The 1Call Division of Amtelco completed another successful 1Call Leadership and Training Seminar. 1Call customers, along with prospects and Amtelco staff, gathered in Madison, Wisconsin, September 12–14, 2017, to experience sessions to help healthcare organizations enhance their enterprise-wide communications.
After the informative “Generations Collide” keynote presentation by Chad Kopitzke of NeXtGen Advantage, attendees learned about Genesis, MergeComm, and miTeamWeb, along with new features for miSecureMessages and the Intelligent Series. In addition, customers presented sessions on MergeComm, web chat, miSecureMessages, and Intelligent Series.
Attendees shared positive comments about the seminar, including, “Excellent”; “I look forward to what you come up with for next year”; “the Amtelco team has a knack for facilitating an approachable networking environment”; “Friends and family: Never change this! Too few companies understand this”; “I learned something at all the sessions”; “Intrigued by the endless possibilities of MergeComm”; and “Each session was a learning experience.”
Next year’s 1Call Leadership and Training Seminar will be held in Madison, Wisconsin, on September 18–20, 2018, in a new location at The Park Hotel, on Madison’s Capitol Square.
For more information on 1Call Seminars, contact 1Call at 800-225-6035 or email@example.com.
Read the October/November issue of AnswerStat, the information hub for healthcare contact centers.
Video-Based Doctor Visits, by Mark DwyerVideo-based doctor visits have received renewed interest to address the shortages of primary care physicians nationwide; providing insurance to uninsured individuals was seen by many as a vital component of ACA; and the demand for healthcare has further increased due to our aging population, along with a declining supply of primary care physicians. What does this have to do with call centers? …read more >>
Vital Signs: It’s Hard to Plan When You Don’t Know What to Expect by Peter L DeHaan, PhD
Regardless of what you think about the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the fact that it’s future remains in limbo means that planning in the healthcare industry is challenging at best. …read more >>
Vendor Spotlight on TeamHealth Medical Call Center The Need For Call Center Solutions Has Never Been Greater
TeamHealth Medical Call Center embraces partnerships with clients to provide individual service offerings, with measurable results, and develop long-term relationships. They seek to meet the needs of the changing healthcare industry while making the patient experience their primary focus. …read more >>
Guest Column: 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. Your CEO asks. “We’re taking a hard look at the budget. Can you help me understand if, or why, the call center is vital to us? How would you respond? Three key criteria provide…read more >>
How Contact Centers Impact Patient Experience, by Donna Martin
As hospitals and healthcare organizations compete to gain and retain patients’ business, first impressions are critical. That’s why a modernized patient contact center is critical to differentiate your organization from the competition and prevent revenue leakage. …read more >>
Translation and Health Literacy In Telemedicine, by David Thompson, MD
“Fever” may sound different in other languages, but it means the same thing. Whether a patient says fever, fiebre, or fièvre, it’s the telehealth provider’s job to deliver the correct diagnosis and treatment. Language differences can add complexity to an already confusing situation for patients. Fortunately, healthcare professionals can…read more >>
Ten years ago: Email Protocol for the Call Center, by Dr. Julie Miller
Email has become the biggest productivity drain in businesses today. Getting a handle on this daily data dump by establishing procedures—email etiquette, if you will—will make you and your call center stand above the crowd. …read more >>
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.
In today’s world, the rapidly evolving healthcare industry has placed its focus on providing access to high quality, patient-centric care, with an unprecedented emphasis on cost containment and continuum of care. Companies, communities, and medical professionals are challenged with the overwhelming task of balancing quality care with new cost initiatives.
The Need For Call Center Solutions Has Never Been Greater: The TeamHealth Medical Call Center (THMCC) is a premier provider of safe, professional twenty-four-hour medical call center solutions. THMCC provides its client partners with a wide range of cost-effective healthcare services, including:
RN Telephone Triage:
Services are branded to each practice with the ability to gather pertinent data and customize a documentation system that allows practices to drive specific directives for both pediatric and adult populations.
Another key feature is the ability to integrate patient information into EMRs to meet patient centered medical home and ACO requirements.
THMCC registered nurses use Schmitt/Thompson Clinical Content Triage Guidelines for both pediatric and adult populations.
Services also include post-triage appointment scheduling and a wide range of post-discharge transitional care initiatives.
Pediatric Triage: Providing high quality pediatric nurse triage requires a special skill set beyond standard care provisions. TeamPeds addresses this need by directing pediatric patients to an RN staff specially trained in pediatric telephone triage.
The TeamPeds program includes:
Specialized RN pediatric training and competency testing
Ongoing required monthly pediatric in-service requirements for RNs
Ability to email care advice
Error-free provider on-call system
A TeamPeds RN supervisor
A pediatric medical director
A pediatric QI program
Phone Support: Nurse advice lines and community lines can direct your patient population to the most appropriate level of care while promoting your services. Nurse advice lines can offer branded healthcare and program information that promotes a healthy community and creates an awareness of an organization’s centers of excellence and specialty programs. Their reporting and data collection features also provides you with valuable information about the healthcare needs of your population.
