The May 2016 Issue



What I Learned From Sneezing

By Peter L. DeHaan, PhD

Peter DeHaan, publisher and editorWith allergy season upon us, I recall when I realized I sneezed just like my dad. Not that there was anything wrong with how Dad sneezed, just that it was distinctive. At first, I chalked this up to heredity, but that wasn’t it. Instead, it was likely a byproduct of environment.

As I spent more time with my dad, the more I became like him. Not just physiological idiosyncrasies, but I picked up traits that are more significant, such as character, work ethic, and worldview. If I unknowingly learned these things by being around my dad, what do others learn and model after spending time with me?

On the negative side, when parents see distressing behavior in their children, they often do some soul searching, asking, “Where did they learn this? Although kids have many areas of influence, parents are a key source. Parents send a powerful example to their offspring through their words and actions.

I also see this principle in the workplace. Let’s consider patients and callers. Every organization has a few difficult ones – the kind you wish would just go away. But what if many are challenging? Maybe these people are merely reflecting the organization’s culture and how it treats them.

From the employee aspect, I’ve seen this occur on different levels. Once, I witnessed a call center shift supervisor’s negative influence on all the agents she oversaw. They were apathetic, took long breaks, and had no employer loyalty. The worst offenders were fired and replacements trained, but they fell into the same mode. Eventually the supervisor was scrutinized. She had grown haughty in her position, had become apathetic, took long breaks, and disrespected her employer. Her charges merely emulated what they saw in her. A new supervisor was hired, and she turned things around.

I’ve also seen this happen in an entire a call center. It seemed that good employees could not be found. Each new hire lied, manipulated, and disregarded policies and procedures. Their manager was a compulsive liar, a shameless manipulator of her staff, and a source of open contempt for her employer. After replacing the manager, the new leader suddenly found good employees to hire. It took years to overcome the damaging effects of the bad manager’s influence. However, with fresh leadership, the operation slowly began to turn around.

When a consistent trend of unacceptable behavior is evident in an entire group, it might be time to look at its leadership as the source of the problem.

Our influence on others is nothing to sneeze about.

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


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Content Marketing: Need content for your company blog or website? Let Peter DeHaan provide it for you. Rates start at $150 per post for exclusive content. Themes include healthcare call centers, customer service, general business, and more. Email Peter or call 616-284-1305.

Email Valerie to place your classified ad in our next issue.


Why Do Patients Call After Hours?

By Marci Lawing, RN, BSN

Winter months are normally associated with a higher number of patients calling with symptoms related to cold, flu, and influenza. Surprisingly this year we did not see the common influx of influenza-related patient phone calls that we normally observe. Cyndi Heaton, TriageLogic’s nurse manager, noted, “We are observing a different pattern of patient calls this year. Our nurses are triaging many calls that are associated with coughing and vomiting. Patients calling with these symptoms can normally be triaged with home care.”

Patients often call because they have a medical symptom, and they need a professional to help guide them to the appropriate care and provide them with reassurance. Looking at outpatient caller data for November 2015 to January 2016, TriageLogic found the most common reasons for phone calls included:

  • Cough
  • Colds
  • Sore throat
  • Medication question call
  • Vomiting without diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Eye puss or discharge
  • Earache
  • Head injury
  • Abdominal pain

The responses of what nurses told the caller patients to do were: 44 percent, home care treatment; 33 percent, see doctor; 17 percent, go to ER; 7 percent, follow up from office visit. They had the same number of patients sent to the ER as usual (around 17 percent). One big change from the previous data analysis in November 2015 is an observed increase in the number of patients sent to see a doctor in the next 24 to 48 hours. That is more likely because of the higher level of acuity in winter compared to other months.

As these results demonstrate, even with the cold season, most patients who called a triage nurse line could be treated with home care. Regardless nurses were able to ensure all caller patients received standardized, high quality care.

Doctors were also able to provide continuity of care for their patients by reviewing the nurse triage notes and following up with patients if necessary. Patients received peace of mind knowing they had a triage nurse available 24/7.

Marci Lawing, RN, BSN is a nurse manager and nurse educator at TriageLogic. Founded in 2005, TriageLogic is a URAC accredited, physician-led, provider of telephone nurse triage services. For more information visit www.triagelogic.com.


Healthcare Call Center News

Startel’s Healthcare Solution Offering

Myriad challenges face today’s healthcare industry – hospital and clinic consolidations, technology integration projects, EHR adoption plans, regulatory compliance demands, capital budget cuts, and staff shortages.

In the ever-evolving world of healthcare it is critical to have solid partners with experience that can cost effectively help call centers navigate through the labyrinth of challenges. Startel Corporation is such a partner, with over thirty-five years of healthcare experience. While there is no silver bullet that will solve all the issues faced by healthcare professionals, Startel’s comprehensive and affordable healthcare solutions and best-of-class support can help overburdened IT and technology staffs overcome many of today’s challenges.

Startel hopes readers will enjoy this short video that highlights the main features of their healthcare solution.

McKesson Specialty Health Honored

McKesson Specialty Health announced its Reimbursement, Access & Safety Services Solution Center received the Sterling Award in the Big Business category from the Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce. The Sterling Award, which the Chamber has presented for the past thirty years, includes a rigorous application, judging, and selection process. The award for the Big Business category goes to an organization with one hundred or more employees that makes a significant impact on the economic fabric of the community, as well as the lives of its employees. McKesson’s Solution Center administers programs on behalf of manufacturers that provide support to physicians prescribing their medications and to the patients taking the medications for complex and chronic diseases.

“I’m extremely proud to be a McKesson employee,” said Ruthymae Liggins, manager of Reimbursement Operations for McKesson Specialty Health. “Our work is aimed at improving the lives of patients. It’s humbling to be recognized for making a difference in the community and knowing that we matter to the people around us.”

Study Explores How Changes in Benefit Structures Affect Utilization and Spending 

Along with increased spending on physician services, expanded coverage of outpatient physician visits contributed to higher spending on advanced imaging, diagnostic tests, minor procedures, and prescription drugs, according to a new study, Balancing Access and Costs: Health Benefit Structures for Privately Insured People, from the nonprofit, nonpartisan National Institute for Health Care Reform (NIHCR).

Health insurance benefit structures, particularly cost-sharing amounts, can either encourage or discourage patients from seeking care. The goal is to strike the right balance so out-of-pocket costs don’t discourage people from getting needed care but to prompt them to consider costs before seeking discretionary care.

In 2011, contracts between the International Union, UAW, and Fiat Chrysler, Ford and General Motors significantly changed the structure of autoworker health benefits. Generally, coverage of outpatient physician visits was expanded while additional cost sharing was imposed for emergency department visits unless the patient is admitted to the hospital.


A Thought For Today

“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” -E. M. Forster

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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.