The July 2013 Issue

Obamacare’s Affect on Healthcare Call Centers

By Peter DeHaan, PhD

Peter DeHaan, publisher and editorIf you work on the frontlines at your call center, you already know what I’m about to say: The Affordable Care Act (ACA) – more commonly referred to as Obamacare – has people upset. As a result, the number of frustrated, angry, and even hostile people you talk to every day has increased. The bad news is that I expect things to get worse.

I, of course, have my own tale of woe: two double-digit increases in my healthcare premiums since the law’s passage and now the determination that I must pay payroll taxes on said premiums. And my frustration is minimal compared to many.

For managers of healthcare call centers, I encourage you to make a plan to deal with this increase in caller wrath. Educate your workforce about ACA, going beyond what they need to know to serve callers’ basic questions. Information is key. Develop a policy on how to handle ACA-incensed callers.

Most important, provide additional agent training. Coach staff on what to say – and not say – when confronted with a caller’s invective. Support your agents. They’re attacked all day, so understand and encourage them when their one less-than-ideal response. Then go further to teach techniques to keep them from internalizing caller ire, letting one caller’s words affect the next call, or even worse, taking a smoldering fury home with them.

For agents, avail yourselves to every resource your company offers. If it lacks some of the above recommendations, pursue these on your own. Make your own plan and educate yourself on how to deal with the onslaught of negativity. Doing so will help you succeed in your work and lessen its toil.

Obamacare isn’t going away, but armed with the right tools, we can minimize how it affects us – at least at work.


Eleven Ways Patient Portals Work for Us

By Julia Goebel

Patient portals are becoming part of the fabric of the modern healthcare office. They’re a necessary addition toward improving communication between patients and their doctors. The portal brings many benefits and a few struggles. While not new to the healthcare industry, most patients are not familiar with portals. An influx of previously uninsured patients, as ACA was designed to create, is causing some challenges that, if not for patient portals and associated messaging technologies, could be far more serious. Growing pains will persist: They need to survey practitioners and patients, fine-tune portal offerings in order to increase adoption, and enhance comfort levels as an alternative messaging tool.

Successful portals are desirable because they:

  1. Interface with the organization’s EMR for ease of data sharing
  2. Satisfy some meaningful use core requirements
  3. Are HIPAA-compliant
  4. Allow patients to be informed electronically about upcoming and follow-up care
  5. Provide direct email contact between patients and their doctors, nurses, and staff
  6. Give patients the opportunity to share their own perspective without going through staff
  7. Offer the ability to remind patients to follow their treatment plan
  8. Provide a support network for patients with long-term illnesses
  9. Store images that are needed for reference by patients and their doctors
  10. Provide space for prescription refills and tracking of medications taken for ease and safety reasons
  11. Encourage patients to fill out their medical forms online

Even with these benefits, some private practices and smaller clinics balk at the idea of installing a patient portal. Some of the reasons include adoption overload, with the portal as one more thing they must learn to use. Another is that the cost of adding a portal to a practice can be perceived as too high. A third is concern about the security of data in the EMR/patient portal.

In our country’s for-profit healthcare model, it seems like the barrier to entry for providing solutions is rather low. Entrepreneurs abound, offering a bewildering array of solutions have appeared in the market. This isn’t insurmountable, however. With all the critical information technology projects both in and outside of healthcare, it will take time, education, and more financial help to separate the wheat from the chaff. [Read more.]

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MS LifeLines Recognized by J.D. Power and Associates

MS LifeLines® call center earned re-certification for customer service excellence in providing support services to the multiple sclerosis (MS) community through the prestigious J.D. Power and Associates Call Center Certification Program. This is the second consecutive year J.D. Power and Associates has recognized the MS LifeLines call center with this certification after a thorough audit of customer satisfaction practices in 2012.

To achieve certification, the MS LifeLines call center successfully passed a detailed audit of more than 100 practices that drive an outstanding customer experience across its call center operations and support functions. As part of its evaluation, J.D. Power and Associates randomly surveyed recent MS LifeLines callers. For certification status, a call center must also perform within the top 20 percent of customer service scores, which are based on benchmarks established in J.D. Power and Associates’ cross-industry customer satisfaction research.

For more than a decade, MS Lifelines has been committed to connecting with the MS community, listening to its needs, and delivering individualized support to people living with MS, their families, and their caregivers twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

The heart of the MS LifeLines network is its call center, which has answered nearly 1.5 million calls to date from the MS community. The call center includes patient enrollment specialists, patient support specialists, nurse support specialists, and reimbursement specialists.