Additional benefits of a THMCC community or nurse advice line include:
Readmission prevention and appropriate care utilization
Revenue reconciliation reporting
Branded EXITcare or customized health information emailed to callers
Web-based branded online self-triage program
A dedicated ED nurse advice line or triage service helps hospitals respond to calls from patients with inquiries concerning their need for emergency care. THMCC ED nurse advice and triage line services:
Offers access for callers questioning their need for an ED visit
Promotes appropriate ED utilization
Prevents unnecessary readmissions
Provides opportunity to refer other services within system
Eliminates the risk of ED handling clinical questions
Allows clinical ED staff to stay focused on in-house patient care
Refers all real-time call records on callers to the ED
Transitional Care: In many cases, the provision of care is not complete when the patient visit or hospital stay ends. THMCC partners with healthcare providers to develop relationships with patients that support care plan compliance long after they return home.
Transitional care management means preparing patients for their first visit and then accompanying them through post-visit follow-up and post-hospital care. THMCC’s post-discharge call-back services are fully customizable to the needs of specific patient populations. Services include:
Outbound daily call campaigns for both clinical and non-clinical populations
Specialized scripting utilized for high-risk patients
Inpatient and ED patient population coverage
EMR access availability
All calls performed twenty-four to forty-eight hours post-discharge
Optional callback line for patients experiencing symptoms
The value of these transitional care efforts can be measured in the following ROI areas:
Rise in HCAHPS scores
Improvement in daily escalations or interventions
Enhanced monthly reporting, such as core indicator analysis (medications, discharge instructions, and follow-up appointments), positive or negative trending items, recognition, and patient satisfaction
THMCC’s outbound call campaign services are specifically designed for high-risk patients. This includes:
Initial post-discharge call within twenty-four to forty-eight hours, with an additional four calls at weekly intervals
Assessment of patient’s understanding and compliance for medication, discharge instructions, follow-up appointments, and current symptoms
Optional callback line for patients experiencing symptoms
Physician Answering Services: With ever-increasing workloads and patient care responsibilities, physician burnout is a real concern for hospitals, healthcare organizations, and private practices. The stress of a work/life imbalance can lower physician job satisfaction and hinder physician recruitment.
Delegating the workload to a specialized team of medical professionals can significantly reduce physician burnout. They realize that to take care of your patients, you must first take care of your providers. Partnering with the TeamHealth Medical Call Center and their staff of telephone triage RNs can provide the proper work/life balance for your physicians, which in turn, will mean the best possible care for your patients.
THMCC offers physician and practice answering services to provide seamless access for clinical and non-clinical calls. Patient coordinators deliver a high level of customer service and are supervised by an RN.
After hours, daytime support or 24/7 options
Emergency backup for unscheduled closures
High volume overflow
Branded services, including customized scripting, directives, and protocols
Error-free paging system
Secure electronic messaging through TeamDoc Mobile, a web-based application
All calls recorded
Consulting Services: Another area of business focused on the call center industry is their consulting services, which can help organizations implement cost containment and provide high quality to new or existing call center services.
Their consulting team is led by vice president of strategic clinical solutions, Gina Tabone, MSN, RNC. Gina came to THMCC after spending nineteen years with Cleveland Clinic’s world-renown Nurse on Call program.
During that time, Tabone served as triage nurse, senior resource nurse, education and protocol specialist, manager, and ultimately administrator. Under her direction as administrator, ED utilization declined, continuous care coordination improved, performance metric targets dropped from 33 percent ABD to less than 5 percent, URAC accreditation was achieved, and the call center grew from covering 350 physicians to the integration of more than 1,500 employed and affiliated providers.
It is this breadth of operational and administrative experience, along with being an industry thought leader that makes Tabone an invaluable resource and distinguished leader for THMCC.
In her role as vice president, Gina partners with organizations to fine-tune and optimize operational and clinical performance, as well as supporting organizations that want to improve their own in-house medical call centers, ensuring processes are aligned, and contributing to overall goals and strategies. She conducts on-site, comprehensive assessments that identify strengths while pinpointing areas of opportunity for improvement.
Some considerations include:
Workforce Management: Are you utilizing your human resources to exceed customer satisfaction? Have you deployed remote staffing?
Post-Acute Care Outbound Call Initiatives: Hospital discharges, outpatient procedures, ED visits, and wellness checks.
Managed Care and Population Health: Does your care coordination model address care gaps? Have you been able to reduce unnecessary ED utilization? How does your organization move from a culture of acute to preventative care? Is your organization positioned to accommodate planned and unexpected growth opportunities?
Hospital Readmission Penalty Prevention: Acute MI, CHF, pneumonia, total knee, total hip, and COPD
Key Goals: Are you on target to achieve the goals of the triple aim?
Attract, Hire, and Train Caregivers for Success
Current Technological Capabilities: Are you achieving first call resolution? Does it drive intelligent data that reflects your call center’s value? What self-service tools will eliminate unnecessary calls to your nurses?
Quality Assurance: Does your quality program provide meaningful data?
Creating Successful, Long-Term Client Relationships Is Their Goal: The TeamHealth Medical Call Center enters into true partnerships with clients to provide individual service offerings, with measurable results, and to develop a long-term relationship. Their technology allows them to meet the needs of the changing healthcare industry while they continue to make the patient experience their primary focus.
Founded by a team of physicians more than twenty-one years ago, the THMCC has the unique advantage of having a provider perspective in each aspect of the services they provide. They understand the special bond between physician and patient. Like their clients, they value each caller as an individual who deserves a clinically correct and caring response from their staff to ensure a positive experience, which adds value to their relationship with their clients. With more than twenty-one years of experience and ten million triage calls, the TeamHealth Medical Call Center’s medical call center solutions can serve a vital role in your patient care coordination efforts. Call 888-203-1118 or visit them online at www.teamhealthcallcenter.com to learn more.
With the state of Obamacare still unknown, forecasting the future of healthcare remains a challenge
By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD
Regardless of what you think about the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the fact that it’s future remains in limbo means that planning in the healthcare industry is challenging at best. Last week, what initially appeared as a final effort to repeal and replace Obamacare turned into another failure. Then opponents quickly pledged to try again. The result is that no one in the healthcare industry has a clue about what rules we’ll be playing under in the months and years to come. This makes strategic planning next to impossible.
As politicians play politics and posture themselves in the name of political expediency, the rest of us are left to wonder what the future holds.
If the Affordable Care Act remains in place and unscathed, the industry will continue its current trajectory. While the slope of that trajectory remains open to conjecture, at least the general direction is known.
Alternately, if the Affordable Care Act is repealed, then we’re left scrambling to find a reliable basis on which to move forward. If this occurs the winners, from a business standpoint, will be those who can adapt the quickest and fill the vacuum that results. Being nimble, flexible, and quick will be the surest path to success.
However, rather than a straight-out repeal, a more likely scenario will be to tweak what is already there. The only sure thing about this path is knowing that things will change, but no one knows what will change or how much. What’s likely is that there will be winners and losers, those who gain from the changes and those who give up some of what they currently enjoy. Again, organizations that can adjust the quickest will be the ones that have the best chance of coming out ahead.
Specifically for the healthcare contact center this means being prepared to take several actions. One is being ready to quickly scale a workforce to take advantage of new opportunities and meet increased patient demand. Coupled with this is the need to train new agents quickly, as well as to teach new skills—perhaps not yet identified—to existing contact center staff. Last will be determining creative ways to meet patient needs and be appropriately compensated for doing so.No matter what happens with Obamacare, healthcare contact centers can be the hero. Click To Tweet
Contact centers with an entrepreneurial-minded leadership will emerge as the ones who can best navigate these changes to meet critical needs among patients and serve the healthcare industry.
The one thing I am sure of, no matter what happens, is that the healthcare contact center has the potential to be the hero.
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.
Hospitals and healthcare organizations are competing more fiercely to gain and retain patients’ business. And first impressions are critical. That’s why a modernized patient contact center is critical both for differentiating your organization from the competition and for preventing revenue leakage.
How is your organization leveraging this critical contact point? What success are you having getting patients through your front door and retaining them as loyal consumers?
Assessing Your Patients’ Needs: Just like you, your health system’s patients are consumers who shop at Amazon, purchase airline tickets, and stay at hotels. They’ve grown accustomed to a concierge-level of customer service, and this has altered their perceptions of what a high-quality healthcare experience should look like.
The retail world has decades of experience providing this level of service and has leveraged modern technology to make constant improvements to help differentiate their brand, as well as retain and grow their customer base. The healthcare industry is just starting to catch on—not just because it makes good business sense, but also because they are now being incentivized to implement value-based care throughout the patient experience and and penalized if they fall short.
Phase 1: Establish the Foundation: From your patients’ perspective, even small hospitals can be difficult to navigate via telephone. Partial or full automation of inbound phone calls from patients allow providers to create a “single front door” for patients. This creates a unified patient experience and reduces needless call transfers. Adding automated patient identification and authentication not only personalizes the interaction and ascertains the primary reason for the patient’s call, but it also leads to complete resolution for a host of common inquiries such as appointment confirmations, directions, hours, and payments without ever needing to engage an agent.
With this streamlined foundation in place, providers can begin to continuously and consistently track patient interactions to build intelligence for future interactions as well as gather communication preferences where possible. Every new element of data collected builds on previous elements, fostering a holistic portrait of patients. This creates the foundation for predictive intent and provides a better patient experience. In addition, as you develop a performance baseline, you can leverage patient experience surveys to use actionable data to make targeted improvements.
Phase 2: Build on Your Success: One goal of value-based care is keeping patients in your health system but out of the hospital. Why not pursue a similar goal with patient engagement? By applying dynamic decision-making to the data collection efforts established in phase 1, you can begin to develop proactive patient engagement strategies to reduce the need for patients to call you.
For example, with the right automated inbound solution, you identify patients calling from a mobile device and then take that opportunity to drive them to alternative, lower cost channels, such as text communications and patient portals. These elements will further the productivity of your access center, drive cost from your business, and maximize the patient experience. This will also provide you with a steady stream of valuable patient data to continue to enhance and optimize your solution.
Phase 3: Patient Preferences: This segment includes all components of phases 1 and 2, layering in patient communication preferences and cross-channel patient interaction data. In this scenario, you could see that a patient accessed the patient portal to find a specialist and is now calling into the access center for help. An intelligent self-service solution recognizes the patient, confirms they are looking for a specialist, and sends the patient directly to the appropriate scheduling agent. This happens without the patient having to make a single menu selection. Again, this provides an effortless and loyalty-building patient experience.
Finally, with all three phases offered in a cloud-based, self-service environment, you will achieve maximum scalability, reliability, and flexibility for agents who work in either a brick-and-mortar setting or through a business process outsourcing partner. This ensures your access center will always be available to support patients and providers.
The goal of contact centers should be to make the patient experience as easy as possible through both personalization and self-service. The intent is to strive for that perfect balance between automation and live, human-touch interaction.
Your health system has invested considerable time, energy, and money to provide value across the continuum of care. Why squander it over a bad first impression? By taking practical steps toward patient-centric engagement, providers can create a high-quality, intuitive, and effortless consumer experience that has elements of a world-class retail service, while meeting the unique needs of the healthcare setting.
Donna Martin is senior vice president, Global Health Services, at Hinduja Global Solutions (HGS).
Video-based doctor visits (e-visits) have received renewed interest to address the shortages of primary care physicians nationwide, especially in rural areas. The healthcare industry is ripe for a strategy to address what many believe to be one of the greatest challenges of the Affordable Care Act (ACA)—providing government subsidized insurance coverage to thirty million Americans while struggling with a major shortage of primary care physicians throughout much of the country.
Providing insurance to uninsured individuals was seen by many as a vital component of a successful ACA. Unfortunately, most individuals initially receiving government subsidized healthcare were without a primary care provider. These early enrollees were also those with serious health issues related to the costliest health conditions. Consequently, the already over-crowded emergency departments across the country became even more congested only now with newly insured individuals who had nowhere else to go to receive the healthcare they needed.
The demand for healthcare has further increased due to our aging population, along with a declining supply of primary care physicians. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, by 2030, the United States will have a shortage of as many as 43,100 primary care physicians.
What does this have to do with call centers?
Since their inception, healthcare call centers’ mantra has been to get patients “the right care—at the right time—at the right place.” Video-based doctor visits are a logical source for patients to be served as an extension of the call center. The most successful organizations that offer healthcare triage call center services may be those who devise a strategy to integrate video-based physician visits as a triage end-point for immediate, real-time appointments. Video-based doctor visits are a prime example of how patients can connect with providers. Click To Tweet
According to the American Telemedicine Association, “as the US healthcare environment continues to evolve due to changes in reimbursement, legal issues, and shrinking healthcare resources, the expanding role of telehealth nurses will continue to evolve.” In distant, rural, small, and sparsely populated areas, telephone triage nursing can remove time and distance barriers between providers and patients. Video-based doctor visits are a prime example of how patients can connect with providers to make better use of shrinking healthcare resources.
It is clear there are not enough primary care physicians to handle patients physically able to be seen in the office setting. But that is not the only concern resulting from the shortage. There are an estimated two to four million people who need doctors, nurses, and healthcare providers to make house calls. Unfortunately, the number of physicians and health practitioners who make house calls has also greatly decreased over the years.
In an August 8, 2017 article by Elizabeth Whitman titled “When patients need house calls, there may be no doctors nearby,” the author referenced a study by Aaron Yao, an assistant professor at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. Yao’s study cited findings that showed more than half of Americans live over thirty miles away from full-time providers of home-based medical care. These centers limit how far they send doctors, nurses, physician assistants, or other primary care providers. Consequently, the healthcare system needs to expand ways to get care to these homebound patients, many of whom suffer from chronic diseases.
