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Stand Out: Define Your Distinguishing Difference



Discover What Makes Your Call Center Unique 

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

What does your healthcare contact center stand for? How do you stand out in an industry with many options? Understanding who you are is the first step to determining your distinctive characteristics. But why does this matter? 

This is important because when you have a unique quality then your stakeholders have something to rally around. They have a reason to be proud. Short of that you offer nothing to draw them in and keep them close. They have nothing to celebrate. 

Though this most obviously applies to outsource call centers, it’s also applicable to in-house operations too. Here are some categories to consider.

Not all approaches to enhancing the relationship with your staff, however, require a financial investment. This includes letting employees know how much you appreciate them Click To Tweet

Service 

The first place most call centers look at to distinguish themselves is their service level. They often focus on quality service. Though there are many ways to define this, some look at customer satisfaction (CSAT). Most every call center claims to offer quality service. However, saying it and doing it are two different things. To trumpet service quality with integrity requires that a third-party confirm it. Self-pronounced claims of quality service mean nothing.

Aside from quality, other service level considerations might be answering calls quickly (average speed to answer: ASA) or handling requests on one contact (first call resolution: FCR). Other ways to stand out include a low error rate or around-the-clock accessibility.

Staff 

A second area to consider is how you relate to your staff. Though few employees—if any—will say they’re overpaid or over appreciated, look at how you regard your staff. Employees who receive proper compensation and know how much they’re appreciated tend to work harder and produce better outcomes. The side effect of this is improved service to callers, as well as a healthier financial position.

In call centers, where margins are thin, leaders often struggle with their compensation packages. They know that a 5 percent increase in payroll can move a profitable (or cash-positive) operation into an unprofitable (or cash-negative) one. Yet others successfully apply the adage of “pay more and expect more.”

Not all approaches to enhancing the relationship with your staff, however, require a financial investment. Also consider intangible ways to stand out. This includes letting employees know how much you appreciate them, connecting with them on a personal level, and even taking a simple step of giving them a sincere “thank you” for their work.

Finances

A third area to consider is the financial aspect. Is your operation fiscally strong? A call center that produces consistent positive cash flow has long-term viability. This means they generate profits for their owners or are a profit center for their organization. They stand out. Having financial stability can permeate an entire operation with positivity.

Next, do you provide your staff with the best tools possible? Is their work environment something they’re proud to enter every day? Though these may not seem as relevant of a consideration to use to define your call center, they can be. Employees in a top-notch work environment will speak highly of their jobs and their employer to their families and friends. This can ripple through the local area, elevating the call center in the process.

Conclusion

Though it’s good to address all these areas and strive to make them as good as you can, it’s impossible to make everything a priority. Attempting to do so will cause all areas to suffer. 

Without neglecting any of these considerations, however, strive to elevate one above all others. Let this become the distinctive characteristic that your call center is known for and celebrated. This will help you stand out among all others and have a lasting impact for all stakeholders: your callers, your employees, and your organization.

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.

Telehealth in Uncertain Times


LVM Systems

By Traci Haynes

The COVID-19 pandemic has placed telehealth at the forefront in providing healthcare services. It has forced changes in the environments in which clinicians typically practice. Individuals who, under non-COVID-19 conditions, would seek access in an emergency department (ED), urgent care, or healthcare providers’ office are now avoiding these settings. And with community spread, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends alternatives to face-to-face triage and visits in an office setting if screening can take place via telehealth (that is over the phone, through patient portals, or online self-assessment tools). A recent report from Frost and Sullivan suggests that telehealth will increase by over 64 percent nationwide this year and continue to increase in the years ahead.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) defines telehealth as “the use of telecommunications technologies to deliver health-related services and information that support patient care, administrative activities, and health education.” It typically consists of a two-way, real-time interaction over distance between a patient and a clinician using audio or visual technology. 

Telehealth or Telemedicine?

Telehealth can help communicate with and coordinate care for individuals with chronic condition. Click To Tweet

Many consider the terms telehealth and telemedicine synonymous and interchangeable. However, telemedicine can describe a more limited set of remote clinical services such as diagnosis and monitoring.

In recent years, telehealth has become more recognized, especially in the aftermath of natural disasters (such as hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, floods, and blizzards), when seeking routine care can be dangerous for both clinicians and patients. There was a tremendous uptick in telehealth interactions following Hurricanes Irma, Maria, and Harvey in 2017. Crises tend to increase the urgency of telehealth needs. 

Using telehealth in rural communities to bridge the healthcare gap delivering routine care or providing access to specialists that typically exist in more urban areas is well known. Telehealth also makes services more readily available or convenient for individuals with limited mobility, time restrictions, or transportation issues. Furthermore, telehealth can help communicate with and coordinate care for individuals with chronic conditions in supporting self-management as well as assist with earlier interventions in the face of impending exacerbations. 

Social Distancing

The critical need for the recent social distancing between providers and patients has driven increased demand for telehealth. In response to the pandemic, the Trump administration has expanded access, albeit temporary, with changes to telehealth reimbursement policies. 

Beginning March 30, 2020, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) allowed more than 80 additional services through telehealth. Clinicians can bill immediately for dates of service on or after March 6, 2020. According to CMS, it will now pay for telehealth services under the Physician Fee Schedule at the same amount as in-person services. 

Healthcare providers, including physicians, nurse practitioners, clinical psychologists, and licensed clinical social workers, are now able to offer telehealth to Medicare beneficiaries, including standard office visits, mental health counseling, and preventive health screenings. Medicare often is the early adopter for changes in reimbursement, with other health plans following their lead. 

A May 9, 2020 report in Modern Healthcare, said that Providence went from 700 video visits a month to 70,000 a week. New figures from Blue Cross Blue Shield of MA reported that daily claims for telehealth grew from approximately 200 to more than 38,000 in May. A May 26, 2020 article in FierceHealthcare reported experts predicting 1 billion telehealth visits by 2021, and currently almost half of practicing physicians are now using telehealth appointments. 

With this shift in practice, healthcare providers will increase their use of telemonitoring devices to measure blood pressure, pulse oximetry, heart rate, temperature, and weight readings. Telemonitoring also will assess EKG tracings and views of the retina and tympanic membrane, as well as other data to diagnose patients.

Emergency Department

There is growing concern about the decreased number of ED visits for emergent situations such as acute myocardial infarctions, cerebrovascular accidents, and other life-threatening situations. Recent statistics, as reflected in emergency medical system calls, offer evidence of increased deaths at home. EDs also report that patients are waiting too long to seek care, and as a result, have often suffered irreversible damage. 

An article in HealthDay News on May 20, 2020 reported that U.S. EDs are seeing about half as many heart attack patients as usual. The data from Kaiser Permanente Northern California included 4.4 million patients. In looking at records from January 1 through April 14, they found that the weekly rate of hospitalizations for heart attacks decreased 48 percent. Moreover, fewer individuals with pre-existing cardiac conditions went to the ED from March 4 through April 14, when compared to pre-COVID-19 timeframes from the year before.

Telehealth Nursing Practice 

Telehealth, in support of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s (IHI) triple aim has shown improved access, quality, and cost-efficiency of healthcare delivery and has resulted in an increased demand for telehealth nursing practice (TNP). 

A medical call center with TNP registered nurses (RNs) using decision-support tools provide recommendations for care at home or accessing a higher level of care based on the caller’s symptoms. RNs do not give a diagnosis, nor do they prescribe medications, although in certain situations, RNs can provide refills or e-prescribe medications based on physicians’ orders. 

The breadth and scope of TNP have advanced throughout the years. It has had a major presence in the United States since the 1960s, in Canada since the 1970s, and the UK beginning in the 1990s. 

In the last half of the 70s, health maintenance organizations (HMOs) began using telephone triage and advice services as a gatekeeper to control consumer access to care. In the 80s, hospital marketing departments used telephone triage as well as physician and service referrals, class registration, and health education and information services to attract and keep their market share. Once again, in the early to mid-90s, managed care organizations further expanded telehealth services for demand management, recertification, and referral authorization due to the ever-increasing incidence of chronic illness and multi-morbidities as well as the associated rise in healthcare costs. 

Present-day, the COVID-19 pandemic, has led to the role of telehealth nurses providing triage, surveillance, and monitoring for disease management, care management, case management, care coordination, and clinical prevention programs.

Conclusion

The use of telehealth has grown exponentially during this pandemic. It has filled a much-needed void in providing qualified medical care by clinicians without the necessity of commuting to a higher level of care. It has proven positive outcomes and high degrees of satisfaction. Telehealth is convenient and accessible, and while an option for many medical situations, it is especially important to know of its reliability during a public health emergency.

Traci Haynes, MSN, RN, BA, CEN, CCCTM is director, clinical services at LVM Systems.

1Call Vendor Spotlight


1Call-call center

1Call’s mission: Working together to provide the very best communication product solutions, backed by the best support available.

Since 1976, Amtelco has provided innovative communication solutions to call centers around the world. In 1997, the 1Call Division was formed to offer enterprise-wide clinical communication solutions designed specifically for healthcare organizations. 1Call is dedicated to serving the unique call center and communication needs of healthcare organizations, helping improve communications between patients, physicians, and staff by connecting people and information. Amtelco has received twenty-eight patents, covering a wide range of communications processes.

Hospitals and healthcare organizations around the world turn to 1Call to solve their medical call center, answering service, on-call scheduling, on-site and remote operator, web-based communication, call handling, secure messaging, voice processing, conference calling, and automated integration engine notification needs. In an independent survey, 100 percent of the respondents said they would highly recommend Amtelco and 1Call over other healthcare communication providers.

1Call’s mission: Working together to provide the very best communication product solutions, backed by the best support available. Click To Tweet

Five-Star Service and Support

1Call has a reputation for complete, professional system support, offering training, installation, and technical support staff on call on a 24-hour basis. When customers need assistance for their call center solutions, 1Call’s customer support staff provides fast and reliable service. Customer advocates, solutions architects, and product managers are available to help customers and answer questions before, during, and after the sale.

1Call understands that every healthcare organization has unique needs. 1Call’s customer support staff includes implementation specialists, installers, project managers, and technical support staff. The customer support staff has an average tenure of over fifteen years, which is virtually unheard of in technology and IT businesses. All support staff members are in the United States. While many of the staff members are in the Midwest home office, there are several regional offices around the United States.

Help When Needed, Pandemic Response

When the coronavirus became a pandemic and hospital call centers experienced a sharp increase in call volume, 1Call supported customers by offering free operator licenses. Because 1Call’s software can turn any desktop or laptop computer into a professional operator station, the service department also helped in setting up remote operator stations so staff could work safely from home. 

“The free license offer from 1Call came at the right time. Additional operators were up and running quickly. I can’t tell you how appreciative I was to be able to have the ability for more agents to cover all of our calls,” said Shelley White, MS, CHAM, FACHE and director, patient access services for State University of New York (SUNY) Upstate Medical University

Customers have access to 1Call’s support team via phone, email, or the exclusive online TechHelper tool, where documentation, manuals, videos, and many more training tools are available. TechHelper is available 24-hours a day, with unlimited access. Emergency assistance for 1Call systems is available 24-hours a day, 365-days a year.

Software upgrades are included with support agreements, helping ensure that 1Call customers always have access to the newest features.

In an independent customer satisfaction survey, 97 percent of the respondents said the Amtelco and 1Call service and support was excellent (Amtelco Satisfaction Research Study conducted by TMA+Peritus, February 2015). 1Call looks forward to partnering with more healthcare organizations to provide this same level of service.

Streamlined Hospital Communication Solutions

1Call features a complete line of modular solutions specifically designed to streamline enterprise-wide communications, reduce errors, and lessen training time for new hospital call center operators. All the specialized 1Call solutions save an organization’s limited resources, making each organization tremendously efficient, enhancing the patient experience, and improving their bottom line.

Each 1Call solution comes with the benefit of Amtelco’s forty plus years of experience in the field of call handling and messaging. Thousands of 1Call and Amtelco systems are in operation around the world, 24-hours each day.

Easily Customizable Clinical Communications

1Call understands that every healthcare organization has unique needs and that they sometimes receive unusual requests from physicians and departments. That’s why 1Call offers powerful solutions that are easy to customize by the customer. Customers have access to a wide variety of administrative functions, including the ability to customize scripts for any department, with individual scripts for every physician, if needed. 1Call also has a scripting team that is available to help customers with any specific requests.

Why Choose 1Call?

Hospitals continually recommend 1Call solutions to other healthcare organizations. So, more healthcare organizations continue to switch to 1Call. “Pretty much all of the 1Call team worked long hours as we trudged towards the cutover. I was constantly amazed to be getting email replies to questions at all hours of the day and weekends,” said Kevin Mallon, project manager for Canterbury District Health Board in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Watch video testimonials.) 

Strong Partner Relationships

Hospital CIOs and CTOs are under tremendous pressure to do more with smaller budgets and staff. It’s paramount that they have a reliable health communications IT partner. 1Call forms solid partnerships with customers. Each organization is encouraged to work closely with the 1Call team of consultants and engineers through each phase of system planning, configuration, and implementation. This helps ensure that the 1Call systems are at their optimum performance levels to meet all the communication needs of their organizations.

1Call also works closely with key technology partners to provide organizations with the solutions that best fit their communication and technology requirements. 1Call’s partners integrate at a high level with the call center, on-call scheduling, HIPAA secure messaging, alarms management, and emergency notification services to produce a comprehensive solution that satisfies the needs of each organization.

