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Oklahoma Medical Center Provides Innovative Triage Line to Manage Hospital Overcrowding


TriageLogic

An Effective Approach to ER Phone Calls

Dr. Charu Raheja

Emergency Room (ER) overcrowding is widespread in hospitals, creating delays and diversion from those who need care the most. According to a recent article, “Compounding the problem is the alarming trend of a decreasing number of ERs and an increasing number of ER visits.”

All too often, injury or illness appears without warning for patients. For hospitals trying to control overcrowding, the obvious solution is to redirect patients who don’t need to be in the ER to more appropriate paths for care. Who then determines if it’s necessary for a patient to go the ER? Most people aren’t trained medical professionals, and as a result, they worry and end up in the ER for non-urgent symptoms.

Having the reassurance of a triage nurse could help decrease the number of people in the ER for non-emergency reasons. Click To Tweet

Patients faced with uncertainty about where to go, all too often, end up calling the ER department and receive a standard response: “We are not allowed to give advice over the phone. If you think you have an emergency, please hang up and call 911. If you think you need to see someone, you can come to the emergency room or call your doctor.”

So, who do you call?

Telephone Triage

One hospital in Oklahoma, with a similar issue, wanted to change this process. What if they provided a nurse triage line that would be available to receive calls from the patients calling the ER? Having the reassurance of a triage nurse could help decrease the number of people in the ER for non-emergency reasons.

This would provide patients with quick and easy access to a trained medical professional to assist in determining the appropriate next steps based on their symptoms and medical history. Also, since the nurses work independently from the hospital system, the nurses would provide an objective opinion increasing patient trust.

Results

The results were inspiring. The nurses significantly decreased unnecessary emergency room visits. A random survey of about 520 patients uncovered their plans before talking to a nurse. This helped determine the effectiveness of the system.

Out of 240 patients who were planning to go to the ER, 42 percent of them were diverted to a lower level of care, including 17 percent that received home care needing no additional follow up actions. This translated into a savings of at least 215,000 dollars in unnecessary ER visits, not to mention providing peace of mind for patients being able to stay home and rest.

Better Health Outcomes

The benefits didn’t just stop at ER costs savings. Consider the patients who called into the nurse triage line and were not intending to go to the ER. Some medical conditions are considered emergencies because they require rapid or advanced treatments.

Surprisingly, close to 20 percent of the patients who called into the nurse triage line had symptoms that were serious enough to warrant a visit to the ER. Without the nurse line, the outcomes for these patients could have been life threatening or fatal.

Conclusion

While nurse triage has shown significant effectiveness in an outpatient setting, this preliminary data shows even greater promise to expand this model to emergency rooms around the country.

Providing local communities with a nurse triage program not only prevents unnecessary ER visits and saves on healthcare costs, but it also ensures patients get appropriate care when a serious symptom arises. For the hospital, this increases goodwill in the community while addressing the overcrowding of the ER: a win-win all around.

TriageLogic

Dr. Charu Raheja is the co-founder and CEO of the Triage Logic Group. Charu’s personal struggles and triumphs with her health define both her personal and her professional mission. Most recently, her experience in overcoming a life-threatening health event led her to launch the Continuwell brand. The TriageLogic Group provides telehealth software, mobile communication solutions, and services to large medical centers and businesses around the country. It is part of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), and it covers over 25 million lives nationwide. Visit www.TriageLogic.com or contact Amy Smith at 888-TEAMTLC for more information.

1Call’s miSecureMessages Secure Messaging App Releases Version 4.2.0

The 1Call division of Amtelco released version 4.2.0 of the miSecureMessages secure messaging app. Version 4.2.0 features enhanced functionality with Apple Watch. Apple Watch Series 3 and Series 4 users with watchOS 5 or later can read and reply to secure messages from their Apple Watch. A menu added to Apple Watch displays which accounts contain new messages.

Colleen Curtin, miSecureMessages product manager, stated, “We are very excited to release this highly anticipated app update and would like to thank our customers who enthusiastically volunteered their time to test the update to ensure it would meet the needs of all of our customers. This new version will greatly improve clinical communications.”

Customers of miSecureMessages may either manually or automatically update the app from their iPhone’s app store. New documentation is available on Amtelco’s TechHelper website for additional support.

The miSecureMessages Apple app provides secure messaging and paging services for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. Users can view, respond to, and initiate messages to other miSecureMessages users within an organization.

1Call, a division of AmtelcoFor more information about miSecureMessages, call 800-356-9148, email info@misecuremessages.com, or visit www.misecuremessages.com.

Tips to Selecting a Vendor—Don’t Compromise on Security


TriageLogic


By Ravi K. Raheja, MD

The average cost of a data breach in the United States has hit an all-time high of 7.35 million dollars. Just this year, there have been more than one hundred hacker attacks on healthcare organizations, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Despite better awareness among healthcare organizations, data breach costs average 408 dollars per record. Cybercriminals use weaponized ransomware, misconfigured cloud storage buckets, and phishing emails to attack.

Hidden costs in data breaches are difficult and expensive to manage, resulting in customer turnover, reputation damage, and increased operational costs. Knowing where the costs lie, and how to reduce them, can help companies invest their resources more strategically and lower the huge financial risks at stake.

While looking for cost saving solutions is important for any business, it is critical to make sure your vendor partners also meet the same stringent criteria on data security. This extends to your outsourced, after-hours services as well. Not doing the proper due diligence, can lead to a significant risk in terms of data loss and security.Hidden costs in data breaches are difficult and expensive to manage, resulting in customer turnover, reputation damage, and increased operational costs. Click To Tweet

Here are a few critical questions you should consider when selecting your partners in healthcare:

  1. Do you have a chief information officer (CIO) who oversees the security program?
  2. Do you have a formal security compliance program in place with yearly audits?
  3. Is the vendor URAC accredited so there is a third party auditing the triage call center policies and procedures to ensure they are followed?
  4. Does the vendor sub-contract services? If they do, are the proper BAAs (business associate agreements) and contracts in place?
  5. What is their data breach insurance policy limits?
  6. Is the data center infrastructure set up to maximize data protection along with regular scanning of the software and servers?
  7. Does the vendor have an intrusion detection system to alert potential threats?
  8. Does the vendor have adequate IT resources to monitor all systems and to respond quickly to any potential threats?
  9. Do the products meet HIPAA, HITECH, and other security requirements?
  10. Do the security reports meet all auditing and HIPAA reporting needs?
  11. Do you have a formal HIPAA training program for all staff members?
  12. Does the data center where the data is stored have proper security certifications?
  13. Is the patient data secured at all times and in all modules of the product? (This must include strong password protection or other user authentication, data encrypted at rest, and data encrypted in motion.)
  14. Is the patient’s data secured when accessed via handheld devices, such as through secured through SSL web sites, iPhone apps, and so forth?

If the answer is no to any of the above questions, then it may be an indication that you should look deeper and compare vendors before selecting one that will protect your patient data properly. Don’t be afraid to dig deeper and ask vendors questions if you have any concerns. Remember, it is a lot harder to change vendors once you implement a program than to ask questions and make sure that you have the best system in place for your needs.

TriageLogicRavi K. Raheja, MD is the COO and medical director of the TriageLogic Group. Founded in 2005, TriageLogic is a URAC accredited, physician-lead provider of high-quality telehealth services, nurse triage, triage education, and software for telephone medicine. Their comprehensive triage solution includes integrated mobile access and two-way video capability. The TriageLogic group serves over 7,000 physicians and covers over 18 million lives nationwide. For more information visit www.triagelogic.com and www.continuwell.com.  

For feedback and questions, please feel free to contact Ravi at ravi.raheja@triagelogic.com.

The February/March 2019 Issue of AnswerStat

Read the February issue of AnswerStat, the information hub for healthcare contact centers.



Feature Content:

February issueBalancing Patient Care with Data Security and Privacy Starts with the Contact Center, by Tim Critchley
Data breaches in the healthcare sector are at an all-time high—occurring at a rate of more than one per day in the United States. Apply security best practices to… read more >>

Vital Signs: Take a Fresh Look at Agent Compensation, by Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD
Don’t brush aside the importance of providing appropriate call center agent pay… read more >>

Vendor Spotlight on LVM Systems
LVM is now one of the industry’s largest providers of hospital-based healthcare call center solutions. Learn why… read more >>

Ten years ago: Medical Call Centers: Building Versus Outsourcing, by Ken Bleakley
Healthcare organizations have three basic choices regarding the provision of call center services. These choices are… read more >>

Help Wanted: TAS/Medical Call Center Channel Manager

Industry News

        

Call4Health      TriageLogic

1Call      Startel

TeamHealth Medical Call Center      Ambs Call Center

AAACN       Citra Health Solutions

Call Center Sales Pro, providing proven healthcare call center solutions      Pulsar360


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.

Contact us for more information.

Vendor Spotlight: LVM Systems


LVM Systems


In 1988, Les Mortensen had the foresight to create a product to help hospitals help the patients they serve. Since then, hundreds of hospitals, thousands of users and millions of patients have benefitted.

LVM is now one of the industry’s largest providers of hospital-based healthcare call center solutions. It celebrated another successful year in 2018, marking its thirtieth year serving the healthcare industry.

When reflecting upon how LVM has continued to grow throughout its 30-year history, three critical components come to mind: providing comprehensive, efficient software; using recognized, quality clinical content; and building positive relationships with clients across all company departments.

At LVM, past accomplishments drive ongoing improvements and the development of additional functionality to increase the success of its clients. What keeps LVM the logical choice when selecting a healthcare call center partner is its practice of constantly adding increased functionality, greater usability, and enhanced call handling efficiency to its products. Client input assists the LVM development team to assure the products and services LVM delivers address the industry’s greatest needs.

Some recent enhancements include:

Chat Messages

The chat product is a web-based function that is setup on the client’s website to allow a patient to engage and start a chat with the contact center.

Hospital Transfer

An alternate, streamlined hospital transfer module provides clients a more efficient method to process the initial call’s data capture and needed sending information, track a working diagnosis, and record the data necessary to complete acceptance tracking. This simplifies the process while still collecting all the pertinent information.

Quick Entry Screen

A reformatted quick entry screen optimizes data entry and ease-of-use.

Auto Merge Data on Save

A new view records option appears on the data conflicts screen. Selecting this option allows the user to evaluate the record in conflict for changes when saving.

Protected Fields

The following fields are marked “protect this field” by default: myLVM password, SMTP password, credit card user password, and PDF owner password. Data stored in these fields is not viewable during a call.

Read Only Fields

Fields can be set as read only giving the user the ability to see the information displayed in the field, but they will be unable to make changes. The field will be grayed out on the screen.

Login Screen

The updated sign on screen alerts the user that their password is going to expire by the changing background color. The color changes when the password is going to expire in less than ten days. 

Security Settings

The optimized and updated security settings provide for more finite control and consistent security measures. The following are some recent changes regarding password security set-up and use rules designed to make using the product more secure:

  • Heightened Login Security: When a user exceeds the number of failed login attempts, their record is locked. It requires a user with manager authorization to unlock the record.
  • Inactive Accounts Expire in x days: Sets the number of days until the password automatically disables inactive user accounts. Inactive user accounts are marked “Don’t Use” when disabled.
  • Login Attempts Before Account Lock: Designates the number of consecutive failed login attempts required before locking a user’s account. Once locked, a manager can unlock the account, or the user must wait the designated time before it will unlock.Account Lock Will Expire in x minutes: Designates the number of minutes before a user’s account will unlock and they can try to login again. This field works in conjunction with “login attempts before account lock.”
  • Password History Entries: Choose how many previous passwords are kept to prevent re-use. The user will be prevented from using these passwords when creating a new one.
  • Password Minimum Special: Choose the minimum number of special characters required to be in the password.