“These are the high-cost, high-need people,” Yao said. “We live longer, but we also suffer for longer years,” he added, noting that if doctors can get to patients’ homes and manage their symptoms, they could help prevent emergency room visits and hospitalizations.
Despite the study’s limitations, Yao said his findings drove home crucial points about the need for more, and more widely available, home-based medical care providers in the US. That said, Yao admits, “It’s not a high-paying job,” and comes with related challenges making it less appealing to many healthcare providers. This challenge also lends itself to the use of video-based doctor visits.
So how do e-visits work in conjunction with triage call centers? First, it is important to understand that not all e-visit programs are the same. Like any system that uses patient data, e-visit programs need to be HIPAA compliant. Strong e-visit programs are designed around optimal provider workflows with simple to navigate virtual waiting rooms. E-visit technology allows a physician to connect with a patient via secure, high-resolution video. These connections can be used for a remote visit, to share medical images, to send text messages or online chats in real-time, and to submit prescriptions to the patient’s pharmacy. E-visits help keep patient flow moving with flexible, on-demand virtual visits. When the triage disposition calls for an urgent care referral or to see one’s doctor immediately, patients can get quick “walk-in” care without leaving their house, eliminating long wait times at the urgent care facility.
In addition, a strong e-visit program can increase patient satisfaction by quickly addressing patients’ needs. With e-visits, you can quickly offer patients 24/7 care without the commute or long wait at the clinic. Access to high-quality, convenient care keeps patients happy. According to survey data, 37 percent of parents would choose a virtual care option for their child in the event of a minor illness. That percentage more than doubles for parents in rural areas with minimal access to pediatric specialty care.
How does one monetize the e-visit? Many insurance companies now allow reimbursement for telemedicine services, especially remote visits done via two-way video. As of January 2017 Cigna, Aetna, United Healthcare, and thirty other payors put telemedicine in plans nationwide. In order to be reimbursed, each telemedicine visit needs to be well-documented. Whether stored in the call center software’s triage transaction notes or in the patient’s EHR, everything must be saved in one place and be up-to-date. Some e-visit programs may also integrate with an EHR system for seamless record-keeping. The top telemedicine software solutions allow healthcare providers to easily document the patient encounter and then submit the record for reimbursement.
In addition, through use of e-visit programs, unbilled work also gets reimbursed. From refilling a prescription to treating an illness, some e-visit programs can collect payment from patients and provide a detailed medical chart to submit for reimbursement. E-visits also help to reduce costly no-shows. Missed appointments can cost a provider’s practice thousands in lost revenue. When the visit is real-time via an e-visit program, the service is paid for at the time of care. This creates a more profitable practice further aligning the provider to the facility hosting the call center to which the e-visit program is associated.
Telemedicine solutions come in various configurations. The sophistication of the technology, equipment, training, set-up, and number of users required will all affect the cost of a telemedicine service. Healthcare providers should evaluate their budget for an e-visit program and make sure they consider how much training and staff resources they will need to implement the telemedicine software. Since telemedicine providers offer solutions for single-provider practices all the way to huge health systems, it is imperative to do your homework.
E-visit solutions have the power to change the way we provide and receive healthcare for the better.
Mark Dwyer is a thirty-year veteran of the healthcare call center industry and the COO at LVM Systems, which provides healthcare call center software.
Are we speaking the same language? How telehealth can help
By David Thompson, MD
“Fever” may sound different in other languages, but it means the same thing. Whether a patient says fever, fiebre, or fièvre, it’s the telehealth provider’s job to deliver the correct diagnosis and treatment. Language differences can add complexity to an already confusing situation for patients. Fortunately, healthcare professionals can help bridge this gap using digital health tools to capture symptoms in the patients’ own language.
Language Translation: So, how can healthcare systems reach the broadest patient base possible and ensure telehealth options benefit everyone? One answer is offering an e-visit intake process (rapid medical history) to patients in multiple languages.
The most recent National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL 2003) found that 89 million Americans have limited health literacy. It’s fair to say a significant percentage of those have English as a second language or speak no English at all. This highlights the need for global health literacy guidelines and healthcare options for all languages. Consider the following reasons to offer multilingual telehealth options.
Improve patient engagement: By using a multilingual telehealth platform, clinicians can help patients of all language backgrounds—even if they, themselves, don’t speak the same language. In addition, more tech-savvy patients can choose their language preference when using e-health applications. The simple ability to communicate health information in their preferred language can improve patient engagement and satisfaction by:
Providing easy-to-understand information;
Making patients feel they’ve received customized, personal attention;
Offering flexibility for individual situations; and
Giving patients control over their healthcare, regardless of language.
The bonus is that health systems using flexible telehealth platforms can also see improved retention due to patient engagement and satisfaction.
