All posts by Peter DeHaan

Peter DeHaan is the president of Peter DeHaan Publishing, Inc., (http://peterdehaanpublishing.com) the publisher and editor of AnswerStat as well as Connections Magazine, TAS Trader, Medical Call Center News, and Article Weekly.

Plan to Make Next Year Your Best Year Yet

Now Is the Time to Determine Your Call Center’s Key Initiatives for Next Year

 By Janet Livingston

As we transition from summer to fall, now is a great time to begin planning for next year. Yes, we still have the final quarter left in this year, but don’t leave thoughts for what your next year might look like until New Year’s Day. And certainly don’t put off planning altogether. “As the saying goes, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”

Here are some areas to consider when you contemplate major initiatives for your healthcare call center for next year.

Improve Quality

Every call center can improve the quality of their service. Some have much to do in this area and others not so much. But if you think you’ve achieved the ideal level of quality, you’re making a grave mistake. That’s because patient and caller expectations continually increase. This means that what was acceptable a few years ago is no longer good enough, that what was excellent is now only passable. We should always strive for continual improvement.

What quality improvement goals might you set for next year?

Roll Out New Services

Just as people’s expectations for call quality increase from year-to-year, so too does their appetite for sleek, powerful new services. These fall into two categories. The most obvious category is a service that requires new technology to implement. (See next point.) The other category, which isn’t so obvious, is packaging your existing technology with your employee’s capabilities to produce some new, innovative offering that will delight callers.

What new services can you introduce next year that will help you serve callers more effectively and establish your call center as a best-in-class provider?

Upgrade Technology

Technology is another continually evolving variable to address. If you have premise-based solutions, they become dated fast and obsolete within a few years. Is it time to replace your aging technological infrastructure with something more powerful and effective?

Even if you have a hosted call center solution, you may not have the current version with all the needed modules. Fortunately with hosted solutions, upgrades are easier, and many providers apply them automatically. Yet this is still an area to investigate.

What technology upgrades can you implement in your call center next year to increase efficiency and improve effectiveness?

Improve Financial Standing

If your call center is an in-house operation, you may not have a direct revenue component tied to the work you do. Still, your operation has costs that appear in your organization’s financial reports. Are you a cost center (which is a bad place to be) or a profit center (which is a good place)? Take steps to transition your call center from a cost center to a profit center. This will make it more difficult for upper management to cut your budget. And if you’re already in the profit center category, seek ways to increase the profit component. That will get everyone’s attention.

And if you’re an outsource call center, the fees your clients pay for your services are what keeps your company in business. Look for ways to increase revenue. This can come from multiple sources, including price increases, adjusting rates for unprofitable clients, selling add-on services to existing clients, and sales and marketing initiatives to new clients. Everything you do to increase the revenue of your call center will help ensure your long-term viability.

What steps can you take next year to improve the financial standing of your call center? Begin planning now to make next year your call center’s best year yet. Click To Tweet

Conclusion

In the call center industry, especially for the healthcare sector, it’s too easy to fall into the trap of reacting to the day-to-day pressures of operating a call center with no time left to plan for your long-term well-being. Don’t let that happen to your operation. Begin planning now to make next year your call center’s best year yet.

Janet Livingston is the CEO of Call Center Sales Pro, a premier consultancy and service provider for healthcare call centers and medical answering services. Contact Janet at contactus@ccsp.us or call 800-901-7706.

Seven Tips to Minimize Risk and Improve the Patient Experience


Pulsar360: strategic partners with the TAS industry


By Bronson Tang

According to Statista, the percentage of businesses worldwide using a call center in the Americas is 66 percent. However, according to the Global Contact Center satisfaction index, the level of caller satisfaction dropped five points from 2010 to 2018. Medical call centers are now looking for ways to improve patient experience, while minimizing risk. The goal of a call center typically includes:

  • Increase patient satisfaction
  • Reduce readmission
  • Improve patient safety
  • Reduce missed appointments
  • Increase patient retention
  • Increase patient referrals
  • Resolve complaints and disputes
  • Increase patient lifetime value

In general, the medical call center should be tailored to increasing the satisfaction of the individual patient and not just the efficiency of the call. In addition to patient satisfaction, there is an overall feeling that many call centers focus too much on efficiency when they need to focus on effectiveness.

Here are seven ways you can minimize risk in a medical call center.The medical call center should be tailored to increasing the satisfaction of the individual patient and not just the efficiency of the call. Click To Tweet

1. Call Center Etiquette Matters: The need for proper etiquette is essential. This includes how calls are answered, how the patient is treated during the call, and how well issues and questions are addressed.

2. Hire the Right People: Hiring experienced call center agents is critical to the success of any medical call center, as this will significantly reduce the likelihood for agent turnover as well as the costs incurred in training. When you hire the right people, the agent will be able to achieve first call resolution, resolve disputes quickly and effectively, assure quality and security on every call, and reduce wait times.