LVM’s team of industry experts constantly study changes in healthcare to stay abreast of significant changes affecting healthcare call centers. These efforts distinguish LVM from other companies whose sole focus is software development.

At LVM, healthcare organizations have a partner to provide ongoing updates to its pediatric and adult nurse triage functionality, CRM database segmentation and marketing capabilities, physician referral, class/membership management, service referral, patient transfer, behavioral health input, and many other functions. LVM also offers a comprehensive co-morbidity care management program (CCMP) for individuals with chronic disease(s). CCMP focuses on educating and engaging individuals, earlier interventions, coordinating care, and managing transitions across the continuum.

LVM SystemsFor more information or a demonstration of LVM’s call center solutions contact Carol Zeek, regional VP, sales, at 480-633-8200 x279 or Leann Delaney, regional VP, sales at 480-633-8200 x286.

Mark Dwyer is a 32-year veteran of the healthcare call center industry. He joined LVM Systems in 2003 and currently serves as COO.

Take a Fresh Look at Agent Compensation



Don’t Brush Aside the Importance of Providing Appropriate Call Center Agent Pay

 By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

In my article “Ideas to Better Retain Call Center Staff,” we looked at five tips to improve call center staff retention rates. I first considered compensation, a topic of great concern for managers and which carries a critical consideration for call center agents. Because of its complexities, it’s too easy for managers to shrug and say, “We’re doing the best we can. We can’t afford to pay anything more.” In fact, I’ve shared this sentiment with call center staff a time or two myself.Make incremental steps to what you pay, what you expect, and what you get in return from your staff. Click To Tweet

Survey Your Local Market

Several years ago, I consulted for a county medical bureau’s answering service. As I met with the call center agents, each one had the same complaint: “People working fast food make more than we do.” After two days of repeatedly hearing this grievance, I did some research. I walked into the eight closest fast food restaurants and asked what their starting wage was. Each one paid less, often considerably less, than the answering service.

Agent Compensation

Armed with this information, I set about correcting the agents’ unchallenged misconceptions about their pay. My research approach was a quick and easy one, and you may want to do a more thorough analysis, but the point is to survey your local job market to know where you stand. Then you can make informed decisions about what your agents should make.

Establish Your Compensation Paradigms

Another answering service I consulted for paid their agents comparable to the local fast food restaurants, which hovered near minimum-wage. I told the owner, “When you pay fast food rates, you get fast food mentality.” This isn’t to imply criticism against fast food workers, because some of them do their jobs with excellence. It is, however, my intent to point out that taking an order for a hamburger isn’t on a par with handling a phone call at 3 a.m. from a hysterical first-time mom concerned about her screaming baby’s high temperature.

Decide what you want your call center agents to make in comparison to other area jobs. Remove the concern of what you can afford from this equation, and focus on what you should aim for instead.

Make Expectations Match Compensation

At this point, I doubt you’ve decided you’re paying too much. Though you could have concluded you’re paying your agents an appropriate hourly rate, you more likely determined that ideally you want to pay them more.

But don’t make the mistake of increasing your starting hourly pay, without making a matching adjustment to increasing your screening processes, employee expectations, and desired outcomes. Pay more and expect more.

Conclusion

Making a significant change to agent compensation is one of the most terrifying decisions to make when running a call center. Trying to make huge adjustments too quickly could produce devastating consequences. Instead determine where you want to get to, plan how to get there, and implement it with care. Over time, make incremental steps to what you pay, what you expect, and what you get in return from your staff.

As you do, you will improve agent retention and increase quality, along with enhancing your employees’ attitude and workplace environment.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of AnswerStat. He’s a passionate wordsmith whose goal is to change the world one word at a time.

1Call Introduces Intelligent Series Version 5.3

The 1Call Division of Amtelco announced the release of Version 5.3 of their Intelligent Series (IS) software. It includes several updates and additions including:

  • the transfer of voicemail from Infinity to IS for use with the Genesis system,
  • ACD answer call setting to reassign parked calls to another ACD skill,
  • auto-answer announcement greetings,
  • the addition of conference join call recording to conference join and patch call states so that both conferences and patches can be recorded, and
  • an IS supervisor dashboard allowing users to configure multiple dashboard layouts that can be filled with a choice of widgets.

