Solicit Feedback from Your Frontline Staff
Verify Key Information and Don’t Assume You Know the Answer
By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.
My first full-time job was repairing copy machines. One day, toward the end of my short tenure there, the new service manager shared his vision for the future of his department. The company had two product lines, each with its own technical staff. This was inefficient, as the paths of the respective service teams would often cross. His grand idea was to cross train us on both product lines so we would do less driving and be more efficient. Customers would receive quicker service, and the company would save money.
It was a clever idea, but I pointed out something he overlooked. Already jammed with copier machine parts, my service vehicle had no room left to carry additional supplies for another product line. In fact, I revealed that I had removed my spare tire to make room for the parts I needed to carry.
His once pleased smile evaporated. My revelation left him dismayed, shooting down his brilliant idea. I’m not sure if I were the first technician that he shared his plan with, but I was the first one to point out why it wouldn’t succeed.
I respected him as a leader, in part because he understood my job. In fact, he once did what I and my three dozen compatriots were doing now. But things changed over time with more models to service and more spare parts to carry. His assumption that his knowledge from years ago still applied left him vulnerable to making a miscalculation.
This error can happen in any organization, including medical call centers and answering services. Many people in management and leadership rose through the ranks, having once answered patient phone calls themselves. But things change over time, and what may have once made sense, no longer applies.
That’s why it’s important for leaders to keep in touch with what their frontline staff does each day. This doesn’t mean caring a vague comprehension, but instead possessing an in-depth understanding.
Short of periodically taking calls—which is a great idea—the solution is to talk with your telephone representatives. This will help you better understand what they do on a day-to-day basis and aid you in making informed decisions about the work they do and the policies that support them.
Don’t assume you know the answer. Ask the people who know. They’ll either confirm or correct your perspective. Either way, it’s a win.
Peter Lyle DeHaan is the publisher and editor of Medical Call Center News and AnswerStat.
Featured Sponsor: AccessNurse
Formerly known as the TeamHealth Medical Call Center, AccessNurse is the premier provider of comprehensive medical call center solutions, serving more than 15,000 physicians, healthcare organizations, federally qualified health centers, universities, and health plans across the country.
AccessNurse provides clients with a wide range of cost-effective healthcare services such as telephone nurse triage, answering services, virtual front desk services, post-discharge programs and hospital call center partnerships. They are an industry leader in reducing inappropriate or unnecessary utilization of healthcare resources, enhancing risk management, and increasing patient satisfaction. For additional information, visit www.accessnurse.com or call 844-277-6312.
Cybersecurity: How to Safeguard Your Medical Call Center
By Ravi K. Raheja, MD
Healthcare organizations are recognizing the need for heightened cyber defense in the wake of increased ransomware and other malware attacks this year. Becker’s outlines the main points of entry that hackers are likely to exploit, including networks, equipment connected over the Internet of Things (IoT), personal devices, data storage, records disposal, and remote users.
This last vector is increasingly important as more patient care shifts to remote-based triage and appointment setting. Here are some recommendations on how your medical call center can improve policies surrounding telephone nurse triage and patient health data to make them more secure.
Physical Security: Start by addressing the onsite components that make up your triage call center’s infrastructure. Servers, computers, and mobile devices should be up to date on the latest firmware, software, and encryption protocols. As of last year, HIMSS says some hospitals were still relying on Windows 2008, Windows 7, and Windows XP—all software which is no longer supported or updated by the manufacturer, and therefore more vulnerable to security breaches.
Data Security: You also need to think about how others can access and share your triage data safely. There are two aspects to keep in mind:
First, establish strict policies and procedures that keep your networks and data secure from unauthorized users. For example, if you use a virtual private network (VPN), confirm it’s with a reputable vendor that regularly provides vulnerability testing and patching—otherwise, it could still be exploited by hackers. If your call center relies on cloud-based storage or applications, the hosting data center needs SOC 2 and HIPAA certification, the highest industry standards for both physical and cyber-based security.
Second, train staff to identify risks of data exposure, and remind them regularly. For example, is yours trained to not open emails or click links from sources they don’t recognize? Are they mindful of common phishing tactics? Many organizations are adopting a Zero Trust model, where their systems require verification from everyone—whether inside or outside their network—as the best method to guard against unlawful access. Periodically engage with your IT on software vulnerability and penetration testing to proactively identify vectors that are potential targets for an attack.
Personnel Security: It’s vital that the triage staff members you hire are qualified for their specific roles and trained on these security measures. Run the appropriate background checks on all applicants or verify your contractors do so for their employees. Establish clear and logical policies and procedures, and reinforce them through the appropriate staff training, periodic testing, and review. When in doubt, coordinate with IT so that you have dedicated specialists available who can monitor your network and address questions and concerns from your team.
Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery: Can your network maintain access to its patient data in the event of an emergency or retrieve that information if portions of your network fail? What if there’s a fire in your primary server and the backup server goes down? How do you avoid shutdowns during a natural disaster? While such events are rare, a business continuity plan is vital to your organization’s resiliency. Also test it annually to verify it works.
How Secure Is Your Nurse Triage? Do you manage telephone nurse triage in-house, or through a partner triage company? In either case, you need to make sure your organization or the vendor it’s partnering with has the proper security infrastructure to address all the above items.
Ravi K. Raheja, MD is the COO and medical director of the TriageLogic Group. Founded in 2007, TriageLogic is a URAC accredited, physician-lead provider of high-quality telehealth services, remote patient monitoring, nurse triage, triage education, and software for telephone medicine.
Email TriageLogic at firstname.lastname@example.org to get details about MyTriageChecklist and its reporting features.
Send us your healthcare call center articles and news for the next issue of Medical Call Center News.
A Thought for Today
Clear thinking requires courage rather than intelligence. -Thomas Szasz