Whenever someone in the MS community needs to speak with a person, support is available at 877-447-3243. The MS community can also visit MS LifeLines.

Corporate Call Center Inc. Names New Leadership Team to Guide Growth

Corporate Call Center, Inc. (CCC), a business process outsourcing service provider specializing in the insurance, pharmaceutical, and healthcare services sectors, has announced executive leadership changes and employee expansion goals in light of pending healthcare changes due to the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

CCC’s new executive leadership team brings more than fifty years of combined leadership in the healthcare and customer services industry. Led by president and CEO Bob Glaser, the team also includes chief operating officer Amy Brennan and VP of sales Jim Gallagher.

“CCC is excited to add to our portfolio and be part of the historic launch of the new national healthcare reform law. In addition, our work in the area of Medicare programs, patient wellness, member retention, and pharmaceuticals allows us the ability to help our callers navigate the ACA selection process and provide the expertise our healthcare clients expect while representing their brands,” said Brennan. “We pride ourselves, not only on our quality and performance, but also in the fact that this is truly a place that fosters teamwork and success for each individual in an upbeat, professional environment.”

In line with naming a new executive leadership team, CCC is planning to add an additional 1,200 employees to support Medicare’s seasonal Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) and the new ACA. CCC has been looking to double its year-round employee base, which is currently 200; these additional hires will help immensely in achieving that goal. CCC strongly supports hiring military veterans, recent college graduates, and retirees.

Founded in 2002, Corporate Call Center, Inc. specializes in supporting the full customer life cycle of sales, service, and retention for the insurance, healthcare, and financial services sectors.


Ambs Call Center Recognized for Outstanding Service

Ambs Call Center, a provider of live and automated answering services to healthcare companies across the nation, has been awarded the coveted Award of Excellence by the Association of TeleServices International (ATSI). The award recognizes companies with an exceptionally high level of service and outstanding focus on customer satisfaction. This is Ambs Call Center’s eleventh time winning the award.

The ATSI Award of Excellence is an annually bestowed honor that requires a score of 80 percent or higher in categories such as courtesy, accuracy, response time, and overall service to clients.

Prior to winning the award, the answering services provided by Ambs Call Center were evaluated over a six-month period by independent judges.

Ambs Call Center is honored to receive the exclusive award, which serves as validation of their dedication to provide customers with customized solutions and personal attention, while reinforcing their mission to “provide efficient, courteous, impartial, and confidential services and to maintain a high standard of operation,” said Aaron Boatin of Ambs Call Center.


Call Center Set to Increase Productivity by Lounging Around

Sound Telecom, a nationwide provider of telephone answering services and contact center solutions, plans to implement an employee lounge and fun center for its call center agents in Spokane, Washington, and is considering other “non-traditional” benefits for its employees as it waits for the fog to lift on the impact that Obamacare will have on its ability to provide effective healthcare. “We continue to search for meaningful programs for our employees beyond traditional benefits while keeping a close eye on health insurance,” said Michael LaBaw, CEO of Sound Telecom.

Sound Telecom’s decision to create a fun and productive work environment and culture was spurred by the tension and turmoil employers and employees now experience due to the current level of confusion regarding the Affordable Care Act. The company wants to provide positive, healthy benefits for its employees that they can count on. The lounge – which was conceptually designed by a committee of call center employees – will include an area with comfortable furniture and lighting to read and relax, TV, computer games, ping-pong, pool, and foosball tables, as well as an area for making personal calls and personal use of computers.

“Employees are not allowed to have cell phones on the call center floor or to use computers for personal use due to HIPAA, PCI, and other compliance requirements,” stated Brian Gabriel, COO of Sound Telecom. “It can be stressful on the call center floor, handling hundreds of calls a week running the gamut from angry callers to emergencies. The lounge will provide an area to unwind and relax as well as a comfortable place to make phone calls and have personal use of a computer on breaks.”

The company doesn’t plan to stop there. “We are currently evaluating an employee fitness program and other wellness programs that will provide significant benefit to our employees,” said Cheryl LaBaw, director of customer relations. In addition, the company believes in serving the local community and is evaluating community service options after successfully testing employee involvement with Habitat for Humanity at their corporate office in Seattle.

Sound Telecom believes that by having happy employees they will have happy customers and continues to explore non-traditional benefit options.Save

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About Peter DeHaan

Peter DeHaan is the president of Peter DeHaan Publishing, Inc., (http://peterdehaanpublishing.com) the publisher and editor of Connections Magazine and AnswerStat, and editor of Article Weekly. Peter DeHaan’s personal website (http://peterdehaan.com) contains information and links to his blogs, newsletter, and social media pages.