Support communication along the care continuum: Not only can telehealth technology offer engagement solutions, but it also has the benefit of connecting providers and patients along the care continuum. Patients can see health information in their preferred language, while the telehealth platform provides data coding and translates it into medical terminology. This data can then be shared among medical call center nurses, telemedicine providers, hospitals, and primary care providers. There’s never a need for patients to feel they have less access to quality care because of language barriers.
With advancements in translation technology and digital health platforms, the future of healthcare will be measured by how well organizations and providers appeal to a broad patient audience; capture health information; share data with other providers; and leverage that data to improve medical care, speed up care delivery, and reduce costs.
Consider the case of John Gomez, a twenty-two-year-old, whose primary language is Spanish. John has had knee pain for two days and contacts a telemedicine provider.
Step 1: The initial call: John calls a service representative who works with his doctor. This service representative does not speak Spanish. Using a symptom-checking engine that offers symptom options for “knee pain” in Spanish, she collects information about the patient’s condition. The representative then obtains John’s demographic information, transcribes his chief complaint and helps him complete an online “rapid medical history” for knee pain. The telehealth platform lists recommended care options based on John’s symptoms, his availability, and doctor preferences. The service representative then arranges a telemedicine encounter.
Step 2: The telemedicine encounter: John can speak with a Spanish-speaking doctor or an English-speaking doctor because his information has been transcribed and coded as data in medical terminology. The doctor reviews the medical history, validates the information during the telemedicine encounter and provides treatment recommendations.
Step 3: Follow-up: A nurse in a centralized call center contacts John in two days to make sure he is following treatment recommendations, getting better, and has no further questions.
Serving a broad population: Healthcare is confusing, but fortunately, patients are increasingly becoming more involved in their care. As healthcare and technology continue to evolve, healthcare systems and providers must adapt to serve a broad patient base with consumer-friendly tools and information.
David Thompson, MD, FACEP is CEO and chief medical officer at Health Navigator. A part-time faculty attending in the Northwestern Memorial Hospital Emergency Department, Dr. Thompson also works as an author and partner with Self Care Decisions, LLC and Schmitt-Thompson Clinical Content, LLC.He is board-certified in both internal medicine and emergency medicine, having completed a dual residency at Northwestern Memorial Hospital at Northwestern University. Dr. Thompson is a Fellow in the American College of Emergency Physicians. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read the August/September issue of AnswerStat, the information hub for healthcare contact centers.
Medical Call Centers Are Here to Stay, by Gina Tabone Changes to the USA political scene are upon us and will most certainly impact the provision of healthcare. Several healthcare reform objectives need to remain in the forefront. Examples include enhancing quality of care, improving interdisciplinary coordination and collaboration, and better utilization of available resources. … read more >>
Vital Signs: Do You Provide Contact Options For Your Patients? by Peter L DeHaan, PhD Have you ever had a company ask how you wanted them to contact you? Options might include phone, email, text, fax, mail, or social media private messaging. How well did they do at complying with your request? … read more >>
Vendor Spotlight on Echo, a HealthStream Company Redeploy Your Legacy Call Center to Transform Patient Experiences A patient experience contact center serves as a health network’s virtual front door. It delivers personalized, trust-building support, and referrals before a patient receives care and individualized follow-up and coaching after the patient returns home. Unlike a legacy call center, the EchoAccess PX Hub… read more >>
Guest Column: Hospital Call Centers The Vital Ingredient in Clinical Communication, by Kevin Mahoney A robust and effective communication system is essential in any hospital, as it forms the backbone for the provision of exceptional patient care. The adaptation and growth of evidence-based medicine has led to… read more >>
Improve the Way You Manage Patient Calls, by Charu Raheja, Ph.D. As a practice manager or doctor, managing patient calls effectively is critical in ensuring high-quality, well-coordinated care for every patient. The first step is to make sure the people answering your phones triage patients efficiently and effectively. Establishing a consistent nurse triage system will improve… read more >>
The Contact Center’s Role in Reducing Readmission, by Traci Haynes Reducing hospital readmissions has been a focus of the healthcare environment for many years. Steven Jencks MD, dubbed by many as the father of readmission research, along with Mark Williams MD and Eric Coleman MD, analyzed medical claims data to describe the patterns of rehospitalization and its relationship to demographic characteristics of hospitals. They learned that… read more >>
AAACN Conference Hits Attendance Record More than 1,200 nurses attended the American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing (AAACN) 42nd Annual Conference held recently in New Orleans, a number that broke all previous records for this thriving specialty nursing association. With heightened interest in such areas as … read more >>
Ten years ago: Disaster Recovery for the Call Center, by Jim Becker Not every disaster is as horrific as Hurricane Katrina, but call centers can also be affected by lightning, fire, water damage, telephone and electrical outages, and other natural and man-made catastrophes. All can impact your center, but the bigger impact may be on your callers. How can you lessen the affect? read more >>
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.
