The Work-At-Home Option for Medical Call Centers

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Peter DeHaan, publisher and editorSome 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, 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.

The July 2018 Issue



The Work-At-Home Option for Medical Call Centers

 By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Peter DeHaan, publisher and editor

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, 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: LVM Systems, Inc

LVM Systems: Helping Healthcare Call Centers Help Patients

LVM Systems Provides Advanced Products for Healthcare Call Centers

 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.

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 4.1.1.49 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 communicate 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 www.misecuremessages.com or email info@misecuremessages.com.

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

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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.

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 Impact of Video Calls on Call Center Agents and Operations

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Peter DeHaan, publisher and editorIn the last issue of Medical Call Center News, we talked 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.

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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