The Weak Link of Medical Call Centers

Advances in Agent Performance Can’t Overcome Deficiencies in Backend Systems

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan-call center

Whenever I place a phone call to a business, I carefully observe what happens. After spending most of my adult life in some aspect of the call center industry, I can’t help it.

Based on my observations, I’m happy to say that I’m encouraged by the quality of the agents I interact with. They are more personal and professional than agents who used to answer the phone even a few years ago. They have a positive, can-do attitude. Most of the time, I enjoy talking with them.

Unfortunately, quality agents don’t automatically make for satisfying phone calls. The technology that’s supposed to help them do their job better continues to hamper their work. Based on my experience, this is most pronounced in the healthcare industry. Other industries appear to be dealing with this frontend/backend disconnect with varying degrees of success, yet healthcare—for all its technology—still struggles to produce satisfying outcomes for their patient callers.

I wish I could say this article is the result of one bad experience. Unfortunately that’s not the case. This is a result of several bad experiences. It’s a saga of multiple calls without resolution. At this point I’m prepared to never experience a satisfactory outcome. In case you’re wondering, it’s a billing snafu.

Part of it hinges on faxes sent multiple times but never received—or at least never connected with my account. In the day of digital communications and electronic health records, why are we still using faxes anyway?

In case you’re interested, faxing started in the mid-1840s, only a decade or so after the telegraph. Yet we’re still using fax technology today. (Thankfully we’re not using the telegraph. Can you imagine looking to hire agents who know Morse Code?)

Anyway, how can agents do their job with excellence when they’re using technology that’s over 170 years old? While other technological hurdles agents face aren’t as old, these obstacles still present a cumbersome challenge and thwart attempts at customer service.

Today’s call center technology can integrate incoming channels, but in the healthcare industry it’s still challenging to integrate the various information silos with any degree of success.

Let’s applaud our call center agents for the job they do, despite technological roadblocks. Then let’s work at fixing backend system integrations so agents can do the job they want to do and serve patient callers the way they expect—and to do it on one phone call. It’s first call resolution (FCR), and it’s time for the healthcare industry to embrace it.

Imagine what your healthcare call center traffic would look like if you could achieve first call resolution on every call. It would change everything.

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

The May 2019 Issue



The Weak Link of Medical Call Centers

Advances in Agent Performance Can’t Overcome Deficiencies in Backend Systems

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

Whenever I place a phone call to a business, I carefully observe what happens. After spending most of my adult life in some aspect of the call center industry, I can’t help it.

Based on my observations, I’m happy to say that I’m encouraged by the quality of the agents I interact with. They are more personal and professional than agents who used to answer the phone even a few years ago. They have a positive, can-do attitude. Most of the time, I enjoy talking with them.

Unfortunately, quality agents don’t automatically make for satisfying phone calls. The technology that’s supposed to help them do their job better continues to hamper their work. Based on my experience, this is most pronounced in the healthcare industry. Other industries appear to be dealing with this frontend/backend disconnect with varying degrees of success, yet healthcare—for all its technology—still struggles to produce satisfying outcomes for their patient callers.

I wish I could say this article is the result of one bad experience. Unfortunately that’s not the case. This is a result of several bad experiences. It’s a saga of multiple calls without resolution. At this point I’m prepared to never experience a satisfactory outcome. In case you’re wondering, it’s a billing snafu.

Part of it hinges on faxes sent multiple times but never received—or at least never connected with my account. In the day of digital communications and electronic health records, why are we still using faxes anyway?

In case you’re interested, faxing started in the mid-1840s, only a decade or so after the telegraph. Yet we’re still using fax technology today. (Thankfully we’re not using the telegraph. Can you imagine looking to hire agents who know Morse Code?)

Anyway, how can agents do their job with excellence when they’re using technology that’s over 170 years old? While other technological hurdles agents face aren’t as old, these obstacles still present a cumbersome challenge and thwart attempts at customer service.

Today’s call center technology can integrate incoming channels, but in the healthcare industry it’s still challenging to integrate the various information silos with any degree of success.

Let’s applaud our call center agents for the job they do, despite technological roadblocks. Then let’s work at fixing backend system integrations so agents can do the job they want to do and serve patient callers the way they expect—and to do it on one phone call. It’s first call resolution (FCR), and it’s time for the healthcare industry to embrace it.

Imagine what your healthcare call center traffic would look like if you could achieve first call resolution on every call. It would change everything.

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


Featured Sponsor: Call 4 Health

Call4Health

Call 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 their clients since 1997, Call 4 Health has a keen understanding of what it is like to face trauma and has developed a sound system to seamlessly balance professionalism with compassion.

Their call representatives understand the difficulties in facing traumas and coping with treatments as well as the emotional and financial strains those challenges present. With an altruistic approach, they place patients and their families first. Compassion is more than just a word at Call 4 Health, it drives them. Customer service excellence is not something they just “talk about.” They deliver it every day. For more information, visit www.call4health.com or call 855-244-3258.


The Golden Rules of Telephone Triage

By Rose Moon, RN, BSN

Successful triage nurses live by the following golden rules of the telephone triage process:

  1. Every call is life threatening until proven otherwise.
  2. Complete an ABCD assessment with every telephone encounter: Airway, Breathing, Circulation, Deficit (Neuro).
  3. Assessing patients over the phone is high risk; therefore, take the callers word as truth.
  4. Follow your sixth sense: protocols are decision support tools; nursing judgment determines outcomes.
  5. Know your patients’ medical history and current medications.
  6. Assess your callers as well as your patients. Be a patient advocate.
  7. Never provide a dosage of a medication without a complete patient assessment.
  8. Always confirm labeled dosage of a medication as well as the means in which the caretaker plans to administer the drug.
  9. Always assess the caller’s level of comfort with the established plan of care before ending the call.
  10. “Are you comfortable with these recommendations?”
  11. “Now tell me what you plan to do next.”
  12. If it is not documented, it didn’t happen. Use defensive documentation. Paint a picture.
  13. Regardless of the reason for the call, always obtain a rectal temperature on an infant under the age of three months.
  14. Document the exact mechanism of injury.
  15. Be alert for red flags. Any time a caller uses or implies one of the following phrases be sure to clarify the underlying meaning. Carefully analyze your disposition and recommendation for follow-up care:
  16. Grunting or moaning
  17. Lethargic or listless
  18. Sleeping more than usual
  19. Just doesn’t look right, act right, or is fussy
  20. Sleeps through a rectal temperature
  21. High pitched cry or unusual, funny cry
  22. History of sickle cell or immune deficiency
  23. Frequent caller
  24. Caller that expresses anxiousness or numerous questions after discussing a plan of care
  25. Patient symptoms of headache, dizziness, disorientation, nausea, fatigue, or irritability; flu versus carbon monoxide exposure
  26. At the conclusion of the patient telephone encounter, instruct callers to call back or seek medical evaluation if current symptoms become worse or additional signs and symptoms of concern develop.

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

Email us your news for the next issue.


A Thought for Today

A timid question will always receive a confident answer. -Charles John Darling

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 www.startanansweringservice.com.

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

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 www.startanansweringservice.com.

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

Featured Sponsor: Answering Service One

Answering Service One: medical answering service and healthcare call center services

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 sales@answeringserviceone.com.

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, info@1call.com, or www.1call.com.

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 StartAnAnsweringService.com.

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, info@1call.com, or www.1call.com.

A Thought for Today

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

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.

call center

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.

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

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 call4health.com.

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 info@1call.com.


A Thought for Today

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

Save

Save

Save

%d bloggers like this: