By Ravi K. Raheja, MD
You probably already know that nurse triage technology is evolving quickly. In just a few years, we’ve moved from monitoring fax machines, distributing calls, and being available in person to helping patients remotely via the Internet, integrated electronic medical records, and iPads.
Given this continually evolving environment, how do you assess whether your call center is using the most appropriate technology and thus maximizing its potential? Before you start evaluating your existing software or new platforms, the first step is to make a list of what functions your call center currently performs and what functions you would like to offer in the future.
With your management team, begin by discussing a five-year plan for the call center, considering your organization’s vision and needs. Make sure to get input on your plan from staff members at every level, including non-clinical operators, nurses, and IT staff. You may get valuable insight about your strengths, weaknesses, and the direction to move forward. You’ll want to develop the following lists:
A Services List:
- Services you offer now
- Services you want to keep
- Services you want to add
- Services you want to discontinue
A Features List: For every service you offer, use the input of the staff members who use each service to make a list of features:
- Features that are helpful and you want to make sure you continue offering
- Functionality you can add that would make the process better
- Features you would like to add
As you consider this list, keep in mind the flexibility and capability of your vendor in terms of understanding your needs and adding functionality as you and the technology evolves.
An IT List:
- What is the current uptime of your system and what would be ideal?
- What is an appropriate disaster plan for your system?
- How much IT support does the vendor provide?
- How much IT support does your organization require?
- Would you benefit from a hosted solution or an on-premise solution?
A Support List: Your platform is only as good as the team that builds and supports it, so consider:
- The vendor’s IT expertise
- The vendor’s call center expertise
- The vendor’s medical resources
A Finance List:
- What does your current budget look like?
- How can you increase revenue or justify spending?
- What is the cost to replace or upgrade your platform?
- What is the cost to maintain your platform, including both vendor and internal costs?
With all this information, you will be in a good position to evaluate software and platform possibilities for your call center. Here are some key questions to help ensure that a new or existing platform is a good fit:
- Does the platform have all the modules and functionality you need now and for the next five years?
- Does the platform have additional features that are available to add?
- Has the vendor continued to develop new functionality to keep up with technology trends?
- Does it integrate well with other EMR- or Web-based systems?
- Does it allow for a hosted or on-premise solution?
- Does the vendor have a team of experts in the call center space to support you?
- Does the vendor provide reliable, 24/7 urgent support?
- Does the platform allow your call center to communicate effectively with the providers?
- What is the true cost of your system? Include vendor fees, internal IT costs, and efficiency savings (areas where you could save time by automating tasks or increasing efficiency).
As you proceed, keep in mind four main considerations: your organization’s vision and needs at all levels, the features you already have and those you want, the customizability of the new or existing software, and the IT requirements to support your nurse triage platform. You now will be in an excellent position to evaluate and make decisions on expanding or customizing your existing platform or venturing into incorporating new software into your system.
Ravi K. Raheja, MD, is the COO and medical director of TriageLogic. Founded in 2005, TriageLogic is a URAC accredited, provider of quality triage solutions, serving over 3,000 physicians and covering 6.5 million lives. TriageLogic provides both software and after-hours nurse triage services. Whether you need nurse triage software for your call center or your office, an outsourced nurse triage service, or a combination of the two, TriageLogic has a customized, cost-effective product to meet your needs. TriageLogic also has an online learning center with educational blogs and videos for telephone triage professionals. For more information contact Amy Smith at 888-832-6852 or visit www.triagelogic.com.
[From AnswerStat – June/July 2015]