Do You React to Today or Plan for Tomorrow?
How We Handle Each Day Prepares Us for the Next One
By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.
In the medical answering service and call center industry, there’s always more than enough to do to fill each day. Between staffing issues, client or caller crises, and technical problems there are not enough hours to attend to them all. Given this pressure from the present, how can we ever prepare for the future?
Here are some thoughts about how to handle the workload at your medical call center.
Put Out Fires:
The default mode of operation at most answering services and call centers is putting out fires. A problem arises, and we react. Sometimes more than one issue shows up at the same time. Then we triage them and handle the most pressing one first, hoping we can get to the next one before it’s too late. We do this from day to day, week to week, and month to month. It’s all too easy for this management approach to continue year after year. There must be a better way.
Wouldn’t it be better to control the day instead of letting the day control us? To do this, we need to plan. We must be strategic. This means we schedule our day, our week, and our month. We know what we will do each hour, and we don’t let anything distract us from it.
Of course, having a rigid plan is idealistic. Through this strategic approach deals with what’s most important, it ignores the unexpected urgent things that are bound to come up. If all we do is prepare for tomorrow, who will take care of today? That’s where balance comes in. We need to balance putting out fires to being strategic, with reacting to being proactive.
To do this, make part of each day strategic and then allow the rest for reacting to the urgent matters that will crop up. This works best by blocking out an hour or two each day where interruptions are not allowed. I prefer first thing in the morning. Spend this time working on projects that will make your call center better. Focus on doing things today that will reduce the fires to put out tomorrow.
This is hard to do it first, but each time we’re successful it brings us one step closer to running our call center better and to do it with less stress. Are you ready to begin?
Peter Lyle DeHaan is the publisher and editor of Medical Call Center News and AnswerStat.
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Is It Time to Expand Your Medical Call Center’s Services?
By Traci Haynes
The ever-changing healthcare environment has impacted medical call centers throughout the years. Historically, medical call centers were often a physician and service referral program to assist callers with finding a physician or service near them that offered the type of care or service they requested and during times that were convenient for them. Soon after, medical call centers began offering access to nurses who could assess the level of care needed and provide advice based on the information supplied by the caller.
The scope of service of medical call centers has expanded to include prescription refill lines, pre-admission and post-discharge communication, disease management programs, complex care management, health coaching, satisfaction surveys, and hospital transfers. Some medical call centers are now communicating with individuals via video technology.
Your organization’s strategic plan and corporate vision should guide the expanded functionality of the medical call center. The medical call center has the potential to offer innumerable opportunities to improve information flow between patients, healthcare providers, hospital departments, health plans, and organizational decision-makers.
Before planning for future expansion or growth, it’s important to review the status of your medical call center’s operating performance to determine operating efficiency, clinical quality, and customer service levels.
Important considerations include:
- Leadership: Start with strong leadership that possesses the essential job qualifications and the vision to move the medical call center forward in alignment with the organization’s strategic plan and a fluid healthcare environment.
- Medical Director Participation: Medical oversight is essential to the medical call center and includes reviewing clinical updates of the decision support tools, care plans, medication information, continuous quality improvement, and outcomes, as well as additional oversight based on the scope of service.
- Performance Standards: Standards should address call management, documentation, communication, and professional development.
- Staffing Mix: Considerations should include the appropriate mix of clinical and non-clinical support to manage the different types of interactions within a pre-determined timeframe.
- Policies and Procedures: Written and approved policies and procedures should be updated and known by all staff members.
- Welfare: Items to address include HIPAA, ergonomics, environmental factors, length of shift, and so on.
- Security: Cover the physical safety of staff, as well as the security of the call center and systems.
Realization of the medical call center’s potential to support the organization’s goals and to provide optimal service often requires an assessment of current operations to recognize strengths and areas for improvement before the implementation of future initiatives.
Traci Haynes, MSN, RN, BA, CEN is the director of clinical services at LVM Systems, Inc.
Healthcare Call Center News
Startel & Professional Teledata Complete HIPAA Assessment: Startel and Professional Teledata successfully completed their Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) assessment. This marks Startel’s fourth and Professional Teledata’s first assessment for HIPAA compliance and reinforces the companies’ commitment to protecting consumer data and privacy. SecurityMetrics performed the third-party compliance assessment.
Following an evaluation of Startel and Professional Teledata’s offices, data centers, and software solutions, SecurityMetrics determined that the companies implemented policies and procedures to fulfill its obligations under HIPAA and Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH). Both companies received scores of 100 percent.
A Thought for Today
“Normal is the average of deviance.” -Rita Mae Brown