As a practice manager or doctor, managing patient calls effectively is critical in ensuring high-quality, well-coordinated care for every patient. The first step is to make sure the people answering your phones triage patients efficiently and effectively. Establishing a consistent nurse triage system will improve the way you manage patient calls, improve patient satisfaction, and decrease unnecessary medical expenses. Triage nurses can direct patients to the appropriate care for their symptoms and give patients the peace of mind that their questions and concerns are being answered.
The benefits of nurse triage include better patient access, coordinated care, and cost savings. In addition, it gives patients better access to providers even if they are not seeking emergency care. This can improve patient satisfaction, prevent future complications, and allow providers to educate patients.
1. Do it Yourself In-house: Start Your Own Call Center: Starting your own call center involves setting up the call center infrastructure. The requirements depend on the scale and number of calls received. For daytime calls, many practices choose to have their own staff nurses take calls using daytime triage protocols.
These protocols are available in book form or in electronic format. For night calls, the requirements include hiring an experienced call center manager, purchasing triage software for night-time protocols, and hiring clinical and non-clinical staff to answer the phones and handle patient calls.
Pro: Having your own system gives your staff the flexibility to perform multiple tasks in addition to triage, such as physician referrals, scheduling, disease management, class registration, and surveys.
Con: Setting up a call center requires a high initial investment. It is labor intensive for the nursing department, and it requires human resources and IT involvement. Moreover, there are significant differences in terms of hardware requirements and capabilities with various software programs, so it is important to do your research and speak with a variety of vendors. This is a long-term project with a slow return on investment.
The organizations most likely to succeed with this approach are larger organizations with high call volumes, who expect to handle over 50,000 triage calls a year. These companies are the right fit because they already have some call center infrastructure and they just need to add to it. The high call volume also allows the center to use nurses’ time efficiently.
2. Outsource to a Nurse Triage Center: If the thought of setting up your own call center seems too daunting, you could use an outside vendor for your patient calls. The vendor provides access to a call center infrastructure that patients can call to access a nurse when they have clinical questions or concerns.
Pro: This option has a relatively low start-up cost. Your practice would not need to train nursing staff, and there is no need for human resources and IT staff. Since the outside vendor is already taking calls, startup is quick, and there is an immediate return on investment (ROI). In addition, vendors may have more experience and expertise in the niche area of triage, resulting in better care for your patients.
Con: When outsourcing your patient calls, you will have less direct control over the nurses and some nurse triage vendors cannot integrate with electronic medical records (EMR).
For the best outcome, be careful about interviewing vendors and make sure you are comfortable with them. In addition, costs may vary significantly depending on the vendor and while you “get what you pay for” you get less from some than others. Still, assuming you have done your homework in interviewing and discussing costs, outsourcing can be a good option for small to medium size practices.
3. Use a Combination of In-house and Outsourced Services: In this model an organization uses its own nurse triage software and nurses during high call volumes and outsources the triage to a service during low call volumes. This combination can be accomplished seamlessly with the call center technology, integration engines, and communication platforms available today.
Pro:A combined model can prove to be a way to improve services and decrease costs. Most triage centers lose money when the call volume is low because nurses are sitting idle waiting for phone calls. By outsourcing during those low volume times, the call center can continue to provide service at a reduced cost.
Your organization can continue to provide the same level or increased levels of service and at the same time decrease your operating costs to work within a given budget. It also allows organizations to keep their current infrastructure and resources. Under this option, your practice may also be able to expand into other areas of call center work to increase revenues.
Con: Just as in the previous option, it is important to take time to find the right partner with the technology and service-level knowledge to implement a combined model. There can be an interruption in patient care if their system does not align with yours.
This model is best for organizations that have some existing nurse triage infrastructure and face budget cuts. Physicians also have their own practice-specific needs, and those requests must be followed by both parties consistently. Therefore, it is crucial to select your partner carefully. Make sure you interview and discuss your software and services with your partner before making a commitment.
Each patient encounter starts with a phone call. Make sure your nurse triage service, whether in-house, outsourced, or a combination, is a seamless experience for your patient.
It is important to examine options for managing patient calls and find the solution and product that aligns with your needs.
Charu Raheja, Ph.D., is the CEO of TriageLogic a leading provider of quality, affordable triage solutions, including comprehensive after-hours medical call center software, day time triage protocol software, and nurse triage on call. Customers include both institutional and private practices. If your hospital or practice is looking for information on setting up a nurse triage service, contact TriageLogic to get a quote or set up a demo.
A robust and effective communication system is essential in any hospital, as it forms the backbone of the provision of exceptional patient care. The adaptation and growth of evidence-based medicine have led to growth in multidisciplinary approaches in patient care and increase in research among healthcare professionals.