3. Use the Right Technology: The technology that both your agents and patients use is important. From an agent perspective, having the right technology includes agent desktops, call monitoring, queue callback, intelligent dialers, and CRM integration with screen pops. From the patient perspective, having the right technology includes various ways the patient can easily interact such as emails, SMSs, video chats, tweets, and Facebook posts.

4. Measure Success with Call Center Metrics: Measuring quantitative performance such as call quality, first call resolution, patient satisfaction, average speed of answer, abandonment rate, and wait time are some of the ways medical call centers can have a visible eye on the success of their operation.

5. Reward and Motivate Agents: How agents deal with patients is in direct proportion to how well they are dealt with in their own company. Rewarding and motivating agents can go a long way toward producing a pleasant experience for the caller. This also includes empowering agents so they feel confident in their ability to do the job.

6. Ensure Agents Adhere to Regulations: Every organization has their own regulations, and medical call centers are no different. It’s vitally important that agents are well informed and follow the rules outlined by the call center. The medical call center needs to put in place proper measures to ensure those expectations have been communicated and understood by the agents. Proper training is the key.

7. Evaluate Agents: A method for evaluating agents is important to any medical call center, as it keeps the organization up to date with what is actually going on with each employee. Depending on the organization, having daily meetings with agents can help reduce potential risks that can take place on live calls.

Conclusion: The medical call center is a crucial component within healthcare to improve the patient experience, while reducing risks. Ultimately the decision is yours as to how you go about minimizing risks in your call center. The key is creating a positive experience for the patient.

Pulsar360: strategic partners with the TAS industryBronson Tang is the marketing manager at Pulsar360, Inc. He has ten years of experience in digital marketing and has worked in the Telecommunications sector for four years. He’s the author of the book, The Tao of Business.

Four Steps to Minimize Risk in a Healthcare Call Center


Call Center Sales Pro, providing proven healthcare call center solutions


By Janet Livingston

Running a call center is challenging, but mastering one in the healthcare industry carries an added set of concerns. People’s health and even their lives are at stake. Make a mistake and effect someone’s future, even their life. Although it’s impossible to eliminate all risks, a few simple steps can greatly minimize it.

Hire the Right Skill Set

Determine what credentials you want staff in each position to carry. Then hire to meet those requirements. Don’t skimp or settle for someone less than ideal. With so much at stake you don’t want to have an underqualified employee attempt to handle too big of a responsibility. This starts with hiring the right people for each position.

Provide HIPAA Training

Everyone in healthcare knows you must provide HIPAA training on a regular basis to all employees. However, finding time to do this may present a challenge. Every day in the call center is a busy one. This makes it easy to push off nonurgent tasks to tomorrow, to next week, and to next month. When it comes to HIPAA training, don’t delay. Make it a priority, and then do it. Provide HIPAA education as part of new employee onboarding. Then, provide HIPAA instruction for every employee each year.

Insist that Staff Don’t Exceed Their Capabilities

Many medical call centers have a mix of staff, some with medical training and others without it. Though those without a healthcare background will quickly pick up medical jargon, processes, and even some protocols, make sure they don’t attempt to provide a level of service they aren’t trained to do. Nurses should provide nurse triage, while non-nurses shouldn’t offer any degree of medical advice. It’s that simple. This is one time to keep everyone in their place.

Have a Good Errors and Omissions Insurance Policy

Having a good errors and omissions (E & O) policy is important for outsource call centers and especially essential for healthcare related operations. However, don’t view this as an excuse to take shortcuts. Instead strive to run your call center so that you’ll never need to file a claim. Consider E & O insurance as a backup in case the unthinkable happens.

Conclusion

Though there’s a lot that can go wrong in a healthcare call center, there’s no reason to let it cause you to lose sleep. Follow these four tips to help ensure your operation functions as it should and provides high-quality service that your stakeholders expect.Provide high-quality service that your stakeholders expect. Click To Tweet

Call Center Sales Pro, a full-service healthcare call center consultancyJanet Livingston is the CEO of Call Center Sales Pro, a premier consultancy and service provider for healthcare call centers and medical answering services. Contact Janet at contactus@ccsp.us or call 800-901-7706.

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 for compliance posture of administrative, physical, and technical safeguards as well as organizational requirements.

“We are thrilled with this year’s compliance achievements,” said Startel, Professional Teledata, and Alston Tascom president and CEO, Brian Stewart. “HIPAA security and compliance are top priorities for us. We look forward to continuing to deliver contact center solutions and services that help our customers grow their business and safeguard electronic protected health information.”

“Startel and Professional Teledata successfully implemented policies, procedures, and safeguards designed to comply with HIPAA,” said Brand Barney, senior HIPAA security analyst at SecurityMetrics. “Throughout the audit, we took into account the size, capabilities, cost, and probability of risk when evaluating the security measures implemented by Startel and Professional Teledata.”

The full HIPAA report is available to customers upon request. The companies will also sign Business Associate (BA) agreements with clients who require HIPAA compliance. Next year’s audit will include an assessment of Alston Tascom’s operating environment, data center, and solutions.

For more information, call 949-863-8776 or visit www.startel.com.

From Efficiency to Experience: Three Major Benefits of a Medical Call Center Partnership


TeamHealth Medical Call Center


A medical call center partnership contributes to organizational efficiency

By Karen Brown

Organizational efficiency is defined as the ability to implement plans using the smallest possible expenditure of resources. It is an important factor in organizational effectiveness and vital to the healthcare industry which continues to experience increasing operating costs and smaller bottom lines.

Medicare expansion and the ACA have contributed to significant increases in patient populations that are expensive to treat and provide minimal financial return. This increase can strain an organization seeking to provide adequate post-discharge care, which can result in costly avoidable readmissions.

As patient loads and associated risks increase and reimbursement decreases, the ability to achieve organizational efficiency becomes more and more challenging. However, providing the highest possible quality patient care at the lowest possible operating expense can be possible with the assistance of a medical call center. By partnering with a call center’s team of registered nurses specially trained in telephone triage, organizations can save a significant amount of time and cost associated with adding staff while reducing the risk of unnecessary readmissions and inappropriate utilization of care.

Telehealth and Related Services Are a Large Part of a Bright Future

It is no secret that telehealth services and telemedicine are becoming increasingly popular due to the financial benefits they provide. Combined with federal policy changes (MACRA and MIPS) that address care planning and risk assessment—significantly effecting reimbursement in the process—telemedicine is poised to drive more revenue from virtual care directly to hospitals and healthcare organizations. And this is just the beginning. According to a recent report from Grand View Research, the telemedicine market is expected to top $113 billion by 2025.

While telehealth currently focuses on a range of primary care services, the rising occurrences of chronic conditions, as well as the increasing demand for self-care and remote monitoring, are significant factors driving telehealth growth. Healthcare organizations that add new primary care options will be able to reduce costs and create new services, while remotely offering existing ones to more of their patient populations.

Partnering with a medical call center provides a healthcare organization with access to established chronic care, self-care, and remote monitoring programs, eliminating significant labor costs. It is vital to find a call center with outbound service offerings that include a variety of chronic care and follow-up, as well as post-discharge call programs, including prescription/medicine reconciliation, self-care plan adherence, and follow-up appointment scheduling.

Patient (and Provider) Satisfaction Equal Quality of Care

In today’s world, people have a multitude of choices when it comes to their care. Because of this, it is vital for healthcare organizations and providers to get every aspect of the patient experience right. Providing the correct medical care is not the only factor contributing to a positive experience. From the initial appointment setting call to the final communication between a patient and provider/organization, every experience contributes to the overall satisfaction and quality of care a patient receives.

One of the largest factors contributing to patient satisfaction is access to care. We live in a 24/7 world, and having access to definitive medical care always is a standard patient expectation. Providing that level of access is challenging and often costly; not providing that level of access leaves patients feeling less empowered and engaged, which in turn can lead to poor experiences and even poorer satisfaction scores. A partnership with a medical call center gives patients access to definitive medical care 24/7/365 at much lower costs.

Another factor contributing to patient satisfaction is the quality of relationship with their caregivers. Patients expect to be engaged in decision involving their care. This includes open communication with nurses and providers involved in that care. If patients do not feel as though their concerns have been heard and taken seriously, they feel less confident in the care they receive, resulting in a negative experience—even if the outcome is positive.

It is not uncommon for providers to become overwhelmed with consistently increasing workloads in a 24/7 environment. This can lead to frustration and burnout, which is often evident in their interactions with patients. Utilizing a medical call center to cover all after-hours calls carves the 24/7 access out of the provider’s core responsibilities. This is a powerful physician recruitment and retention game changer. In short, happy providers have more positive interactions with their patients, which result in higher patient engagement and satisfaction.

While no healthcare organization wants a patient to have a negative experience for any reason, there is a new factor regarding patient satisfaction that demands attention. Since the inception of value-based purchasing, the definition of a successful patient experience has been redefined. Now, 30 percent of the overall quality of care is attributed to patient satisfaction. This means patient satisfaction survey scores directly impact an organization’s bottom line. The shift to pay-for-performance also means that reimbursements are tied to the quality of care that is delivered. Hospitals that provide a higher quality of care than their peers will receive reimbursement incentives, and hospitals that provide a lower quality of care will be penalized. Hospitals that provide a higher quality of care than their peers will receive reimbursement incentives. Click To Tweet

This is perhaps the most beneficial aspect of partnering with a medical call center. Providing positive experiences for both patient and provider can drastically improve overall patient satisfaction and outcomes, leading to a higher overall quality of care and the related financial rewards.