The 1Call technology partnerships include:

  • American Messaging
  • Apple iOS Developer Program
  • Avaya DevConnect Community
  • Black Box
  • Bluestream
  • Cisco Solution Partner Program
  • Cisco Developers Network
  • Copia OEM Partner
  • GENBAND Partner Program
  • Google Play Developer
  • Health Level 7 International (HL7)
  • HISCALL
  • Interactive Intelligence Global Alliance
  • Interbit Data
  • Microsoft Developers Network
  • Mitel Solutions Alliance
  • NEC UNIVERGE Solutions Partner Program
  • ProScheduler
  • Qgenda
  • SAP OEM Partnership Program
  • ShoreTel Innovation Network Alliance Partner
  • Spectralink Application Integration and Management Solvers Program
  • Unify (formerly Siemens) Technology Partners – Advanced Level Status
  • Vocera Solution Partner Program
  • Windows Development Center Member

One Company, One Solution

The development and customer support teams are in the “Innovation Way” hallway at the Amtelco and 1Call home office. These teams work together closely, and when a question arises, it’s a quick walk down the hallway to find the solution. One company, one solution, proudly located in the USA.

Recent Innovations

As customers have come to expect, Amtelco and 1Call continue creating innovative solutions. In addition to frequent enhancements to Intelligent Series, soft agent, and miSecureMessages, the newest innovations are Web Agent, miTeamWeb, MergeComm, and Genesis: 

Web Agent: 1Call’s next generation, call-handling application, Web Agent, is a web browser-based telephone agent interface. Web Agent is compatible with most modern web browsers, enabling agents to process multi-channel calls on desktop computers, laptops, and tablets. Web Agent can perform directory searches, scripted messaging, and dispatching, and provide access to call log recordings, web content, and on-call schedules.

MiTeamWeb: MiTeamWeb is 1Call’s mobile-friendly web application that gives physicians and hospital staff fast access to on-call schedules, messages, directories, call logs, and status information using a secure browser connection on a PC, smartphone or tablet. The app features customizable widgets, allowing each user to personalize their miTeamWeb home screen. 

The MergeComm Integration Engine: MergeComm automates communications throughout an organization, speeding response times to help organizations provide better patient care. MergeComm takes an incoming message and uses a script to determine who needs to receive that information. 

MergeComm can receive a message from a wide variety of sources, including alarms, alerts, HL7 messages, nurse call, severe weather alerts, TCP, WCTP, and web services. Notifications can go to an individual, an entire group, or the current on-call personnel. Notification methods include email, miSecureMessages, IP phones, pagers, phones, smart devices, SMS, and Vocera badges.

The Genesis Platform: Provides the Intelligent Series applications with advanced software-based telephony. Genesis provides an all-inclusive call center solution for healthcare call routing, call management, reporting, and call center applications based on the Intelligent Series. A few of the many benefits of Genesis include reducing the need for hardware, virtualization of the switching platform, integrating with SIP-enabled PBXs, connecting remote agents, and automating overhead paging.

Priority Call Override is a feature of Genesis that ensures urgent calls receive appropriate priority treatment to provide better care to patients. Code calls, emergency calls, crisis calls, and other priority calls can override less urgent calls, allowing agents to take immediate action. The call routes to the most qualified operator available and notifies all agents that a priority call is in progress.

The Future

1Call, a division of Amtelco

As technology continues to evolve (and everyone knows it will) and as customers have new communication challenges, rest assured that 1Call and Amtelco will continue to develop new innovative solutions, as they have for over forty years.

The Future of Healthcare is Here with Help from Telehealth and Hospital Call Centers


1Call-call center

By Nicole Limpert

Those of us in the healthcare communication field already know the value of telehealth and virtual care. As the COVID-19 pandemic evolved, telemedicine gained worldwide recognition as a critical healthcare tool to keep both patients and medical staff safe.

Telehealth has predominantly been used to bring healthcare to rural areas or isolated populations, such as overseas military personnel and those who work in the maritime industry. Until recently, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) placed certain stipulations on telehealth providers and would only reimburse for services provided in rural areas with specific audio-visual equipment.

However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, on March 6, 2020 CMS relaxed restrictions and removed many of the conditions clinicians had to adhere to in order to provide telehealth services to patients living across the United States. Later, CMS expanded its telehealth adoption to include eighty-five new telehealth services to their covered list and set provider reimbursement rates for telehealth visits to be the same as in-person services.

As the COVID-19 pandemic evolved, telemedicine gained worldwide recognition as a critical healthcare tool to keep both patients and medical staff safe. Click To Tweet

Are We Ready for Telemedicine?

