The One Sure Thing About the Future of Healthcare

By Peter L DeHaan, Ph.D.

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

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

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

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

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

The July 2017 Issue



The One Sure Thing About the Future of Healthcare

By Peter L DeHaan, Ph.D.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


The Receptionist Model for Telephone Triage Calls

By Mark Dwyer

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

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

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

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


Healthcare Call Center News

Hospital CIOs Surveyed about Data Security and Clinical Mobility

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

Hospital secure texting:

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

Secure communication methods used by clinical staff:

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

Top four reasons why hospitals use pagers:

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

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

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


A Thought for Today

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

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Uncertainty is the Only Thing That’s Certain in Healthcare

By Peter L DeHaan, Ph.D.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The May 2017 Issue



Uncertainty is the Only Thing That’s Certain in Healthcare

By Peter L DeHaan, Ph.D.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Classified Ads

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

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


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

By Traci Haynes, MSN, RN, BA, CEN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Healthcare Call Center News

New Study Examines the Challenges of Healthcare Switchboard Operators

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

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

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

Learn more at info.parlancecorp.com/empowering-operators.

TriageLogic CEO Honored at Enterprising Women of the Year

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

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

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

Visit www.triagelogic.com for more information.


A Thought for Today

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

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The March 2017 Issue



We Live in Exciting Times

By Peter L DeHaan, Ph.D.

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you

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


Classified Ads

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

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


Enhance Your Communication Skills

By Dr. David Thompson

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

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

Follow these eight tips to enhance your communications skills.

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


 Healthcare Call Center News

TriageLogic Announces Continuwell

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

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

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

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

For more information call 844-258-4325 or email info@continuwell.com.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


A Thought For Today

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

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We Live in Exciting Times: The Advance of Medical Call Centers

By Peter L DeHaan, Ph.D.

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you

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

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