Ultimately, the provision of appropriate, quality care to achieve positive outcomes is the goal of all healthcare organizations. Making that a possibility, while considering organizational needs, government regulations, and patient experience can be difficult and costly. Partnering with a medical call center provides access to high quality care at the lowest cost possible.

The TeamHealth Medical Call Center is the premier provider of medical call center solutions—including telephone nurse triage services. They provide services to more than 10,000 providers, health plans, home health, hospice organizations, employers, and universities across the United States. Karen Brown, RN, is the vice president of business development for the TeamHealth Medical Call Center. She has more than twenty-five years of senior management experience in healthcare.

Why is Your Contact Center Essential to Your Organization?

By Richard Stier

You are your health network’s senior leader for access with direct responsibility for the contact center. This morning your CEO asked you a question that has dominated your thoughts. “We’re taking a hard look at the budget,” she said. “The contact center represents a significant line item. Can you help me understand if, or why, the call center is vital to us? Why should it remain in our budget?”

How would you respond? Three key criteria provide the foundation for your effective reply.

Criteria 1: Structure the Framework: Align your contact center’s priorities with C-suite imperatives.

You have an ongoing conversation with your vice president about the organization’s driving priorities, and you’ve focused your contact center to support three of them:

  1. Reduce avoidable readmissions to eliminate a recent fine from CMS,
  2. Improve CAHPS scores for patient satisfaction to improve reimbursement, and
  3. Fill practices of newly employed physicians to accelerate the revenue cycle.

Because reducing preventable readmissions is an organization-wide priority, you’ve made it a contact center priority. At discharge, a contact center ambassador asks patients for permission to contact them and their caregivers when coordinating follow-up appointments. Your contact center receives discharge reports every morning from each member hospital. The ambassador calls, emails, or texts the discharged patient and the authorized caregivers to coordinate a day and time for the follow-up physician appointment.

After the scheduled day and time, a contact center ambassador calls the physician office to see if the patient kept the appointment. If the appointment was not kept, they reconnect with the patient or the patient’s approved caregiver to reschedule.

The results have been substantial. The readmission rate declined from 25 percent to 15 percent, and a fine from CMS was reduced by two million dollars over the past two years. Kept appointment rates for post-discharge physician visits have climbed to over 85 percent.

You’ve used tools in your contact center software to document and improve first experience satisfaction scores, and your overall CAHPS scores have been steadily rising. And, you have documented the stream of patients for whom the contact center has made appointments with newly employed physicians at eight practices.Your healthcare contact center is the virtual front door for personalized support and referrals. Click To Tweet

Criteria 2: Place the Rebar: Hardwire your contact center to strengthen your organization’s patient experience (PX) advantage.

You’ve shared with internal colleagues that healthcare currently has a 29 percent patient experience failure rate (per research by Hospital Compare). Only 71 percent of inpatient patients report they received the “best possible care.”

You’ve challenged your peers to ask, “In what universe is a 29 percent failure rate acceptable? Could we miss our revenue projections by 29 percent? Be over budget by 29 percent? Could we even conceive of missing our quality metrics by 29 percent—we only drop 29 percent of newborns, so we meet the standard?” Seriously.

You’ve communicated your belief that “best possible care” experiences begin before a patient receives care and continues after the patient returns home. You explained that your contact center is uniquely positioned to serve as the virtual front door for personalized support and referrals—whether on the website or on the phone—before using a clinical service and for individualized follow-up and coaching after discharge.

You’ve taken several actions to strengthen patient experience advantage:

  • You now include patient ratings and comments in your online provider directory. This key information for prospective patients increases the probability of a good match with one of your providers. Better alignment between patients and providers results in higher patient satisfaction.
  • Your contact center conducts pre-CAHPS patient satisfaction surveys to identify areas for improvement before the CAHPS surveys are conducted. The contact center leverages relationships with callers as a conduit of opportunity to improve CAHPS scores across the enterprise.
  • You place contact center ambassadors in your emergency department to capture patients without a primary care physician. This has resulted in less congestion in the ER, patients being re-directed to more appropriate sites or levels of care, and incremental patients being referred to in-network providers.
  • You have a pre-admission patient hotline where contact center ambassadors work with patients to keep them in-network, secure financial clearance, and arrange for a deposit prior to their visit. Ambassadors add value by providing patients with information about directions, location, and parking.
  • You shift your team culture to celebrate “phone hugs,” redirecting the focus from processing transactions to building relationships with patients through empathic conversations.
  • You launch digital patient experience journey mapping to document experiences from patients’ perspectives starting with the first online or phone contact to handoff of care to post-discharge connections.
  • You recognize the maturation of contact centers to require super agents whom you call “senior ambassadors.” They serve as indispensable personal coaches. They have a proven ability to calm difficult callers and help them with their most challenging situations. For example, they may coordinate pre-visit scheduling for multiple tests that need to be completed before the patient has their physician appointment.
  • You’ve integrated your contact center’s provider data into a single master provider database as a source of truth. The benefits include a comprehensive and more accurate database, reduced data errors, greater data security, increased provider satisfaction, and an improved caller experience.
  • You took two important steps to strengthen your organization’s patient experience advantage:
  1. You recognize your contact center’s role to deliver differentiating, memorable first experiences. In collaboration with your chief patient experience officer, you pulled together a team of first touchpoint and access leaders to multiply your impact.
  2. Your first touchpoint team understands the first three seconds of that initial interaction influences hospital selection and preference (SHSMD 2012). The team identified a shared metric for targeted improvement: first experience satisfaction score. You regularly monitor this and have ongoing first touchpoint team challenges across several departments to improve it. Your first experience satisfaction score has moved from 58 percent two years ago, when you implemented this initiative, to 84 percent last quarter. Future metrics considered by your first touchpoint team are: improved CAHPS scores and improved patient satisfaction with specific handoffs of care targeted for improvement.

Criteria 3: Pour the Concrete: Confirm your contact center as an investment, not an expense.

Expenses are cut. Investments are funded. You understand that if your contact center is perceived as an expense, you must be prepared for tough questions.

You’ve collaborated with your CFO to develop and publish a quarterly one-page contact center executive dashboard report for your leadership team. The metrics in this report are reviewed with your CFO annually and revised as needed.

Your contact center executive dashboard report includes three columns:

1. Executive Briefing on Strategic Priorities: The left column includes a bulleted list of metrics aligned to support Criteria 1 priorities.

In this case, you’ve provided a list of indicators under heading “Reduce avoidable readmissions.” Those indicators include: baseline, target, and current readmission rate; baseline, target, and current kept appointment rate; and baseline, target, and current percentage of PCPs with patient follow-up appointments within seven days of discharge.

The next indicator in the “Executive Briefing on Strategic Priorities” column is improve CAHPS scores. Your indicators are baseline, target, and current score for first contact satisfaction, and the number of pre-CAHPS patient satisfaction surveys completed by the contact center.

The third indicator is “Fill practices of newly employed physicians.” Indicators are baseline, target, and current number of referrals and appointments made to employed physician practices and the baseline, target, and current number of referrals and appointments made to all participating physicians for this quarter.

2. Strengthen PX Advantage: The center column includes metrics aligned with Criteria 2 priorities. Your indicators include: number of click throughs on patient ratings and comments in the online provider directory; number of unattached ER patients referred to in-network PCPs; number of patients served this quarter with the pre-admission patient hotline; and baseline, target and current patient satisfaction with handoffs of care from the contact center to employed practices.

3. Contact Center Investment Summary: The right column metrics support the priorities in Criteria 3. Indicators include a bulleted list of metrics after contact center interactions and clinical triage such as inpatient admissions, outpatient visits, ER visits redirected, total physician referrals, total physician appointments, incremental gross revenue, estimated net contribution (supported with attached detail), and estimated ROI.

When you meet with the executive team, you have three additional categories of metrics available to discuss, in anticipation of questions.

  1. The first is priority service line measures with indicators for each clinical center of excellence such as referrals resulting in inpatient admissions and referrals resulting in outpatient visits.
  2. You have also identified metrics for integrated access centers such as number of switchboard calls, call length, total handle time, abandonment rate, caller satisfaction, appointments scheduled by clinical service and practice, number of transfer center transactions, number of physician-to-physician consults, and gross revenue from physician-to-physician consults.
  3. Finally, you are prepared to update the group on contact center operation indicators such as total website conversions, total appointments scheduled, kept appointment rate, average seconds to service, and call abandonment rate.

Your reply: As you mind concludes this mental review, you take a breath and hear yourself respond to your CEO’s question with confidence.

“I believe our contact center is essential to our ability to achieve our strategic imperatives. We intentionally support our priorities to reduce avoidable readmissions, improve our CAHPS scores, and fill the practices of employed physicians. Our contact center strengthens patient experiences as our competitive advantage, beginning at the important first point of contact—whether online or on the phone.

“Importantly, our contact center delivers a tangible return. Our Executive Dashboard Report documents an ROI of three to one. That is, we get three dollars returned for each dollar invested. In summary, our contact center delivers a solid ROI while improving patient satisfaction.”

As your organization’s leader for access, you made the shift from managing transactions to delivering transformative experiences. The contact center team you lead builds competitive advantage by ensuring extraordinary patient experiences at the critical first touchpoint and beyond. Your contact center is vital to your organization’s mission-critical priorities.

