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Articles from AnswerStat

Mixing Full-time and Part-time Call Center Staff



Discover the Right Balance in Agent Scheduling for Your Healthcare Contact Center

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Some healthcare call centers only employ full-time staff. Others do the opposite and only hire part-timers. The ideal solution might be to balance a combination of both full-time and part-time agents.

Full-Time Call Center Agents

A key benefit of staffing your call center with full-time employees is greater stability and predictability. A full-time employee with benefits, especially healthcare benefits, is more likely to be committed to their work and less likely to seek a new job.

This commitment results in having an accomplished workforce that possesses the knowledge accumulated only through longevity. The typical result is more accurate communication with callers and the potential for better outcomes. With these as the benefits of having a full-time staff, why wouldn’t every call center want to hire only full timers?

Call centers with only full-time staff face a couple limitations. The key one is that call traffic seldom fits the nice 9-to-5 work schedule of full-time employees. Instead, callers arrive in predictable surges throughout the day. When attempting to address these traffic peaks with full-time staff working eight-hour shifts, the result is they will need to work like crazy some of the time and still not be able to keep up. At other times they won’t have enough to do.

Another limitation is a lack of flexibility. If a full timer’s shift is over, having worked there eight hours, but you need them to stay late to take more calls, you’re looking at an overtime situation. On the other hand, if you have people sitting around twiddling their thumbs, you can’t send a full-time employee home early because they won’t get there forty hours of work that you promised them and that they expect.

Part-Time Call Center Agents

As a reaction of this, other call centers hire only part-time staff. This gives them maximum scheduling flexibility. They’re able to have employees work exactly when they need them, no more and no less. If things get especially busy and you need someone to stay later, many are happy to pick up extra hours. Conversely, if it is slower than expected and you want to send staff home, there is usually someone anxious to accommodate.

Yet this maximum flexibility comes at a price. Part-time staff are less committed to you, your call center, and your callers. They’re more likely to look for other jobs that pay more, have better benefits, or offer more appealing schedules. They may desire full-time work and only accepted your offer because the hours you offered them were better than no hours.

This means that a call center of part-time employees has higher turnover, along with all the problems that the constant churn of employees can present.

Hybrid Staffing

The solution is to strategically hire full-time and part-time employees. This provides the best solution to achieve both a degree of stability along with much-needed flexibility. Though the ideal ratio of full-time to part-time workers varies from one call center to the next, a general initial goal is 50-50. That is to have a foundation of full-time employees filling half of your typical schedule, using part-time staffers for the remaining half.

In your actual operation, however, you may find it works better to have fewer full-time agents or have more, but you won’t know what the ideal ratio is and will have to home in on it over time.

Call center staffing is part art and part science, balancing your organization’s fiscal responsibility with your caller’s healthcare needs. A hybrid staff comprised of both full-time and part-time agents may be the best way to get there.

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.

Modernizing Your Contact Center: The First Step Toward a More Engaging Patient Experience



By Donna Martin 

While healthcare has traditionally been more reactive in nature, consumerism is driving a shift toward a model that is more proactive and puts patients at the center. As providers compete ever more fiercely for less revenue due to the financial crisis brought on by COVID-19, we fully expect to see a heavier focus on the consumerization of healthcare this year, and a major boost to patient experience as a result.

In fact, consumerism has already changed patient-facing communications for hospitals and health systems. This shift has been so major that many healthcare leaders are looking to other industries—such as banking and retail—to uncover best practices to adapt to the healthcare setting. After all, the people who shop at Amazon.com are the same people who shop for healthcare—and the experience of the former informs their expectations for the latter.

As a result of consumerism’s influence, delivering an exceptional patient experience is more important than ever, and first impressions are critical. That’s why a modernized contact center—measured by value-based benchmarks—is integral both for differentiating your healthcare organization and for preventing the loss of valuable customers.

For example, if a patient makes a basic inquiry, such as to schedule an appointment, ask a question about a treatment plan, or request a referral, are they confronted with a myriad of questions, outdated, legacy options, and poorly automated selection menus? Are they routed and rerouted among multiple call service operators and forced to relay the same information repeatedly? For a patient living in the gig economy and accustomed to a seamless customer experience, a painful interaction such as this isn’t likely to make a good first impression.

Contact centers measure quantitative benchmarks, such as how fast calls are answered, average handle time, the rate of first-call resolution, and the number of agent-to-agent transfers. All those measures are important, but these traditional, quantitative benchmarks fall short of the innovations and requirements of the industry’s transition to patient-centered, value-based care delivery.

Patient contact centers should offer seamless patient engagement, reducing frustration and time spent by caregivers and patients seeking answers to their questions. If airline carriers know their customers’ preferred seating arrangement and hotels know their guests’ floor and room preferences, then healthcare provider contact centers should strive to anticipate the needs of their patients in a much more proactive manner.

The shift toward an initiative-taking approach requires that patient records are in the patient portal and can be effectively routed to care coordinators. This allows agents to reference and make decisions based on what is known about that patient at that time, including personalization criteria, such as a patient’s preferred channel of communication.

Today’s consumers demand a healthcare ecosystem that offers self-service channels to help them get the right answer quickly. Provider organizations must invest in hyper-personalized, unified, and frictionless experiences with cross-channel integration to create a holistic and engaging patient experience. 

To support these modernized contact centers, health systems will turn increasingly to the next generation of data analytics and cognitive artificial intelligence (AI). Providers have a phenomenal amount of data at their disposal—from claims, labs, and other sources—but using it to effectively anticipate patient needs with razor-focused accuracy remains a challenge. 

From tracking and screening of biometrics and preventive care based on personalized data, organizations should deploy analytics to enhance personal profiles and gain a comprehensive understanding of how to best guide an individual’s health requirements. This will raise the bar on optimizing patient experience. 

As the industry continues to shift toward a patient-centric, proactive model, business process management (BPM) providers can assist with addressing these changes and shorten the learning curves that may exist. The fact that most BPMs have existing relationships with clients who have long emphasized customer experience, such as retail and e-tail, makes them the perfect resource to tap for providing guidance and implementing these new strategies.

Donna Martin is senior vice president, healthcare business development at HGS

LVM Vendor Spotlight


LVM Systems

During the past year, LVM Systems, a leading developer of desktop and web enterprise action solutions, announced the availability of three new product offerings: LVM One Desktop, LVM One Web, and Personal Health Valet. These solutions address all inbound inquiries, outgoing communication, and coordination assistance. 

LVM One Desktop

Utilizing a user interface (UI) professional’s expertise, LVM developed LVM One Desktop. This solution was designed around the principle of “Efficiency through Elegance.” Based on the Golden Ratio of 16:10, LVM One Desktop benefits from reducing contrast, strengthening focus points, and maximizing working memory.

LVM One Desktop’s simplified workflow improves call times by streamlining data entry. It also utilizes Microsoft’s newest recommended icons and fonts in conjunction with the following key features:

  • The ability for multiple transactions and modules to be open simultaneously.
  • A floating follow-up queue that is displayable on a second monitor.
  • Call templates to filter data by marketing campaign, disaster, or pandemic.

LVM One Web Solution

The LVM One Web solution is a lightweight, secure, and convenient way to handle contact center needs using unique workflows customized to meet your contact center’s most common activities. This solution:

  • Is accessible on a secure internet connection via a web browser, enabling the contact center representative to field requests for class registration, physician referral and appointment, triage, health information, and hospital transfer. 
  • Enables contact center representatives to monitor their active calls and follow-up queues, send direct messages to each other, pull system reports, and run “discoveries” on useful contact center information.

As additional solutions, LVM offers the following add-ons to either software: 

  • Chat, or bi-directional text* with consumers, patients, or providers for class registrations, physician referrals, triage, health information, service referrals, or respond to a question or other request.
  • Self-service portal access (WebLink+) for patients to class registrations, physician referrals, triage, health information, service referrals, or respond to a question or other request.
  • Enterprise access for non-contact center staff to view and manage select information such as class builds and rosters or physician files, or to run specified reports.

* Bi-directional text is only available with LVM One Web.

Personal Health Valet 

Personal Health Valet is a unique platform that allows hospitals to tailor automated campaigns to guide patients for optimized care. Personal Health Valet addresses strategic goals by creating a smart, trusted conversation channel for the patient and family circles. It fills communication gaps created by disparate hospital systems and manual processes by delivering an intelligent and fully automated platform for communicating with patients, spouses, and key employees in real-time.

Personal Health Valet also addresses the myriad of communication gaps that exist when patients leave the health system’s walls. This platform can seamlessly integrate asynchronous (technology-driven) and synchronous (staff-driven) conversations to expand the opportunity for success. 

Personal Health Valet can augment existing predictive technologies and processes with an actionable platform to target and help manage high-risk patient groups. Personal Health Valet:

  • Provides complete “Predictive Models” with actionable workflows. 
  • Creates intelligent post-discharge communication. 
  • Promotes patient compliance: meds, rehab, etc. 
  • Automates communication based on patient condition.
  • Reduces re-admits. 
  • Expands existing care management through technology.
  • Engages in bi-directional communication to keep managers in synch with target patients with CHF, pneumonia, joint replacement, and others.
  • Tracks whether patients have scheduled in-network specialty care visits ordered by primary care doctors.

In addition, Personal Health Valet identifies patients who have been to the ED more than once within the last twelve months for non-emergent conditions and sends them an automated message to alert them about the primary care or urgent care clinics closest to their zip code. It can redirect non-emergent cases from ER to Urgent Care Centers and decrease system leakage.

Overview

For over thirty years, LVM’s solutions have supported nurse triage, disease management, behavioral health intake, patient transfer, and referral/marketing services. The company’s cornerstones are comprehensive software, outstanding customer support, and proven clinical content supported by Drs. Barton Schmitt and David Thompson. 

The LVM team also provides custom web development, implementation services, on-site or remote training, phone and remote-access support, network consultation, free educational webinars, customization of screens, and custom reports. 

LVM Systems logo

For more information, contact LVM Systems at 480-427-3186. 

Remote Patient Monitoring and Nurse Triage


TriageLogic

By Dr. Ravi Raheja

Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) is on track to be the future of healthcare, especially as the number of chronic care patients and the cost of healthcare increases annually. RPM is the use of technology to gather patient health data from an individual. A clinic or nurse call center electronically evaluates the information. RPM is gaining traction by many in the medical field because it improves patient care. 

Many of these devices can capture data that a patient may not necessarily observe. These regular readings give meaningful data that can help providers see the bigger picture when it comes to a patient’s condition and outcome. 

This technology, usually in the form of a device that goes home with a patient, can monitor important health factors such as blood pressure, blood sugar, and respiratory rate. It allows doctors and clinicians to regularly check patient vitals before a patient even presents a symptom that would require an office visit. 

Remote triage nurses help monitor patient data and ensure patient safety. After the patient returns home with their device, these nurses monitor all health information from it. Non-clinical staff make sure patients use the device properly and call them back if the data is not coming in as expected. 

Nurses review patient data and contact patients if they see concerning data. They ask patients questions to determine if physician intervention is needed. They also provide additional information or ask questions based on individualized physician instructions. Non-clinical and clinical staff are a bridge from patient to doctor, and they alleviate the burden on the providers.

In the United States, six in ten adults suffer from some form of a chronic disease, such as obesity, diabetes, or heart disease. Chronic diseases are responsible for 75 percent of the 3.5 trillion dollars spent on healthcare each year. Overall, an estimated widespread adoption of remote patient monitoring could save the U.S. as much as $6 billion annually.

For doctors and medical organizations, this translates into improved patient care while at the same time giving providers the ability to increase their annual revenue per patient. 

First, the regular monitoring of patient vitals provides efficient scheduling of follow up visits when necessary based on abnormal readings. 

Second, CMS reimburses doctors for the cost of the RPM device and for the time it takes to monitor patient vitals. The reimbursement amount allows doctors to earn extra income each month even after considering the costs of outsourcing the monitoring. 

RPM is on the forefront of healthcare. With the ability to closely monitor chronic patients in a safe, cost-effective manner, RPM is one of the fastest growing medical technologies in the medical field. The goal is to help both patients and physicians by providing tools to improve care while decreasing the burden on physicians.

TriageLogic

Dr. Ravi Raheja is the medical director at TriageLogic.

How Hospital Contact Centers Support Emergency Departments During COVID-19


1Call, a division of Amtelco

By Nicole Limpert

Emergency departments (ED) in the United States began around 1880 as accident services provided through a workman’s compensation plan. Today, it’s common for healthcare organizations to have an ED within their hospital building, with dedicated staff that offers critical and indispensable care. Approximately 139 million Americans go to the emergency room each year. 

Typically, patients can visit the ED with any complaint, so medical staff need to prioritize cases based on clinical need using a process called triage. Triage is a brief assessment of the patient’s condition usually done in-person by a triage nurse. 

Even though most patients continue to receive care in the ED or are passed to another area of the hospital after triage, estimates show that approximately 32 percent of visits to EDs are non-urgent and can be treated during triage or in other care settings. 

Telephone Triage Nurses

Some healthcare systems provide nurse on-call hotlines and telephone triage nurses as part of their telehealth services. Patients who are unsure if their medical need is urgent enough for an emergency room visit can speak to a registered nurse on the phone. The triage nurse asks a series of questions to quickly assess the caller’s condition and give advice for minor complaints or recommend an ED visit for more serious concerns.

Nurses who work as contact center agents are part of a hospital’s comprehensive response to emergencies. They provide services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, just like a brick-and-mortar emergency department. Patients experience the additional convenience of receiving care remotely without having to travel.

In a study published in 2017, researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine found that an EDs delivered 47.7 percent of all medical care in the United States. Helping non-critical patients in the comfort of their own homes also means more time can be dedicated to those who are experiencing an actual emergency.

COVID-19’s Impact on Hospitals

When the coronavirus pandemic began in early 2020, emergency departments in the United States experienced a six percent increase in patient visits. Some hospitals asked for support from their call center operators who were able to help relieve the burden of short-staffed departments by assisting patients with insurance, registration, and other services over the phone. 

As the virus spread, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) asked EDs to screen patients for COVID-19 in an effort to keep patients and medical staff safe. Many people became afraid to go to the emergency room despite the assurances of safety from healthcare organizations, resulting in a decreased in visits to the ED by more than 30 percent in April 2020.

Hospital’s began to postpone elective surgeries to free up space and supplies for treatment of COVID-19 patients. Various departments experienced a drastic decrease in patient visits and some hospital systems began to lay off staff.

Healthcare organizations were able to leverage their contact centers and train staff members, who would otherwise have been laid-off, to answer the ever-increasing calls to their call centers. 

“We were able to redistribute existing staff from other departments and tap into their skills to cross-train them to work for the switchboard,” said Shelley White, director of patient access services for State University of New York (SUNY) Upstate Medical University. “In our situation, patient access staff and medical answer teams were trained on easy calls and were then able to work from home as remote operators. These staff members are now even more valuable to our organization,” 

COVID-19’s Impact on Hospital Contact Centers

“We are experiencing extremely high call volume related to COVID-19 information and vaccine interest. Please understand that our phone lines must be clear for urgent medical care needs. We are unable to accept phone calls to schedule COVID-19 vaccinations at this time.” Messages like this one are appearing in banners at the top of many hospital websites.

Call volume related to COVID-19 information has been overwhelming. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) advises to, “Establish a coordinated call center system to divert non-emergency calls from a community’s 911 system, and non-critically ill patients away from the emergency healthcare system. A coordinated call center system allows multiple agencies and organizations to share the high load of calls during a pandemic by integrating components of those organizations such as call centers, information lines, and crisis centers.”

Hospital contact centers help in this endeavor by establishing hotlines in their region. Jennie McWhorter, IS operations manager for Ephraim McDowell Health in Danville, KY said, “Our call center agents are also the hub of our COVID-19 hotline. The community can dial the number they already know and get the updated information they need through our 24/7 operators.” 

Healthcare call centers continue to use technology in new ways and pivot when needed to assist patients and try to ease the strain on hospital emergency departments. Shelley White stated, “Our call center software has given us so much flexibility to keep up with this ever-changing COVID-19 crisis. We are able to smooth workflow peaks and valleys and went from being overwhelmed with calls at the beginning of this situation, to having improved call metrics.”

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.

4 Ways Healthcare BPO Partnerships Deliver



By Austin Ridgeway

Healthcare has certainly made strides toward providing a member and patient experience to rival the consumer-centric disruption of other industries. But while healthcare has been slightly behind the B2C (business to consumer) curve, payers and providers lead other industries when it comes to leveraging business process outsourcing (BPO) strengths such as co-creation, design thinking, and lifecycle reference-ability of processes.

Faced with the heightened prioritization of customer needs, experience, and value stream impact, health organizations are more familiar than most industries with BPOs and the value they can deliver.

Healthcare’s History with BPOs

Over the years, the healthcare market has relied on outsourcing partners that bring strategic insights, optimization, and efficiencies to critical operations. Today’s more evolved healthcare BPO partnerships speak to the dramatic shifts in how the industry is assessing vendors and to the maturity of healthcare’s adoption of these resources.

Healthcare organizations—managing a fine and often challenging balance of front and back-office demands—have worked closely with BPO providers to adapt to changing market trends, technology, and customer demand. And the BPO approach has matured from an outsourced, single locale solution to coordinated efforts across geographies to optimize talent allocation, process efficiency, and data analysis. 

Some may say that these changes pose challenges to the outsourcing model. However, it is the opposite—and notably for healthcare’s reliance on end-to-end solutions. Over the past forty plus years of outsourcing’s history, many BPO organizations have transcended their roles as providers of labor arbitrage and consistently shown themselves to be true ambassadors of transformation.

Strategic Priorities

Today’s healthcare BPO partner builds significant client ROI from these key strategic priorities:

Capacity Augmentation: Historically, healthcare organizations have leaned on BPOs for scalability. These providers and payers don’t want to expand beyond and break an operational excellence goal, so they cocreate and rely on a BPO partner to bring additional resources, solutions, and innovation. 

Typically, when sourcing for a partner, healthcare organizations rely on vendors that can improve capacity planning and offer solutions such as robotic process automation (RPA) to augment existing resources within the process. Through these initiatives, organizations can reduce effort and close operational gaps. That in turn can help scale back some operational expenses.

Challenger Mindset: In the quest to keep bettering their own organizations, payers and providers increasingly look to BPOs for a neutral business perspective and vast domain insights, tools, and talent. To this point, healthy competition helps to shake up a cultural mindset and drive organizational change. 

Often an outsourcer is brought in to challenge the internal operations champion, driving competition to improve productivity. The net result of increased pressure to succeed can be higher quality scores, improved turnaround times, and better member and patient satisfaction.

Cultural Assimilation and Alignment: Gone are the days when offshore locales were viewed as secondary to onshore locations. With the increased focus on globalization, there has been more direct alignment—and even assimilation—of partner and client cultures. This includes the fact that BPOs can fill a niche as a brand ambassador with retail-honed customer experience skills and bring access to a wider customer base.

Market Differentiation: In recent years, there has been a shift to more consultative services rather than simply answering calls. Today’s BPOs possess best-in-class solutions, and they have the scale to launch them to a broader market. The ramp up and speed-to-market can accelerate with the right BPO, one that can best work across a client’s own internal siloes and bring positive impact to other areas of the business. Today’s BPO providers can pilot multiple capabilities to truly transform end-to-end processes and bring value outside of traditional key performance indicators (KPIs) and service level agreement (SLAs). 

Conclusion

No matter the strategy, strong BPO partnerships are built on the principles of lean operations, as well as co-creation, design thinking, and globalization. Healthcare organizations that view BPO as strictly a cost-cutting measure are missing out on the real value, which is the meaningful changes that help eliminate siloes and align objectives to achieve true operational and engagement impact.

Austin Ridgeway is director, sales support, and business development for HGS Healthcare.

Finish Strong and Don’t Coast into the New Year

How We Conclude This Year Will Prepare Us for What Happens Next Year



By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

This year continues to be a challenging one, more so than most others—perhaps any other. As we look forward to a new year in our healthcare call center, we turn the calendar with expectations of a better future, along with a wondering about how much things will change. Whether we find ourselves forced into a new normal or can return to an old normal looms as a huge question. But what we do know for sure is that what we do today in the remaining months of this year will influence what we encounter in the next.

Here are some things to consider.

Make Flexible Plans 

As you look forward to the new year, develop a strategy with contingencies. Do it now. Factor in options. This means developing a plan A and a plan B and even a plan C. It means considering tactics in how to do things in person and remotely. Look to implement technology that can adapt to accommodate expectations as needed, regardless of what path the future takes. Assume that what you’re doing today in your call center will change as you move throughout the year.

Don’t Coast

The understandable temptation, after an especially grueling year, is to relax. It might be you’re worn out and want a break. Another thought is that you’ve worked hard and deserve to take it easy. Though resting has its merits, that’s not justification to check out and coast through this year’s remaining days. 

Resist the temptation to tell yourself that you’ll make up for taking a break now by promising to hit the ground running on January 2. By then inertia will have set in, and it will take too long to get back up to speed. Breezing through work for a few weeks may seem like an attractive option, but the big-picture perspective is that you run the risk of not being able to embrace a new year.

Be Intentional

Instead, be deliberate in how you wind down the final days of December. This doesn’t mean accelerating at full speed, but don’t hit the brakes either. Look to wrap up projects so that you don’t have to carry them into a new year. Pursue small initiatives now to form a foundation you can build on to produce success faster when you return to work after the holidays.

Make Time for Family and Friends

Speaking of holidays, this year your celebrations may look different than in the past. Even so, seek safe ways to connect with family and friends. Don’t take unnecessary risks, but don’t be a hermit either. We need each other, we crave connection—whatever that looks like today, and we require interaction if we are to stay mentally fit and emotionally healthy.

May you finish strong this year and move with confident preparedness into the next.

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.  Read more of his articles at PeterDeHaanPublishing.com.

Care Management

By Terri Hibbs, BSN, RN, CCCTM



The healthcare system has a large population of elderly patients, many with multiple healthcare issues or chronic conditions. Taking part in a care management program can help these patients become healthier by educating them about their disease processes and the importance of medication compliance, regular blood work, annual tests, and preventative measures such as flu and pneumonia shots and mammograms, and colonoscopies. 

Care management services provide patients with contact to inform them of their conditions in terms they understand and to involve them in personal healthcare goals. In this way, patients are more likely to want to be involved in reaching their goals and becoming healthier. The intent is to keep these patients out of the emergency room and hospital as much as possible. 

What is Care Management?

“Care Management programs apply systems, science, incentives, and information to improve medical practice and assist consumers and their support system to become engaged in a collaborative process designed to manage medical, social, and mental health conditions more effectively. The goal of care management is to achieve an optimal level of wellness and improve coordination of care while providing cost effective, non-duplicative services.” (“Care Management Definition and Framework,” Center for Health Care Strategies, Inc., 2007.)

Two Types of Care Management

1. Transitional Care Management is a Medicare service that became effective Jan. 1, 2013, per cms.gov. The care management team or nurse navigator will call a patient or caregiver within two days of inpatient discharge to discuss medication, a new diagnosis, or important follow up appointments with the purpose of reducing and preventing readmissions and medical errors. 

2. Chronic Care Management (CCM), according to The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), is a chronic care management services, which are a critical component of primary care that contributes to better health and care for individuals. The goal is to provide the patient and family with the best care possible to keep them out of the hospital and emergency room and to minimize overall medical cost. The program is used to help patients achieve a better quality of life through continuous care and management of their chronic conditions. Patients collaborate with healthcare providers to set healthcare goals, thus making it more likely they will accomplish those objectives.

Case Study

One patient I worked with is a successful participant in the CCM program. He initially visited the emergency department because of unstable vital signs, weakness, dizziness, and uncontrolled hypertension. He had been out of his medication for three months, was admitted for congestive heart failure and atrial fibrillation, and spent four days in the hospital. He also had uncontrolled diabetes with a Hemoglobin A1C of 10.7 percent and his average fasting blood sugars at home were running in the 300s. 

The patient consented to the CCM program for his chronic conditions of atrial fibrillation, congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, hypertension, and obesity. He was very eager and willing to learn about his disease processes and to take his medication on a regular basis. He was given information on Medicaid services to help with medication expenses and was educated on Metformin titration and use of his insulin. 

I also regularly contacted him for a report on his blood sugar and blood pressure readings. In just two short months the patient has stopped smoking and his fasting blood sugars are now running in the low 130s. He has a better relationship with his son and granddaughter, is more physically active, and is making better food choices. He is due for a repeat Hemoglobin A1C level next month. 

This is just one of many examples of what care management can do for a patient. As a nurse navigator, my patients become like a part of my family. I am blessed to be able to educate and support our patients and their families and to help them to make better healthcare choices that can potentially save their lives. 

Terri Hibbs, BSN, RN, CCCTM is a care navigator for Baptist Health Hardin Family Medicine.

Virtually Consolidate Large and Multi-State Hospital Call Centers to Work from Home


1Call, a division of Amtelco

By Nicole Limpert

According to a survey published by the American Hospital Association (AHA) in 2016, there are 3,231 community hospitals in the United States that are a part of a larger hospital system.

The AHA defines these enterprises as either a multihospital system where two or more hospitals are owned, leased, sponsored, or contract managed by a central organization; or a single, freestanding hospital that includes membership of three or more, and at least 25 percent, of non-hospital healthcare organizations. These sizable healthcare systems are often the result of mergers. Hospitals announced a total of 115 merger and acquisition transactions in 2017 alone and this trend is on the rise.

No matter how large the hospital enterprise, call centers are often the first point of contact when a patient or prospective patient contacts a healthcare organization. It’s essential that callers have a helpful, positive interaction with the operators they speak with because medical call center representatives often serve as the face of a health system.

Communications within these large hospital systems were already incredibly complex before the coronavirus began to spread. When the pandemic began, many hospitals sent their call center workforce home to safely handle calls while in isolation.

Call center software gives hospital organizations the flexibility to turn any computer into a fully functional operator workstation. Callers have a seamless communication experience with their provider, even if their hospital has various campuses or locations across multiple states, all while the person they are talking to is working from home.

Using a Virtual Server Brings Multiple Hospital Call Centers Together

Healthcare systems with multiple hospitals, clinics, and call centers can run on a single virtual server located anywhere in the country to function together seamlessly—even if they all use different PBX telephone systems.

This enables hospital call centers to pivot during uncertain times, such as the current coronavirus outbreak, and also grow without adding additional server hardware. Using a virtual server means less equipment needs to be maintained. This saves an organization time and money, which has become even more crucial with pandemic-related budget crises. 

To streamline call flows, hospital enterprises are combining and scaling their communication systems virtually. This allows them to take advantage of running their call centers in a virtual server environment or in the cloud, while keeping staff safe. 

Other benefits of running call centers remotely:

  • Ability to route calls to another center in the event of an emergency
  • Offering longer operating hours by taking advantage of call centers or agents located in different time zones
  • Easier for supervisors to get fill-in operators if an agent is sick
  • Ability to handle more calls during peak hours by overflowing calls to other centers during their non-peak times
  • Tap other labor markets such as retired nurses, students, or a lower-cost workforce and hire people who are located outside of expensive city areas with high compensation rates

Secure Messaging Apps Remotely Support Care Teams

Secure organizational communication is crucial for protecting patients, medical staff, and hospital organizations. Care teams use these apps to send secure text, photo, audio, and video content related to a patient’s electronic protected health information (ePHI), via smartphones, tablets, and desktop computers. 

These apps simplify healthcare communications to provide a better patient experience and speed the process of patient admissions, lab results, and patient transport within a hospital. Call center agents working from home also use cloud-based secure messaging apps to contact on-call medical staff via their computer. 

“As a healthcare system, we need a secure messaging platform for our clinical staff to share critical health information quickly and easily,” says Steven Spachtholz, director of information systems for Butler Health System in Butler, PA. “For us, the advantage of using the platform is its tight integration to our call center system that we use to provide answering services to our physicians.”

Steven explains, “We started using secure messaging with our internal answering service, but it grew to become our only secure messaging platform. What makes the secure messaging app we use different, is its integration with our call center software for on-call data and the integration engine we use which allows us to inject messages from other systems. All routine consults now flow from our electronic health record (EHR) database to our secure messaging app automatically.”

Secure texting apps can also keep track of all message activity with an audit log and a message log, complete with message histories, indicating whom messages were sent to, when messages were read, and who replied to a message. These logs can be made into reports for call center supervisors and hospital management.

