Improve Your Call Center by Providing Ongoing Skills Training
Unless You Remind Them, Employees Will Forget Their Training and Pick Up Bad Habits
By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.
This year we’ll embark on a series of articles about how to move your healthcare call center forward to better meet the needs and expectations of your callers and patients. We’ll start by talking about providing your frontline staff with ongoing skills training.
For your call center, you begin by hiring the best staff, providing them with the detailed training they need to do their jobs well, and then scheduling them to handle calls. It’s a great start, but it’s just the beginning.
Over time their skills will drift away from what you expect and migrate toward what is expedient. Even more of a concern, they will learn from their coworkers sitting next to them. Though they may acquire some good skills this way, they’re more apt to pick up less-than-ideal habits. It’s a given that what you don’t want to occur in your call center will much more readily permeate your entire staff then the best practices you desire them to emulate.
That’s why it’s essential to provide periodic training to your staff. Through this, you can reinforce the best skills in call handling, customer service, and patient satisfaction that you want them to consistently provide. And then you can teach them new, enhanced skills too.
Just as vision is leaky, so too are call handling skills. Both require regular reminders. Therefore, you need to teach and reinforce the skills that you want your staff to use in your call center. Do this on a regular basis. You need to provide this to every frontline employee.
Though you may want to start with the under-performing staff first, this is backward. If you start with them, they’ll view your training as punitive, which will detract from your objective of enhancing their skills.
Instead, you might want to start with your best-performing staff. They are apt to view the advanced training as a reward, making them much more likely to retain and implement the customer service techniques you teach them. Then roll the training out to the rest of your staff. They’ll receive your instruction more positively.
Peter Lyle DeHaan is the publisher and editor of Medical Call Center News and AnswerStat. Read more of his articles at PeterDeHaanPublishing.com.
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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 founded TriageLogic. TriageLogic is a healthcare company that 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 your needs.
How Telephone Triage Nurses Act as An Extension of Physicians and Practices
By Ravi K. Raheja, MD
In an era where there are multiple sources of medical advice and people frequently use Google to get answers, telephone triage nurses need to be mindful that they play a critical role in ensuring patients get the customized care directed by their physician. This is vital for consumer-focused patient care. That is why sophisticated triage systems have custom instructions and standing orders. These tailored directions are based on physician or practice preferences for triage nurses to follow once the appropriate care for the patient has been determined.
What Are Custom Orders? Custom orders are additional instructions that physicians and practices add to existing protocols. An example would be telling the patient to take ibuprofen over Tylenol or sending them to a certain ER or urgent care facility. Custom orders are designed to help the triage nurse function as an extension of the doctor, without having to always call the on-call doctor. With custom orders, patients receive continuity of care, reassurance, and the ability for physician follow up the next day.
How to Properly Represent the Physician and Group: Through the triage process of assessing the patient, choosing highest acuity protocol, disposition, and advising the patient per protocol guidelines, triage nurses need to keep in mind that they represent a specific physician or practice.
Since they never see the patient in person, it is important that triage nurses provide the empathy and care that will make patients feel better. Patients are not just a voice over the phone with a problem for nurses to solve. Every phone call has an impact, and one of the best ways nurses can care for patients is to establish and affirm the trust they have in their provider.
When giving protocol advice, triage nurses should first check for any specific practice orders that apply to the situation. Then, as they advise, they should use phrases like, “Your doctor would like you to…” or “Your doctor cares very much about their patients and would want you to…”
Summary: Telephone triage nurses are important in establishing that the patient’s doctor cares about their problem. They are a crucial link to the patient trusting the care and advice of their physician. Since triage nurses are with a patient for a moment, it is vital that they gain their trust and provide the best care.
When the patient call ends, their continuity of care is in the hands of their physician. Telephone triage nurses help the patient beyond the call when they nurture that trust in the doctor they represent.
Ravi K. Raheja, MD is the COO and medical director of the TriageLogic Group. Founded in 2005, TriageLogic is a URAC accredited, physician-led provider of high-quality telehealth services, nurse triage, triage education, and software for telephone medicine. For more information visit www.triagelogic.com and www.continuwell.com
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A Thought for Today
A man should never be ashamed to own he has been in the wrong, which is but saying, in other words, that he is wiser today than he was yesterday. -Alexander Pope