Richard D. Stier is vice president marketing at Echo, A HealthStream Company. He is a results-proven proponent of delivering transformative patient experiences. Echo, a HealthStream® Company, delivers enterprise-class, innovative solutions to optimize patient experience contact centers. Echo’s solution for hospital-based contact centers, EchoAccess, enables your organization to deliver intentionally memorable experiences that mitigate risk, solidify loyalty, and reduce unnecessary readmissions.

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The April/May 2017 Issue of AnswerStat

Read the April/May issue of AnswerStat, the information hub for healthcare contact centers.



Feature Content:

Medical Apps and their “Application” in the Clinical Contact or Monitoring Center, by Traci Haynes , MSN, RN, BA, CEN
Mobile technology is growing exponentially. Hardly a day goes by when there isn’t information on a new medical app for mobile devices. Clinicians use them in their practice to increase efficiency in providing patient care and to effectively explain information to their patients.  read more >>

Vital Signs: Healthcare Uncertainty and Optimism, by Peter L DeHaan, PhD
The healthcare industry in the United States exists in uncertain times. What does the future hold? Will the status quo prevail, along with its current problems, trending issues, and looming concerns? Or will we experience…   read more >>

Vendor Spotlight: TriageLogic Expands Telehealth’s Reach to Help Your Employees
TriageLogic believes no one should delay care because physicians are unavailable or the ER is too expensive. Earlier this year, TriageLogic launched a new product, Continuwell, to provide telehealth services to a wider market.   read more >>

Guest Editorial: Do Mobile Apps Belong in Telephone Triage? by Mark Dwyer
I see a number of scenarios where having access to a mobile app or other software-based solution offers a real benefit to the consumer and a natural tie-in to today’s nurse triage call center. Look at a few functions commonly used today in telephone triage call centers to which…   read more >>

Mobile Apps and Telehealth: Another Channel for Reaching Your Audience, by Sue Altman-Riffel
Healthcare contact centers have acted as the communication and wayfinding hub between their sponsoring organizations and the audiences they serve. In the 1980s there was just one channel for quick communication: the telephone. Things have changed much since then.  read more >>

Medical Call Centers Are Here to Stay, by Gina Tabone, MSN, RNC-TNP
Changes to the American political scene are upon us and most certainly will have an impact on the provision of healthcare. Regardless of party affiliation, there are several healthcare reform objectives that need to remain in the forefront by future government leaders.  read more >>

A Day in the Life of an Offshore Medical Coder, by Dr. Liza Alcances, MD
The life of medical coders is different from clinicians. Weekends are usually free, the shifts are fixed, and there are not a lot of different activities that fill their days. Coders may miss the exciting work of hospital duty, but there is…   read more >>

Ten years ago: Better Call Center Continuity via Home-Based Professionals, by Mary Naylor
Most healthcare call centers have comprehensive continuity and disaster recovery plans to remain operational during unavoidable disruptions, some of which could last beyond the normal lapses traditionally anticipated…  read more >>

Industry News:

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About AnswerStat
AnswerStat is the information hub for healthcare contact center news and resources, published specifically for hospital and medical contact centers and distributed free to qualified readers, decision makers, and influencers at hospitals and healthcare contact centers worldwide.

For more information, contact Peter DeHaan via email or call 616-284-1305.

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TriageLogic CEO Honored at Enterprising Women of the Year

TriageLogic CEO, Charu Raheja, PhD, was honored at the Enterprising Women of the Year Awards. The Enterprising Women of the Year Awards is a prestigious recognition program for women business owners.

To win this award, Dr. Raheja demonstrated she has a fast-growth business, actively supports other women and girls involved in entrepreneurship, and stands out as a leader in her community. She exhibits each of these qualifiers in the success of TriageLogic and the launch of Continuwell, as well as her work with Community Health Charities and various charitable commitments and donations in her community.

Dr. Raheja was recognized April 2 at the 15th Annual Enterprising Women of the Year Awards Celebration & Conference. Enterprising Women is the nation’s only women-owned magazine published exclusively for women business owners that chronicles the growing political, economic, and social influence and power of entrepreneurial women.

“The recipients of the 2017 Enterprising Women of the Year Awards represent an amazing group of women entrepreneurs from across the United States and as far away as The Netherlands, South Africa, Uganda, the United Kingdom, and Canada,” said Monica Smiley, publisher and CEO of Enterprising Women. “We could not be more proud to recognize their accomplishments as CEOs of fast-growth companies, community leaders, and role models and mentors to other women and girls. We look forward to shining the spotlight on them at our fifteenth annual awards event in April.”

TriageLogic was also recently certified as a Women’s Business Enterprise and a Women Owned Small Business by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), the nation’s largest third-party certifier of the businesses owned and operated by women in the U.S.