Amtelco’s vice president of research and development, Kevin Beale stated, “We are thrilled to be able to release this impressive software update. Countless hours have been spent researching, developing, and refining each feature, ensuring they will meet the needs of our customers and helping them improve communications with their patients and physicians.”

1Call, a division of AmtelcoFor more information about 1Call’s Genesis Intelligent Series for hospitals, clinics, and healthcare enterprises, 800-225-6035, info@1call.com, or www.1call.com.

1Call’s Genesis Intelligent Series Receives Unify Certification

The 1Call Division of Amtelco received interoperability certification for the Genesis Intelligent Series call center console solution with the version 8.x Unify OpenScape 4000 PBX (private branch exchange) by the Unify Technology Partner Program, based in Munich, Germany, on December 3, 2018. Amtelco is a Unify Technology Partner, with Advanced Level status.

Testing of the Interoperability between 1Call’s Genesis Intelligent Series solution and Unify’s open SIP interface for the OpenScape 4000 PBX was conducted remotely in October by 1Call’s PBX Integration Lab staff in McFarland, Wisconsin, and the Unify Communications Development Lab in Beersel, Belgium.

1Call received interoperability certification from Unify in 2016 for the Infinity Intelligent Series call center console solution with the version 7.x Unify OpenScape 4000 PBX. According to Amtelco president Tom Curtin, “Amtelco is extremely excited to have this certification to bring to our wonderful partner-customers that are looking forward to getting the best of Unify and Genesis in one tight integration.”

1Call, a division of AmtelcoFor more information about 1Call’s Genesis Intelligent Series for hospitals, clinics, and healthcare enterprises, 800-225-6035, info@1call.com, or www.1call.com.

Balancing Patient Care with Data Security and Privacy Starts with the Contact Center



By Tim Critchley

The stakes have never been higher for healthcare providers to deliver a positive patient experience. According to a recent study by Prophet, 81 percent of consumers are unsatisfied with their healthcare experience, while only 40 percent believe providers are best meeting their needs. At the same time, data breaches in the healthcare sector are at an all-time high—occurring at a rate of more than one per day in the United States.

These security incidents not only jeopardize patients’ privacy but also put both patient trust and brand reputation at risk.

All the while, medical practitioners, hospitals, and insurers are pressed to keep up with the ever-evolving regulatory compliance landscape. This not only includes the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) but also the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and a long list of individual state regulations and data breach notification laws.

With HIPAA violations alone incurring fines as high as 50,000 dollars (for each violation or exposed record), healthcare organizations are finding themselves wedged between conflicting objectives: how do you protect patient data and maintain compliance, without losing sight of providing the best possible patient experience? Data security and privacy are key to providing positive interactions with your customers and patients. Click To Tweet

Contact Center Security

While you can’t please every patient, you can strike a balance between care and data security. The first place to address this is your contact center.

Although online interaction tools and patient portals are gaining in popularity, you can’t underestimate the value of the voice channel. Research by PatientPop shows that 58.5 percent of patients still prefer to schedule an appointment via phone.

As such, your contact center is often the go-to point of interaction for your patients and can set the tone for their entire experience. But this also means that your contact center intrinsically holds, processes, and stores copious amounts of personally identifiable information (PII), from medical records to payment card data. This makes the contact center an alluring target for fraudsters and hackers.

However, it’s not only devious cybercriminals who threaten your patients’ data. Company insiders, such as rogue patient service representatives (PSRs) or contact center agents, pose a massive threat, especially if they have access to patient data given over the phone or stored in desktop applications. In fact, 58 percent of all healthcare data breaches and security incidents are the result of insiders, according to Verizon’s Protected Health Information Data Breach Report.