Future of Web-based Hospital Communication

Hospital staff must be able to access the information they need at any time from any place. It’s a fundamental and critical part of any healthcare organization’s communication protocol. This is especially true during a pandemic since it’s more likely that both call center and medical staff may be working from home or from different hospital locations.

Web-based applications that are specifically developed for the healthcare industry have proven to be incredibly effective in providing fast and secure communication, improving communication times, adding efficiencies through remote access, and reducing the number of potential errors caused by miscommunication. 

Some hospital call centers already had a select group of operators working from home, but the COVID-19 crisis forced more hospitals to take advantage of having a virtual call center. Many studies have since been published about the benefits and cost-savings of having staff work from home. Some organizations have already decided to keep their call center staff remote, and the latest trends indicate this once temporary solution is going to be a permanent shift in the industry.

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.

A Problem—and Opportunity—for Healthcare Call Centers



By Greg Kefer

Your phone starts ringing, you drop what you’re doing, look at the screen, and see a call from some odd number from a faraway place. Or worse yet, it says “Scam Likely!” I’m rarely in the mood to listen to some foreign language robot or get rich pitch. Phone calls that matter have increasingly become the minority.

According to estimates, US mobile phone users were exposed to 48 billion robocalls in 2018, which means that every time the phone rings, there’s a 50 percent chance it’s a spam robocall.

Training the Masses to Decline Calls

There are few viable solutions available for blocking 100 percent of these annoying intrusions, so the best option when that unknown phone number shows on the caller ID is to simply hit the decline button and move on with whatever you were doing. Robocalls are creating anti-call center muscle memory across the entire mobile phone user population.

The shunning of annoying telemarketing cold calls is not a new thing. But thanks to robocall automation, the surge of incoming noise has become so intense, there’s little chance a consumer will pause and consider the possibility that an incoming call might actually matter. This is a problem for the healthcare industry.

Call centers have always been a big part of the healthcare patient experience. Challenges with being on hold, ineffective agents, and general customer dissatisfaction with call centers are well documented. But what about the outbound side?

The Challenge for Healthcare Call Centers

The healthcare industry is investing heavily in engaging patients, and call centers are a big piece of that strategy. Outbound calling campaigns help patients navigate their care, set appointments, take medicines, or check in after a visit. These are potentially important touch points. If people stop answering their phones, what happens? Email outreach is frequently intercepted by spam filters, secure messaging is clunky, and most patients don’t log into their healthcare portals.

At call centers, human capacity has always been a constraint. When it comes to dealing with healthcare situations, there have not been a lot of viable automation options that blend a quality, well-designed engagement experience with a high-scale system. Anybody that has received a robocall doctor’s appointment reminder knows how disengaging it is.

The healthcare industry faces a challenge when it comes to reaching out to patients, often for critical issues.

  • Providers and pharma companies need to reach out and connect with patients.
  • Most patients have a mobile phone and prefer to communicate through them.
  • Robocalls have trained consumers to avoid answering their phones.
  • Healthcare mobile apps are too clunky and remain unused.
  • Consumers prefer text messaging.

Heavy investment in call center technology that’s focused on intelligent patient information and agent enablement is still key. But is there a new opportunity for call centers to reach out to patients as part of a patient engagement effort?

Digital Conversations at Unlimited Scale

Conversational chatbots that interact with people in a way similar to text messaging are finding their way into many industries. What would happen if an interactive text front end, first touch was woven into the outbound call center approach? The bot could completely handle simple tasks, such as reminders and information gathering. Or it could start on some of the more advanced workflows, such as monitoring care progression or providing drug background information in advance of a human to human interaction.

As they stand today, call center agents are premium level expenses when compared to a well-designed chatbot that can run 24/7. Imagine a call center not constrained by human capacity.

If the virtual dimension of a modern patient engagement strategy requires outreach and interaction with vast populations of patients, the answer isn’t to hire more agents. Rather, you must find a way to make the agents you already have handle an increased volume, with conversational chatbots conversing and engaging patients across a spectrum of workflows. And the entire process would be in the medium that consumers increasingly prefer—text-based messaging.

With this chatbot technology, the odds of reaching someone and helping them with their care can only increase.

Greg Kefer is the CMO at LifeLink.