Many people are new to the concept of telemedicine. On July 31, 2019 JD Power reported that nearly three-quarters of Americans weren’t aware of telehealth options or didn’t have access to technology to partake in telehealth. Yet, the American Hospital Association states that 76 percent of U.S. hospitals were already using telehealth before the coronavirus pandemic. Currently, forty-eight states require telehealth coverage in insurance plans.

Healthcare-related industries already had infrastructure in place and were prepared for the use of telemedicine and telehealth. However, few, if any, expected how quickly the use of these virtual tools would grow or how they would be used in new ways when COVID-19 began to spread. The coronavirus pandemic has dramatically accelerated the adoption of telemedicine usage. Telehealth visits sky-rocketed by 50 percent in March 2020 according to data from Frost and Sullivan, and analysts at Forrester Research estimates that virtual healthcare interactions will reach more than one billion by the end of 2020.

Hospital Call Centers Experience Increased Telehealth Calls

The pandemic has affected call centers in every industry. Most business websites have placed a message at the top of their home page warning of long hold times and delays in service. 

In healthcare, communication setbacks can mean life or death. Understandably, hospital call centers experienced a substantial increase in calls early in the pandemic. Many healthcare call centers assist with telehealth efforts and they also serve as a hub for their healthcare organization during a crisis.

“We played an immediate role in the hospital’s corporate response to the coronavirus pandemic,” explains Shelley White, MS, CHAM, FACHE, director of patient access services for State University of New York (SUNY) Upstate Medical University.

“A COVID-19 hotline was established, and we took calls from multiple counties in our area. Within two weeks, our call volume drastically increased, and we needed more space in our call centers to work while practicing social distancing. We used free operator licenses from our vendor to set-up additional remote operator workstations so more of our agents could work from home. This kept our staff safe while serving the community.”

Running a call center in a virtual server environment, or in the cloud, is giving hospitals the ability to stay flexible and available by using remote operators. These tools are scalable and result in fully functioning call handling to transform any personal computer into a professional telephone agent station.

Call Center Software Assists Telehealth Communication

Using telehealth for virtual appointments with medical staff and patients has been essential during this pandemic. There are other ways healthcare systems use telehealth communications. Hospital call centers are using their communication software, often in new ways, to provide their communities and staff with accurate information, quick responses, and in some cases—hope.

  • Nurse Triage Centers: Agents use a customized script to triage calls.
  • Improved Navigation Menus: Callers are directed to additional, updated information.
  • Non-Clinical Services: Telehealth also refers to remote, non-clinical administrative uses such as establishing and maintaining on-call shifts for COVID-19 volunteer pools. They can even create announcements using a song, tone, or message to broadcast throughout the hospital when a coronavirus patient is released. It’s a wonderful way to spread hope and encouragement to patients and staff.

Many telehealth agents are working from home and it is crucial for them to have access to the IT support they would normally use when working in the call center. Jennie McWhorter, information services operations manager for Ephraim McDowell Health in Danville, KY explains how the system can help here as well. “We have entered a ‘Telehealth Support Hotline’ in the call center software that allows the operators to connect to our help desk directly,” says Jennie. “This is very important as our main help desk line is usually a voicemail-only system that creates a ticket in our help desk software.”

Remote Operators Help Medical Staff

Shelley White’s team has also been able to help staff who are still located within the hospital. SUNY Upstate Medical University is the only ACS certified Level I Trauma Center in the region and serves about 1.7 million people and 28 referral hospitals. Shelley says, “During this coronavirus crisis, our ER registration is short-staffed, but we are able to help by watching our track board, which is tied into the EMR system with Epic. When a COVID-19 patient is admitted, we can call the patient to register them and verify insurance information over the phone. This process would normally be done in-person by ER staff, but we can do it remotely and ease some of their workload.”

According to numbers reported from Becker’s Hospital Review on April 7, 2020, employees from 243 hospitals have been furloughed during the pandemic. Hospitals are taking steps to save supplies, suspend elective procedures, and focus on treating COVID-19 patients.

To avoid layoffs, some healthcare organizations reassigned their medical staff as remote call center operators. “We were able to redistribute existing staff from other departments and tap into their skills to cross-train them to work for the switchboard,” states Shelley. 

“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.”

Kathleen Kerrigan BSN, RN, and manager of medical communications center, radiology contact center and pager services for Nebraska Medicine mentions her experience: “Nebraska Medicine has created a flex pool for employees that work in areas of the organization that have closed or severely cut their workflows due to COVID-19. I was able to add nineteen of these employees to my team, including both nurses and agents.”