Multidisciplinary approaches and evidence-based practice, therefore, have necessitated constant and efficient communication among health professionals, especially at the hospital level. The sensitivity of patient care and the fast growth of technology, both clinical and non-clinical, further necessitate a need for balance and maximizing of the right forms of technology for effective clinical communication.
The hospital call center serves as a vital platform in the cog of hospital communications. Often it serves as the patient’s first contact with the hospital. In general, the call center is tasked with providing patients and staff with information pertaining to emergencies, appointments, health monitoring, and the provision of specialist information. It is also a source of patient data and interdepartmental communication. This hospital call center platform, therefore, is multifaceted in its communication functionality. The facets of communications that are related to the hospital call center are patient-to-hospital communications, internal communications, and hospital-to-patient communications.
Patient to Hospital Communications: Call centers at healthcare facilities allow the communication of the patient with the hospital and provide treatment access and patient support. The hospital call center has evolved to be a key primary contact area in the healthcare system.
Patient support goes far beyond initial contact and the initial care received at the hospital. The medical call center has evolved to incorporate preventive and rehabilitative features into the platform. Moreover, call centers now use disease management programs to increase awareness of certain preventable diseases. Furthermore, they help the patient schedule appointments and remind them of screening programs.
The medical call center also helps patients access hotlines suited to their ailments, such as giving patients information about suicide prevention resources. Consequently, these platforms have improved communication features by integrating holistic curative, preventive, and rehabilitative features. This patient communication is an essential part of providing health services by a hospital.
Internal Communications: Additionally, the hospital call center supports clinical communication within the hospital staff. This is evident in environments where there is a centralized web directory. In such instances, the call center acts as the medium for vital information within the hospital. This essential information includes work schedules, contact information, and information about the employees on call. It is a critical component of providing well-coordinated care within the hospital system.
Furthermore, such call centers are tailored to communicate emergency codes and deliver critical messages to clinicians. These critical messages are essential, as they allow patient access to clinicians and contact among clinicians themselves.
A hospital call system, therefore, must be well-coordinated, time sensitive, reliable, and suited to the hospital devices available to the healthcare professionals. Hospital call centers and systems are further being improved upon to allow the tracking and escalation of messages provided to clinicians. This is essential in urgent and emergent service delivery in hospital environments.
Medicine is adopting a multidisciplinary approach to allow more holistic care and treatment to the patient. This requires constant and effective communication among medical professionals. Therefore, the hospital call center is essential, as it acts as a referral point among specialists and a resource for specialists to get access to a client base from the hospital.
Hospital to Patient Communications: Last, call centers allow the communication of the hospital and the patient who is the primary customer of the healthcare facility. The hospital marketing department benefits from the communications between the patient and the call center. The hospital call center is a point of increased patient satisfaction and improved marketing information. Patient satisfaction must be the most important goal and a practice ingrained within the organizational culture.
The hospital, therefore, should aim at optimizing the call experience for the patient. This can be done by cutting down the call waiting time, coordinating points of services, and improving patient registration and billing.
The internet has made it easy to widely disseminate information. A patient can communicate his experiences to a potential customer base. Patient experience, therefore, in the internet age, is an essential form of hospital advertisement. Improving patient experience builds upon the hospital brand and helps set it aside from the competition.
Optimizing patient experience goes beyond a single interaction to anticipate the needs of a patient and tailor services to meet those needs. The increasing need for data within the information age, therefore, cannot be understated. Data from call centers helps the marketing department find effective ways of communicating with the patient.
Each hospital call center must have a means of feedback. This helps identify and document potential issues the client had with the system. There is currently an adaptation of use of proprietary tools such as live metric dashboards and quality assurance and tracking tools. Therefore, most hospitals are collecting data to learn the needs of the patient and tailor their customer care services accordingly. For instance, most call centers now use customized call scripts; this ensures the provider maximizes care support and efficiency.
Optimizing the customer experience has led to call centers evolving as new and exciting forms of hospital income generation. The consequences of effective customer service are based on optimizing the patient experience, which leads to an increase in hospital revenue.
Final Thoughts: Clinical communication is a hugely faceted subject with far reaching consequences that go beyond hospital walls. Hospital call centers play a significant role in any hospital’s clinical communications. This role is expected to continue growing in the coming years as modern technology makes it easier and faster to communicate.
By optimizing communications, a hospital call center can improve patient health outcomes, fill an essential healthcare gap, and serve to improve overall patient care. It is, therefore, imperative that hospitals find effective ways of maximizing call centers, not just as a channel of communication, but also as a huge income-generating department.
Kevin Mahoney is a hospital and healthcare-related account advocate and sales engineer at Amtelco, a manufacturer and supplier of call center solutions. Contact him at email@example.com.