.

In a survey of 35,000 patient phone calls, in over 50 percent of the cases, nurses resolved the callers’ medical symptoms by giving them home care advice. These nurses also determined which callers required a physical visit to an urgent care or an ER (in an event of an emergency, such as symptoms of a potential heart attack).

Telephone nurse triage allows a practice’s telemedicine program to work seamlessly, whether the office is open or closed. Setting up a nurse triage system where nurses use standardized protocols to answer patient questions increases the productivity and profits for a practice. When nurses use triage protocols, doctors can have confidence nurses will ask the right questions and cover everything. The basic patient information, the protocols used, and the nurse notes can serve as a quick reference for the physician prior to the telehealth visit, just like the notes doctors receive when their nurses see a patient during a physical office visit.

Charu Raheja, Ph.D., is the CEO of TriageLogic a provider of quality, affordable triage solutions, including comprehensive after-hours medical call center software, day time triage protocol software, and nurse triage on call. Customers include both institutional and private practices. For information on setting up a nurse triage service, contact TriageLogic to get a quote or set up a demo.

Healthcare Call Center News

Android Update for miSecureMessages Secure Messaging App

1Call announced the release of the miSecureMessages Android app version to the Google Play store. MiSecureMessages is a secure messaging app that encrypts user information to ensure data remains confidential.

Adding contacts to messages and the entire conversation flow process have been improved for efficiency. User interface updates were made to the login, create account, inbox, message thread, account management, and user setup screens.

“MiSecureMessages continues to gain momentum in healthcare organizations because it’s HIPAA-compliant,” stated Tom Curtin, 1Call president. “It’s also used by other businesses that want to comccnmmunicate securely and protect their client’s personal data or need to have reliable and fast communications.”

Secure text messaging protocols include these benefits:

  • End-to-end message encryption
  • Messages aren’t stored on devices so messages are safe if a device is lost or stolen
  • Quickly and reliably sends large amounts of information through Wi-Fi and data networks
  • Easy to use, customizable, and available for Android and Apple
  • Detailed and dynamic message reports with full message history and contact details

For more information visit or email

TriageLogic Integrates Triage Call Center Functionality into EMR Systems

For healthcare systems and insurance companies with existing EMR systems, TriageLogic released a freestanding protocol module to add triage capabilities to any existing EMR. MyTriageChecklist Call Center Version adds enhanced capabilities to make any EMR a robust triage call center without accessing or storing any PHI. It takes all the critical elements from a free-standing triage system, such as the Schmitt-Thompson protocols and incorporates them to provide a similar experience to a full call center platform.

MyTriageChecklist allows organizations to create custom workflows, scripting, and protocols based on each client or location they serve. This empowers nurses to follow specific instructions during the call to provide personalized and efficient care.

The administrative panel accesses information in real time. A reporting dashboard gives deep insights into call center metrics, such as presenting symptoms, number of calls, outcomes for billing, QA, and ROI calculation.

As many health centers look to add a clinical capability to their call centers or replace more expensive legacy systems, they now have a turnkey plug-in module available with TriageLogic’s myTriageChecklist Call Center Version.

A Thought for Today

“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.” -Nelson Mandela




The May 2018 Issue

Stop Reacting and Take Initiative  

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

Though 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.

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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

A Thought for Today

“Kindness is always fashionable.” -Amelia Barr