Telehealth as the New Normal: Telehealth has suddenly become crucial for patients and healthcare organizations. The use of telehealth has undeniably shown what a valuable tool it is in maintaining a healthy population. 

Hospital call centers and healthcare professionals have already shown agility in adapting communications software in new ways to improve telemedicine applications while enhancing patient care—even during a pandemic. Advances in technology and our ability to use it could soon make the use of telehealth a standard healthcare practice. 

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.

Patient Symptoms and Outcomes as the COVID-19 Epidemic Deepens in the USA


TriageLogic

Lessons from Nurse Triage Calls

By Dr. Ravi Raheja, MD 

As the coronavirus pandemic progresses, nurse triage plays a critical role in helping healthcare organizations, hospitals, and practices manage their overwhelmed systems. Triage nurses evaluate and direct patients to the best level of care for their symptoms. As the weeks passed since the original national emergency announcement, our nurse triage center has seen important trends on what callers experience. 

Traditionally, triage nurses use standardized protocols from Drs. Schmitt and Thompson to evaluate patients. Nurses can also use custom doctor orders to share handouts with patients, connect the patient to a doctor, or direct patients to appropriate local facilities such as drive-through testing centers. 

The coronavirus pandemic brought new concerns, new protocols, and new care advice that needed to be developed to help address patient symptoms. Nurses were quickly trained and given new guidelines to address patient questions as the problem unfolded. As we look back over these last several weeks, we’ve seen changing trends among callers and new issues arising that the healthcare profession will need to address.

Healthcare centers and hospitals are working hard to manage the extra care needed for the influx of COVID-19 patients. Click To Tweet

The First Two Weeks

We quickly saw a 30 percent increase in patient phone calls to triage nurses as news of the Coronavirus broke. During the first weeks most callers were worried and trying to understand which symptoms to look for. They asked questions about the virus, what precautions to take, and where to go for further help if needed. Overall, there weren’t many reports concerning symptoms related to COVID-19.

As time went by and the media began to pay closer attention to the virus and air all the details on news networks, we saw a swell of anxiety in our callers. While there were still not many callers who reported concerning symptoms associated with COVID-19, we started to receive more phone calls related to anxiety, depression, and suicide.

Updates on Caller Issues for the End of March and Early April

Our nurses have now received several calls from distressed patients who show the concerning symptoms of the virus. The nurses used the protocols to determine which callers now have symptoms that require further evaluation by a doctor. But while patients with COVID-19 like symptoms are told to seek the appropriate level of care and go to the hospital, a new issue emerged.

Patients are avoiding the ER due to worry about virus transmission. Unlike anything seen before, nurses find that patients who have serious symptoms that require an ER visit are refusing to go. These callers are reporting that they do not want to go to the hospital for worries about catching the virus from a hospital setting, or that they don’t want to intrude on an already burdened system.

Compounding the situation, after the caller is convinced to seek medical attention, hospitals may turn them away. This is either because the hospital is unable or unequipped to help. Some cities may also have facilities that are focusing on COVID-19 cases. Because of this, they do not have the capacity to help other patients. The confusion among patients about where to go to get help can increase morbidity. This is especially true with health issues such as chest pains, which hospitals regularly address and evaluate.

Healthcare centers and hospitals are working hard to manage the extra care needed for the influx of COVID-19 patients. Many cities have developed hotlines to help alleviate the workload of healthcare professionals and determine which patients need to be seen by a nurse. New solutions are being implemented daily as we learn more about this epidemic and how it is affecting our communities.

TriageLogic

Dr. Ravi Raheja is the medical director at TriageLogic, a leader in telehealth technology and services. The company’s goal is to improve access to healthcare and reduce costs by developing technology for providers and patients, backed by high-quality nurses and doctors.

Vendor Spotlight On TriageLogic


TriageLogic

Adapting to the Demands of Healthcare with High-quality Solutions for Nurse Triage and Remote Patient Care

In 2006 by Charu Raheja, Ph.D., founded TriageLogic with the purpose of using modern nurse telehealth technology and medical expertise to improve access to healthcare. Their goal is to ensure everyone receives the same standard of care regardless of where they live. Ravi Raheja, MD, serves as the medical director and COO, overseeing all nursing and technology operations in the company to ensure patients receive the highest level of care.

Over the last thirteen years, TriageLogic has stayed true to its mission and continues to provide innovative nurse telehealth technology and mobile applications. TriageLogic also operates one of the largest URAC-accredited healthcare call centers in the United States. As healthcare has evolved, TriageLogic has continued to adapt and release new product lines to meet the changing needs of the industry.