TriageLogic“We are excited to have TriageLogic recognized for its diversity and look forward to many new partnerships to help triage patients and ensure appropriate care for their symptoms,” said Dr. Raheja. “Now that TriageLogic is WBENC certified, we have the ability to compete for business opportunities provided by WBENC Corporate Members and government agencies looking to increase the diversity of their vendors.”

Visit www.triagelogic.com for more information.

 

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A Day in the Life of an Offshore Medical Coder



By Dr. Liza Alcances, MD

The life of medical coders is completely different from the life of clinicians. Weekends are usually free, the shifts are fixed, and there are not a lot of different activities that fill their days. Coders may miss the exciting work of hospital duty, unique patient complaints, and endless rounds, but there is something to be said about an organized and sedate work life.

An Early Start: Most medical coders work days. A few companies require their coders to work nights, parallel to their US counterparts. Day shifts start as early as 7 a.m. This means that coders have to wake up early, allow for adequate travel time, and get to their offices on time. The dress code is usually business casual, so dressing for work depends on the coder’s fashion sense.

Life on the Production Floor: Each coder works on a computer, either a desktop or a laptop. Most will have the codes already in the software, removing the need for using hard copies of the manuals. Depending on the project, coders can be assigned cases directly from the system they’re using or assigned charts by their supervisor or team leaders. Quotas are set depending on the type of coding they do.

Generally, outpatient coders work on more patient charts, and inpatient coders work on a lesser number of charts. They are not allowed to pick the charts to work on, and so they gain experience working on a wide variety of cases. They must also finish the work assigned to them or meet the required quota, so the coders must stay focused and manage their time. Since they work on protected health information (PHI) and must meet US privacy standards, mobile phones are not allowed on the production floor.

Breaks and Lunch: Two short breaks are given, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Coders may use the time to take snacks, smoke, have a power nap, or go to the break rooms or to the pantry. Many companies provide indoor entertainment devices, like game consoles, table tennis, foosball, and the like. Some have quiet rooms, meant for sleeping.

Lunch breaks are longer. Most would have their own canteen, and many companies are situated in areas near commercial establishments. Coders won’t go hungry, and usually have enough time to get some coffee or dessert after lunch.

Home Sweet Home: Since coders start their day early, they also end the workday early. Most are usually off by 4 p.m., leaving them ample time to spend with their family or indulge in other activities. Of course since they have to go back to work early the next day, they also go to sleep early.

Other Activities: Audits and team meetings are common occurrences. These are done with their superiors and sometimes with their US counterparts. The quality of their work must be top-notch, and companies require at least about 95 percent accuracy in their coding.

Companies usually hold town hall meetings quarterly. They also schedule team building sessions, family day, sports fests, and other activities that allow coders to release stress. Some companies sponsor seminars and appoint management trainees so that coders will have additional skills that they can use to better themselves and to help the company.Medical coding is a specialized occupation, requiring specific knowledge and analytical skills. Click To Tweet

In Summary: The life of a medical coder isn’t something the entire healthcare community is aware of. Medical coding is a specialized occupation, requiring specific knowledge and high analytical skills. There are many challenges but also many opportunities. Some might think that the coder has a boring desk job, but as one of the occupations highly desired in the healthcare BPO, it can also get exciting.

Dr. Liza Alcances MD, RN, CPC, CPC-I, CIC, is the assistant manager, training—healthcare at TeleDevelopment Services.

Medical Call Centers Are Here to Stay


TeamHealth Medical Call Center


Patient Care is Non-Negotiable, and Contacts Centers Can Play a Key Role

By Gina Tabone, MSN, RNC-TNP

Changes to the American political scene are upon us and most certainly will have an impact on the provision of healthcare. Regardless of party affiliation, there are several healthcare reform objectives that need to remain in the forefront by future government leaders. Examples include enhancing quality of care, interdisciplinary coordination and collaboration, better utilization of available resources, gaining efficiencies, and reducing the per capita cost of healthcare.

Focusing on these concepts will contribute to the goal of improved outcomes for both individuals and overall patient populations we serve. The benefits achieved must continue regardless of who is leading the country. Nurse triage as a component of an integrated medical call center is a pivotal intervention and no longer optional.

The world of medical call centers (MCCs) has finally gained the recognition and credibility in the healthcare marketplace that many of us have been trying to expound for two decades. Centralized medical call centers are rapidly emerging as the backbone of health systems because they are integral in achieving better patient outcomes.

The new administration has wisely sought healthcare advice from the most innovative physician leaders in America. Toby Cosgrove of Cleveland Clinic and John Noteworthy of the Mayo Clinic were invited to meet with President Trump to share their thoughts on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and suggest ideas to plot the best plans for the future.

