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June 2022 Issue of AnswerStat

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



Feature Content:

Vendor Spotlight on 1Call: Improving Response to Critical Laboratory Results with Secure Messaging
Notification of critical laboratory results is crucial. Tap secure messaging technology to send key information to the right person quickly and accurately. << read more >>

Vital Signs: Channel Specialization Versus Multichannel Proficiency, by Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD
Channel specialization is good for some agents and multichannel proficiency is ideal for others. This mix of channel focus is essential for your contact center. << read more >>

Decrease Patient Liability Using Nurse Triage Software, by Ravi K. Raheja, MD
Effective triage software is an easy-to-use solution for nurses that includes standardized protocols to address any patient symptom. << read more >>

Ten Years Ago: Improving Communications Between Contact Centers and IT, by Donna Fluss
Contact center managers now have an advantage when it comes to managing technology. If your internal IT group falls short, cloud-based contact center vendors can be the solution. << read more >>

Industry News

Send us your healthcare call center news for consideration in the next issue of AnswerStat.

Marketplace Directory: AnswerStat Directory of leading Healthcare Contact Center vendors:

Call 4 Health
Startel first impressions are everything
Pulsar360
Keona Health


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.

The May 2022 Issue of Medical Call Center News



Read the May 2022 issue of Medical Call Center News.

Medical Call Center News is an e-newsletter published by Peter DeHaan Publishing Inc, in conjunction with AnswerStat magazine.

Please tell your coworkers about Medical Call Center News.

Thank you!

[Medical Call Center News is published by Peter DeHaan Publishing IncPeter Lyle DeHaan, editor.]

April 2022 Issue of AnswerStat

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



Feature Content:

AS TOC April 2022

How Effective Communication Helps Organizations Achieve the Quintuple Aim, by Nicole Limpert
Correcting inefficient communication can help an organization towards their triple, quadruple, or even quintuple aim. << read more >>

Vital Signs: Multi-Channel Integration, by Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD
Pursue multi-channel integration at your healthcare call center to better serve patients and produce superior outcomes. << read more >>

Guest Column: Tools to Improve Call Center Efficiency, by Mark Dwyer
Time is money, and saving time saves money. The best way to accomplish this is by using your call center solution as effectively as possible. << read more >>

How Telehealth Triage Nurses Can Address Mental Health Calls During Winter, by Ravi K. Raheja, MD
While professional healthcare providers are necessary when it comes to severe mental illness, telehealth triage nurses still can offer simple solutions to patients with milder symptoms << read more >>

Self-Care Tips for Physicians, Telehealth Triage Nurses, and Office Managers, by Ravi K. Raheja, MD
Top recommendations for healthcare staff on how they can manage the physical and mental stresses they experience on any given day. << read more >>

Ten Years Ago: Home-Based Agent Success, by Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.
There are many benefits from allowing agents to work from home, but if it’s pursued without the proper preparation, the advantages won’t happen. << read more >>

Industry News

Send us your healthcare call center news for consideration in the next issue of AnswerStat.

Marketplace Directory: AnswerStat Directory of leading Healthcare Contact Center vendors:

Call 4 Health
Startel first impressions are everything
Pulsar360
Keona Health


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.

The March 2022 Issue of Medical Call Center News



Read the March 2022 issue of Medical Call Center News.

Medical Call Center News is an e-newsletter published by Peter DeHaan Publishing Inc, in conjunction with AnswerStat magazine.

Please tell your coworkers about Medical Call Center News.

Thank you!

[Medical Call Center News is published by Peter DeHaan Publishing IncPeter Lyle DeHaan, editor.]

February 2022 Issue of AnswerStat

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



Feature Content:

AS February 2022

What Healthcare Leaders Should Know About Contact Centers, by Nicole Limpert
Healthcare leaders can help their organizations do more with less by ensuring they’re leveraging the capabilities of their call center staff and software. << read more >>

Vital Signs: Provide Multi-Channel Access, by Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD
Explore how you can move your call center forward to offer multi-channel access to your patients and customers. << read more >>

Guest Column: Seven Difficult Telehealth Triage Calls a Nurse Should Be Prepared to Take, by Ravi K. Raheja, MD
Telehealth triage nurses will meet a wide range of patient callers, personalities, and symptoms that impact how they determine the best dispositions for care. << read more >>

Avoid Liability with Proper Documentation for Telehealth Nurse Triage, by Ravi K. Raheja, MD
An interview with D.D. Fritch, a tenured clinical leader, who discusses the legal perspective of why it’s crucial for triage nurses to have the proper documentation. << read more >>

Ten Years Ago: Are You Changeable? by Peter Lyle DeHaan
We can’t avoid change, but we can successfully address many of the negative reactions to it. << read more >>

Industry News

Send us your healthcare call center news for consideration in the next issue of AnswerStat.

Marketplace Directory: AnswerStat Directory of leading Healthcare Contact Center vendors:

Call 4 Health
Startel first impressions are everything
Pulsar360
Keona Health


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.

What Healthcare Leaders Should Know About Contact Centers

1Call

By Nicole Limpert

It’s important for healthcare leaders to know that their contact centers can help improve patient and employee satisfaction, reduce costs, and provide critical communication tools within the hospital setting.

A Quality Contact Center Helps Retain Patients

An organization’s contact center serves as the communication hub for the entire enterprise. The operators perform several important and diverse tasks including answering the main switchboard, communicating with patients and their families, handling emergencies and disaster response, and contacting on-call medical staff. 

One of the most significant functions of a hospital call center is serving as a virtual lobby. Often, speaking with an agent is the first contact a patient has with the organization and their impression needs to be positive. Patients have options and can always find another provider if their experience is lacking in some way.

The patient’s experience with call center agents plays a critical role in their overall satisfaction with care access and the health services they receive. When asking patients to provide information about their health care experience via the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey, their interactions with hospital contact center agents may influence their responses. Any unfavorable experiences could lead to unacceptable survey results and cause the organization to lose some reimbursements.

Addressing Physician Pain Points

One of the biggest pain points for physicians and clinicians is trying to provide excellent patient care while dealing with staff shortages. There simply isn’t enough administrative staff to efficiently operate. Another challenge in healthcare is ensuring fast, accurate communication. Contact center operators and the software they use can help address both these issues.

Hospital call center agents are increasingly supporting medical staff by relieving some of their administrative burdens. Operators can assist patients during intake with insurance, registration, and other services over the phone or via video using a tablet. Shelley White, director of patient access services for State University of New York (SUNY) Upstate Medical University explains how her team is assisting hospital staff, “During this coronavirus crisis, our ER registration is sometimes short-staffed, but we are able to help by watching our track board, which is tied into the EMR system with Epic. 

“When a COVID-19 patient is admitted, we can call the patient to register them and verify insurance information over the phone. This process would normally be done in-person by ER staff, but we can do it remotely and ease some of their workloads.”

Communication can be improved within the hospital or clinical setting by leveraging the integration engine software used by contact centers to connect disparate healthcare software to interface with alarms, nurse-on-call, automated alerts, and critical lab results to work together and add functionality to improve workflows and patient care.

Alicia Wise, former IS project coordinator for AnMed Health in Anderson, SC explains how they used their call center integration engine software to automate their nuclear medicine program and procedures, “When a test is ordered for a patient, the night before we’re able to automatically email or fax that information to the vendor that provides us with our isotopes and different things needed for that procedure for the next morning. Having that information relayed automatically helps to speed up the process for the patient and save the cost of having things put on hold or standby because the communication didn’t happen.”

Virtual Consolidation Results in Real Life Cost Savings

Large healthcare systems with multiple locations, buildings, and contact centers can run on a single virtual server located anywhere in the country. Everything can function together seamlessly even if they all use different PBX telephone systems.

This enables hospital contact centers to be agile during weather events, crisis situations, and other calamities such as the current pandemic. Call center leaders can also grow their staff and provide more services without adding additional server hardware. 

Virtual servers provide cost savings to an organization because less physical equipment needs to be maintained. This is crucially important considering many organizations face a budget crisis. 

Other benefits of running call centers virtually include:

  • Re-routing calls to another center during peak times, staff shortages, or emergencies.
  • Offering flexible work schedules to operators to achieve 24/7 coverage by using agents located in different time zones.
  • Allowing supervisors to tap a larger pool of staff to use as fill-in operators if an agent is sick or pursue alternate labor markets such as retired staff or students. 

Keeping Staff Safe While Working from Home

When the pandemic was declared in March 2020, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center required non-direct patient care personnel to work remotely. This included the operators for the askMDA line. “Before April 2020, our operators had never worked remotely,” says Ninette Thomas, askMDA operator manager. “We began to look at the resources we already had to develop a hybrid remote call center and realized we were not harnessing the full capability of the technology available to us.”

Web-based communication is fast, secure, improves communication times, adds efficiencies through remote access, and reduces the number of potential errors caused by miscommunication and absences. Ninette comments, “What was surprising to me was that I anticipated having a problem with performance when my operators went home, but what I found was that our productivity actually went up.”

Any personal computer can transform into a professional agent workstation. All the tools used by an operator in a contact center are accessible to the virtual agent. “All we need is a power source to work. We can literally work from anywhere,” states Ninette.

Michael Wolf, principal applications system analyst and technical and support lead for the IT team that supports the operators adds, “Now that the operators have the ability to work remotely, the IT department has experienced benefits such as decreased overhead to maintain the equipment or perform quarterly tests, reducing our support time.”

Summary

Contact centers use technology and well-trained teams to assist patients and medical staff in meaningful ways to play an even bigger role in improving a patient’s journey. Healthcare leaders can help their organizations do more with less by ensuring their organization is leveraging the capabilities of their call center staff and software.

1Call, a division of Amtelco

Nicole Limpert is the marketing content writer for Amtelco and their 1Call Healthcare Division. Amtelco is a leading provider of innovative communication applications. 1Call develops software solutions and applications designed for the specific needs of healthcare organizations.

Amtelco Announces Server Version 6.8 for miSecureMessages Secure Messaging App

Amtelco and their 1Call healthcare division announced the release of new server version 6.8 for their secure messaging app, miSecureMessages. This new server release contains many new features such as:

  • High Availability Configuration: Allows miSecureMessages configuration for multiple servers, with automated failover from one server to another if the primary server goes down. This feature provides continuous uptime during server upgrades and maintenance and prevents downtime due to a single server failure.
  • Phone Number Masking: Phone calls placed from the miSecureMessages app displays the organization’s phone number instead of the device’s phone number. (Additional software required.)
  • Shared Device Licenses: Allows devices to be registered for use by multiple miSecureMessages users, enabling organizations to provide their employees with a pool of devices to use at work and keep personal devices off the network.
  • Single Sign-On (SSO) Identity Provider: Keeps track of passwords and performs authentication.
  • Dark Mode (for iOS): The app will switch to dark mode when used on a device that is set to the “dark” appearance in the iOS settings. In dark mode, most screens display as white text on a dark background, instead of black text on a light background. 

“We are excited to release this highly anticipated version of miSecureMessages,” said Tom Curtin, CEO of Amtelco and 1Call. “I would like to specifically thank our group of customers who enthusiastically volunteered their time to test the app update to ensure it would meet the needs of all of our customers. Maintaining personal space while communicating with co-workers is critically important during the pandemic. We are proud to play a small part in protecting employees and their customers, as well as medical staff and their patients.”  

Originally created for the healthcare industry, HIPAA and HITECH-compliant miSecureMessages work for any business that needs to communicate securely. In healthcare, the app helps to unify hospital and clinical communications, and streamline care team coordination by enabling staff to easily share texts, photos, audio files, and videos for secure, accurate communication while protecting electronic patient health information (ePHI). The app also integrates with existing hospital alert software to help reduce notification time when an emergency code occurs. 

MiSecureMessages can improve communication within any hospital department. The app seamlessly integrates with nurse call systems and other alert software to expedite emergency code notifications. Healthcare call center operators use miSecureMessages to quickly contact on-call staff. Hospital maintenance crews can take a photo or video of a building issue and collaborate to address it, and housekeeping uses it for bed management to quickly inform intake that a bed is ready for a new patient, which improves their bed turnover rate. Lab personal and radiologists use miSecureMessages to promptly communicate critical results.

Provide Multi-Channel Access

Be Sure You Deliver the Options Today’s Consumers Expect

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

For years we’ve talked about the need for healthcare call centers to become contact centers. This name realignment shifts our attention from telephone calls to embrace other forms of contact as well. This is a multi-channel mindset, and we provide multi-channel access to deliver the contact options that today’s consumers expect, which we must do if we’re to remain viable. 

Some people call this omnichannel, which implies all channels, while multi-channel more realistically looks at many channels. We’ll not debate which name is more appropriate. Instead, we’ll focus on the concept of moving beyond the telephone. 

Here are some multi-channel access points to consider.

Telephone

The telephone remains key for most people in most industries. In our push for multichannel access, let’s not forget the telephone as it will continue to be the foundation for what we do. The telephone has been around for a long time, longer than any of us. 

The first healthcare call centers started nearly a century ago in the form of medical answering services, often called doctors exchanges. The telephone is proven, ubiquitous, and dependable. It’s not new or exciting, but it is stable. 

And most consumers expect you to answer their telephone calls.

Email

Email has been around for several decades. It’s no longer novel, with naysayers long claiming that email is dead. It’s not. It’s very much alive. When you consider growing your call center beyond the telephone, the first multi-channel access option to consider should be email.

Email integrates smartly into call center activity. Unlike the telephone, where callers expect a timely answer with minimal delay, their expectation with email is less demanding. This doesn’t mean you can sit on a pending email message for days and should aim for a same-day response, but most people accept a reasonable delay as normal. This provides the opportunity to set email aside when call traffic is high and to process email messages during slow times.

Email agents should be able to read and absorb typed information quickly. They should also be able to type fast and accurately, without the need for editing.

Text Chat

A third multi-channel access option to consider is text chat. This common, and increasingly popular, communication option is how many people communicate with their family and friends. It’s no wonder that they expect businesses—including the healthcare industry—to embrace it too. 

Text chat agents, like email agents, must be able to quickly process typed messages and respond with accuracy. Unlike email, however, texting carries with it the expectation of minimal delay. In comparing chat with telephone calls, where multitasking doesn’t work, experienced chat agents can effectively handle multiple simultaneous chat sessions.

Social Media

Next consider social media. If patients try to contact you on social media, be prepared to respond. If you ignore them or take too long, they’ll be sure to vent their frustration to everyone on their platform of choice.

Social media agents need many of the same skills as email and chat agents. In addition, they must understand and be comfortable using each of the social media platforms that people could use to contact you.

Other Channels

This list is a great start, but it’s not conclusive. If people want to contact you by mail or fax, be ready to handle those interactions. Also watch for emerging communication technologies so you can prepare for them before your patients ask.

Multi-Channel Access Conclusion

If your call center is already providing multi-channel access, that’s great. Look for ways to make your channel offerings more effective. 

And if your call center focuses exclusively on the phone, explore how you can move decisively and methodically forward to offer multi-channel access to your patients and customers.

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 Announces Intelligent Series 5.5 Release

1Call, a division of Amtelco

1Call, a division of Amtelco and a leader in developing software solutions and applications for the healthcare communications and call center marketplace, announced the release of version 5.5 for their Intelligent Series (IS) suite of call center applications.

New features include:

  • Single Sign-On: The single sign-on saves time by providing single sign-on authentication with security assertion markup language or active directory federation services. This feature keeps track of passwords and performs authentication.
  • Conference Bridge: Conveniently provides concurrent multi-party conferences. Moderators have improved control over conferences and can leverage the ANI (automatic number identification) display, manage the total number of participants for each bridge, mute an individual attendee or the entire conference, disconnect individual participants from a conference, and add customizable notes about participants or the conference.
  • Script Event Tracker: The script event tracker gives supervisors detailed information about each step that a script performs, including what happened with and without agent involvement. This provides valuable information about call handling, making it an extremely useful tool for evaluating the efficiency of hospital call center scripts and investigating what happened on a particular call.
  • Artificial Intelligence: Enhances the patient caller’s experience by utilizing machine learning to determine the optimal way to route calls based on prior call history. It uses data about which agents have previously worked with the caller and any dispatches that an agent has started to help determine the best agent for the call. This use of artificial intelligence saves time for both callers and operators to provide a better patient experience.
  • Speech Analytics: Provides a deeper analysis of call logs, including a transcript of the call and describing the overall tone of the caller. This is an important feature for all hospital departments.

“The new features that our 5.5 update provides are not only important to an organization’s many unique call centers, but they also impact more immediate care team communications and patient satisfaction enterprise wide,” said Tom Curtin, CEO of Amtelco and 1Call. “These updates have been designed to be a time-saver for staff and help provide better service to patients.”

Seven Difficult Telehealth Triage Calls a Nurse Should Be Prepared to Take

TriageLogic

By Ravi K. Raheja, MD

During trying times it isn’t surprising for telehealth triage nurses to see an increase in difficult calls. When we say difficult, we refer to those that are either: about cases of abuse or neglect; from unauthorized callers; about chronic ailments or repeat callers; about complicated medical or psychosocial issues; from callers who are excessively worried, anxious, or angry; and from callers who are hard to understand or communicate with. 

Like all areas of effective nurse triage, there are ways to handle each of these calls effectively so that patients receive the proper dispositions for care. Here’s a breakdown of each type, and the best ways for triage nurses to handle them. 

1. Abuse and Neglect

When telehealth triage nurses receive calls about these concerns, they must gather as much information as possible, often using open-ended questions, especially when these calls are about children. In the US alone, approximately five children die a day because of abuse and neglect. 

Nurses must remain professional and empathetic, as this will improve their chances of obtaining that information and determining if anyone is in immediate danger. If the call is about a child, nurses will also determine whether the patient’s physician should be informed to provide additional instructions, both for the child’s immediate care and for the next steps regarding their situation.

2. Unauthorized Callers            

Some individuals call a triage line to ask about a patient whom they are neither directly related to nor have received permission by that patient to receive information about their health. How a triage nurse responds will depend on the specifics of the call.

For instance, friends and relatives who are taking care of a pediatric patient may be treated the same as though they are the patient’s guardians. But if someone calls to ask only for information about that child’s health, that caller must be referred to the patient’s actual parents.

In some cases, it may be a child who phones the triage line directly. If this is the case, the best way to handle this call is to encourage the child to hand the phone over to an adult for further discussion.

3. Chronic Ailments and Repeat Callers

There will be times when callers need extra reassurance about their medical concerns. Others may have medical conditions that are not easy to identify. Each deserves the appropriate level of empathy and attention.

For example, patients who call back about the same concern within twenty-four hours are often known as acute callers. In such cases, it is imperative that nurses make sure to use reflexive listening to talk about those health concerns and encourage the patient to seek the most appropriate level of care—whether that care is at home, from their physician, or at the ER. If no serious issue presents itself based on reported symptoms, the nurse should console the patient and encourage them to make an appointment with their doctor.

4. Medical and Psychosocial Concerns

Calls that fall into this area of healthcare often rely on three solutions.

If they’re found to be minor or acute medical concerns, triage nurses rely on the appropriate protocols. If the caller’s concerns are chronic, nurses must follow specific guidelines from the physician’s practice or the applicable protocols.

In situations where guidelines or protocols are either not available or do not cover the issue at hand, the nurse must contact the physician directly to get further instruction. If that physician is not available, the nurse may determine that the best course of action is to encourage the caller to seek advice and care from the closest ER.

5. Excessively Anxious or Angry Callers

People are at their worst when they’re scared, sick, tired, or hungry, so it’s no surprise when their health influences one or all these factors. That’s why triage nurses must always use compassion to diffuse any heightened tension from an angry caller, gain the caller’s trust and understanding, and encourage the caller to follow their instructions. Effective telehealth triage nurses should:

Listen: They focus on what the caller is saying, don’t talk over the caller, and ask them to clarify when necessary.

Relate. They show empathy to the caller’s situation. A caller wants to feel heard and understood, so nurses can offer condolences about the confusion the caller may be experiencing, the situation the caller is in, or the caller’s feelings about it.

6. Propose an Action Plan

The triage nurse should lay out instructions on what type of care the caller should seek, whether customized instructions from a physician’s practice or based on triage protocols. Nurses should use comforting terminology to remind the caller that they are there to help. 

Some examples include:

  • “Based on what you describe, I’m going to assist you by following the protocols set by your doctor.”
  • “I’m concerned about your symptoms, so please hang up and call 911. I’ll call back in five minutes to make sure you’re okay.”
  • “I’ve noted your concerns and symptoms and will have your physician contact you to review them. I’ll ask them to call you at their earliest convenience.”

There will also be times when the patient is either not responsive to the nurse’s guidance or is verbally abusive. Don’t expect triage nurses to tolerate inappropriate behavior directed at them from a patient caller. 

In these instances, they should inform the caller that they want to help them, but that if they do not cease the abuse and calm down, the nurse will not be able to assist them any further. If the caller persists after a second warning, the triage nurse should inform them that they are hanging up and that the caller’s physician will contact them.

7. Callers Who Are Difficult to Understand

The holidays also tend to see increases in alcohol and drug use, which can influence how well telehealth nurses may or may not be able to understand patient callers who are under the influence. If those nurses can’t establish a dialogue, their best course of action—like the example above—is to ask their supervisor first, then contact the caller’s physician. If their physician is not available, the nurse should instruct the caller to go to the ER.

This may also be the case if nurses do not understand the patient’s language or if the patient has a speech or hearing impairment.

In Summary

Telehealth triage nurses will meet a wide range of patient callers, personalities, and symptoms that can influence how well they’re able to arrive at the best dispositions for care. With the right training, triage software, and triage protocols, their services will be even more effective at improving health outcomes. 

TriageLogic

Ravi K. Raheja, MD is the CTO and Medical Director of the TriageLogic Group. Founded in 2007, TriageLogic is a URAC accredited, physician-lead provider of high-quality telehealth services, remote patient monitoring, nurse triage, triage education, and software for telephone medicine. Their comprehensive solutions include integrated mobile access and two-way video capability. The TriageLogic group serves over 9,000 physicians and covers over twenty-five million lives nationwide.