The year 2020 has challenged our healthcare system, causing many medical professionals to work around the clock to implement emergency remote support solutions for patients. TriageLogic has been proud to assist with the COVID-19 pandemic by quickly adapting and creating easy-to-implement solutions for hospitals, medical organizations, and health centers to use for patient care during the COVID-19 crisis.

The following lists some of the solutions available for clients:

Nurse Triage On Call

TriageLogic maintains one of the most sophisticated URAC accredited nurse triage systems in the United States. Their call center software allows clients to customize orders after nurses evaluate the symptoms presented by patients. Nurses can share handouts with patients on behalf of doctors, and MDs can communicate securely with nurses using HIPAA-compliant texting. The company quickly ramped up its services and software implementation as it observed a call volume increase by as much as 35 percent due to COVID-19.

Customized Coronavirus-Trained Hotline and Patient Triage System

These hotlines include a combination of online systems and a remote call center telephony with triage protocols. By partnering with physicians, TriageLogic helps millions of concerned callers, evaluate their symptoms, and coordinate testing for thousands of patients.

Remote Call Center with a Phone System for Doctors and Nurses

TriageLogic can set up nurses and doctors to work remotely, including connecting all staff to a call center-grade, HIPAA-compliant phone system. This system allows organizations to keep their clinical staff at home and coordinate as a team as if they were in the office. From front desk staff to nurses and doctors, the entire team stays together while working remotely, including scheduling visits and conducting telehealth visits. Using secure phone lines keeps patient information confidential.

Nurse Triage Software with Up-To-Date Protocols (including COVID-19)

MyTriageChecklist is a fast-to-train, web-enabled software from TriageLogic that provides continuity in patient care and education. It takes less than an hour to implement, does not store any sensitive patient information, and offers an easy-to-use interface to ensure nurses ask and consistently document all relevant questions related to patient symptoms.

It also includes triage protocols written by Dr. Schmitt and Dr. Thompson, which are updated in real-time. For example, COVID-19 protocols receive regular updates as information becomes available.

Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM)

As monitoring technologies continue to gain traction, the healthcare industry views RPM as a way to help control the cost of care for those with chronic diseases such as congestive heart failure, COPD, asthma, and diabetes.

However, the amount of data that’s generated by monitoring technologies is vast. TriageLogic has partnered with several device companies to create a full end-to-end monitoring system. The system makes it easy for doctors to monitor their chronically ill patients without adding administrative or clinical burden to their staff. TriageLogic can also create specific protocols for nurses to use based on devices and patient conditions.

Reporting Portal

Finally, all TriageLogic solutions come with a robust reporting portal to provide in-depth analytics on the outcomes from patient interaction. TriageLogic aims to stay ahead of the demands of healthcare and create ready-made and easy to implement solutions to continue helping providers give the best possible care to their patients.

TriageLogic is a URAC accredited, physician-led provider of high-quality telehealth services, nurse triage, triage education, and software for telephone medicine. Their comprehensive triage solution includes integrated mobile access and two-way video capability. The TriageLogic group serves over 7,000 physicians and covers over 18 million lives nationwide.

Emergency Medical and Continuity Remote Care Solutions to Address the Coronavirus Outbreak


TriageLogic

By Ravi K. Raheja, MD

The Covid-19 pandemic continues to change nearly all parts of our lives and businesses. As a result of this national emergency, medical professionals, hospitals, and organizations are working around the clock to implement emergency support solutions for patients presenting worrying symptoms as well as those who need help understanding the guidelines for care.  

This article focuses on emergency solutions that providers can implement quickly in this time of crisis.

Set-up a Virtual Doctor Office

We understand that virtual visits are going to be necessary to save time and decrease in-person patient contact. However, medical practices must consider how to create a system that allows medical visits to continue as if they were in the office. 

Here are some things to consider:

Doctors can evaluate patients over the phone and prescribe. Many practices already have the technology to see patients virtually, and there are several platforms available that healthcare providers, who do not yet have the technology, can implement quickly. When selecting a technology, choose a vendor that can provide HIPAA-safe calls, record information as needed, and make it easy to access without a mobile application.

Medical practices must consider how to create a system that allows medical visits to continue as if they were in the office.  Click To Tweet

Nurses play a vital role in helping contain the epidemic and alleviate the calls that go to the doctors. Nurses need to use triage protocols (including COVID-19 protocols) to evaluate and determine which patients require a consultation with a doctor. The protocols experience regular updates, written by doctors, as the latest information becomes available. These protocols are available for free from TriageLogic.

Software System

Look for a company that can quickly implement a virtual office that allows front desk, nurses, and doctors to continue working and operating remotely as if they were in an office. Vendors that have a record of working with doctors can implement these solutions quickly and affordably.