Security Best Practices

With inside and outside threats, as well as vulnerable legacy systems serving as entry points for enterprise-wide breach incidents, contact centers are undoubtedly a weak link in your security chain. But protecting PII, maintaining compliance, and providing a positive patient experience first involve a hearty dose of security best practices:

  • Treat all data as potentially toxic: The more information that is available in the event of a breach, the easier it will be for a malicious insider or cybercriminal to steal a patient’s identity or access their private medical records.
  • Train all employees and always perform thorough background checks: Go beyond basic employee vetting and background checks, especially when hiring for your contact center environments. Educate PSRs and customer service agents on data security best practices and how to spot social engineering and phishing tactics.
  • Prepare your response management policy: Have an incident response management policy and process in place, preferably as part of an information security management system. Prepare for a worst-case scenario, and test your incident response plan at least annually.
  • Tokenize data: Replace PII with a meaningless equivalent, so even if a breach is successful, the hacked data will be of no value to the cybercriminal. This approach can also assist in the event of a social engineering attack, which can put even the most trustworthy employee at risk for exposing PII.
  • Enforce the principle of least privilege: Give employees the minimum level of access required to perform their job function at the appropriate time. Introduce exception procedures for when emergency access is needed.
  • Authenticate the user to authenticate the service agent: Prevent PSRs and agents from accessing patient data until the PSR has received the right data from the user. This means that until the caller has been successfully identified using the appropriate secure authentication approach, deny access to detailed PII.

Descoping Technologies

With these tactics creating a foundation for security in your contact center, you can introduce descoping technologies. Such technologies not only strengthen data security and compliance by removing sensitive data from your infrastructure, but they also garner a positive patient experience and journey.

For the voice channel, in particular, dual-tone multi-frequency (DTMF) masking solutions hold great promise, allowing patients to discretely enter numerical PHI, such as payment card, insurance, or account numbers, using their phone’s keypad. The keypad tones, however, are masked with flat tones, so they are not exposed to anyone but the patient. The data collected is encrypted and sent to a compliant third party, bypassing the contact center’s environment completely.

While this process may invoke notions of automated interactive voice response (IVR) systems, it is not quite the same. Here, agents and PSRs can remain on the line in full voice communication with the patient, guiding them through the transaction, answering questions, and even handling wrap-up tasks. There are no challenges with misheard or miskeyed data, which can lead to premature hang-ups and abandoned calls. In addition, patients have full control over inputting their information and can enjoy peace of mind that their data is protected. This makes for a better overall customer experience.

Conclusion

Data security and privacy are key to providing positive interactions with your customers and patients, and there really is no longer any need to compromise in either area. A combination of security best practices, strategies, and emerging descoping technologies are ideal solutions to achieve both. No matter which route you take, the less PII you hold and handle, the better off you’ll be. Remember, no one can hack the data you don’t hold.

Tim Critchley is the CEO of Semafone.

Call 4 Health Announces 5th Annual User Conference

Call 4 Health announced details for its 5th Annual User Conference, January 16-17, 2019 at the Delray Beach Marriott. The intensive, two-day event will focus on customer service satisfaction, in which participants will acquire the essential tools, resources, and solutions necessary to manage and elevate their business’s healthcare footprint. Conference features include informative industry lectures, networking opportunities, and interactive discussion pods to bring businesses to the next level and beyond.

“The Annual User Conference is our way of equipping industry clients and partners with the influential tools they need to thrive in the healthcare industry,” said Joseph Pores, CEO of Call 4 Health. “This year’s schedule of training sessions, networking opportunities, and entertainment is sure to make the 2019 conference unparalleled.”

This year’s keynote speaker is Kevin Ames, Director of Speaking and Training at the O.C. Tanner Institute, a global center focused on strategic employee culture and engagement. Ames is one of the highest ranked presenters at the Evanta Leadership Summit and has delivered addresses for Fortune 500 companies all over the world, including Dow Chemical, Frito Lay, and Bose. His presentation is entitled, “Influence Greatness,” and will focus on empowering employees and leadership to create a successful and productive company culture.

Call 4 HealthSponsors include 1 Call, Compass IT Compliance, Commonwealth Purchasing Group, Crown Castle, and BlueStream. For more information visit call4health.com.