Concerns were expressed that the current model needs to focus more on patient health and wellness and less on the avalanche of paperwork. This has negatively affected the day-to-day responsibilities of clinicians who are held accountable for reporting on hundreds of quality indicators. These points of contention are agreed upon by most caregivers. Cleveland Clinic and Mayo Clinic have improved patient access, outcomes, and satisfaction by integrating state of the art integrated call centers with clinical access across their multi-state enterprises.

Hopefully, their example will resonate and continue to motivate other organizations to rapidly integrate outsourced or optimized in-house MCCs as a proven solution for reaching the three goals of the triple aim: improving the patient experience of care, improving population health, and reducing the per capita cost of healthcare.

Improving patient experience of care requires open access channels to care. Access means that patients are able to receive the most appropriate level of care needed, in a time best determined by specially trained nurses guided by evidence-based tools. The patient learns to expect reliable advice, taking into account their current health state and is consistently available day or night. Gaps in care are eliminated and delays are avoided, leading to favorable patient outcomes and higher reimbursements in a fee-for-value model. When patients’ well-being is enhanced, everyone gains—most especially the patients. MCCs can stake a claim for making that happen.

The year 2017 will have many organizations taking a close look at their operations and making tough choices about what functions are best accomplished internally and which ones can be entrusted to an outside partner. IT is a department that is being outsourced by some of the largest hospital systems in the country. Patient financial services is another service with options for outsourcing where the benefits to an organization outweigh the costs incurred. Incentives for meeting targets are common. Last, there is a surge by strategic decision makers to explore nurse triage services being performed by an outside call center partner.

The common denominator in all three areas where outsourcing is increasing is the fact that there is a reliance on human capital and all of the contingency costs that goes along with being an employer. High labor costs often consume up to 70 percent of many call centers’ operating budgets. Outside partners can assume the responsibilities with greater efficiency and better outcomes for a lower cost. There is also the possibility that many vendors are willing to assume some of the risks associated with the successful attainment of goals.

The choice to retain, outsource, or develop a hybrid of both is a multifaceted decision that is reserved for leaders at a higher level than the call center. Organizations have to thoroughly evaluate the options to determine which one best aligns with their mission, vision for the future, and strategic plans.

MCCs are branching out and taking on a variety of responsibilities that are well suited to be conducted remotely and reliant of state of the art technology and a dedicated work force. Once the technological infrastructure is created, the MCC can be enhanced to take on additional functions. Appointment scheduling is the most common task of many MCCs and often happens in tandem with the strategy of centralization. Electronic medical records (EMR) products have customized templates embedded with providers’ schedules that are used for office visits, imaging, or procedural appointments. Outbound calling campaigns are often conducted in conjunction with scheduling for appointment reminders.Without measurement there is no possibility for improvement. Click To Tweet

Centralizing all medication refill requests is emerging as a successful addition to many MCCs. Call center technology such as CRM (customer relationship management) allows for requests to be tracked, acted upon, and measured to ensure established targets are met in a timely manner. Without measurement there is no possibility for improvement. Patients can expect a standard process for medication needs and a defined time for responses or resolution. Medication management and compliance is critical for optimal outcomes, so implementing a process that fosters it is a good idea. Patients stratified as high risk garner the most advantages, which contribute to maximum reimbursements for medical treatments.

MCCs have taken on the significant task of not only caring for the acute needs of primary care patients, but the chronic needs of vulnerable high risk patients as well. Successful coordinating and transitioning of care is central to every health system’s strategy for sustainability today and growth tomorrow. Nurses are the clinicians assigned to figure out how to morph from case management to transitional care coordinators.

Regular communication between the patient and the caregiver is vital and is often by telephone, text, or email. Training the newly created care/transitional nurses in the fundamentals of remote patient care is imperative and is based on the standards of care for telephone triage nurses. The practice of triaging the acute symptoms has branched out and will serve as the starting point for nurses involved in coordinating care.

It is up to those of us established in the medical call center industry to continue to proclaim the unlimited value of a MCC to the healthcare industry. In many healthcare organizations more than 10 percent of employees spend the majority of their day doing their job on the telephone. The benefits of centralizing and consolidating the work they do are undeniable.

C-suite leaders must accept the fact that medical call centers are no longer considered an expense but an investment with impactful ROI (return on investment).

Initially there were call centers, then access centers, followed by contact centers, and in 2017 we are engagement centers. The task at hand is to capture the limited attention of decision makers and educate them on the role MCCs play in a fee-for-value system and the distinct results that are possible. The future may be uncertain, but there remains a need for products, services, and expertise that bring the call center to the forefront of patient care.

TeamHealth Medical Call CenterGina Tabone, MSN, RNC-TNP, is the vice president of strategic clinical solutions at TeamHealth medical call center. Prior to joining TeamHealth, she served as the administrator of Cleveland Clinic’s Nurse on Call 24/7 nurse triage program.