TriageLogic

Ravi K. Raheja, MD is the COO and medical director of the TriageLogic Group. Founded in 2005, TriageLogic is a URAC accredited, physician-led provider of high-quality telehealth services, nurse triage, triage education, and software for telephone medicine. Their comprehensive triage solution includes integrated mobile access and two-way video capability. For more information visit www.triagelogic.com and www.continuwell.com or email support@triagelogic.com

Coronavirus and the Healthcare Call Center


LVM Systems

By Mark Dwyer

Healthcare call centers face unprecedented challenges in response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. At a time when efficient call processing is even more critical than usual, due to increased call volumes, call times have lengthened. Much is attributable to the plethora of misinformation individuals have readily available to them over the internet, via the media, and from family and friends. Now, not only do call center nurses need to calm the caller, they must correct the caller’s misunderstandings.

Add to this the pace at which medically valid updates occur. Triage call centers must keep up with the weekly, and sometimes daily, changes to the guidelines for handling possible COVID-19 calls.

COVID-19 has generated tremendous activity related to telehealth as a method of triaging and treating those who are infected. Given that COVID-19 symptoms can vary from very mild to severe and that the virus spreads through close contact, telehealth can be a powerful tool in combating the crisis.

Health center providers may now deliver in-scope services via telehealth to individuals who have not previously presented for care at a health center site and who are not current patients of the health center for the duration of this public health emergency. These include triage services with or without initial consultations. Some of the specific changes include:

  • Continuation of zero member liability (such as copays and cost-sharing) for care that is delivered via telehealth.
  • Any services provided virtually will be eligible for telehealth coverage.
  • All prior authorization requirements for telehealth services will be lifted for dates of service from March 17, 2020, through June 30, 2020.
  • Telehealth services may be delivered by providers with any connection technology to ensure patient access to care.
COVID-19 has forced healthcare to look at all aspects of its care delivery system. Click To Tweet

New Telehealth Policies Expand Coverage for Healthcare Services

Numerous states have taken steps to waive their requirement that a physician is licensed in the state to provide care to patients through their declarations of statewide emergency. More states are sure to follow.

According to Gregory A. Hood, MD, an internist in Lexington, Kentucky, who is on the advisory board of Medscape Business of Medicine, “The waiving of state licensure requirements should help ease a number of stress points of the current crisis in ways that benefit society.”

Healthcare providers, supported by states and payers, can leverage telehealth in ways not possible in previous epidemics to triage, diagnose, and treat patients while effectively protecting healthcare workers and reducing the spread of the disease. States that have broad authority as payers can play a crucial role in driving the use of telehealth as a method of treatment by implementing reimbursement policies that enable providers to offer virtual care services to patients.

Like many other aspects of the United States’ healthcare industry, when COVID-19 ends, the healthcare call center will never be the same. We will work smarter, more efficiently, schedule more creatively, and support more remote staff. We will embrace telehealth, tele-triage, and telemedicine with video calls, chat, and online physician consults.

More insurance companies will reimburse for online physician visits enticing more to participate. Triage call centers may also have more opportunities to work with EMS and police stations to help triage patients. Finally, data sharing will increase to the patient’s PCP into their EMR records or other approved endpoints. Data aggregation and reporting will enable call centers to analyze better yearly trends leading to heightened prediction and prevention of disease. 

COVID-19 has forced healthcare to look at all aspects of its care delivery system. May we all be the better for it. 

LVM Systems logo

Mark Dwyer is a veteran of the healthcare call center industry and serves as COO of LVM Systems.

Key Tips to Successfully Work from Home



Discover How to Effectively Work in a Home Office, Whether Long-Term or Short-Term

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

I recently celebrated twenty years of working from home. For the first year I divided my time between my home office and a traditional office. I followed that with a couple more years that included travel. But for the last sixteen years I’ve worked exclusively from home. It’s an ideal arrangement, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. In fact, I doubt I could ever return to a job that required me to go into an office to work each day.

Here are some of the key considerations to make a work-at-home scenario a success.

Workspace

A key element to effectively work from home is to have a dedicated workspace you can call your own. For me, an unused bedroom became my office. When I’m in my home office, I work. When I leave, I stop.

But not everyone has a spare room they can take over. If that’s the case, can you carve out a corner in another room? Can you make a room multifunctional, where it works as an office during office hours and serves as family space the rest of the time? Regardless, the goal is training yourself so that when you go to your office—whatever it may look like—you’re conditioned to work and not do anything else.

Distraction Free

Having a workspace without distractions is ideal, but it’s not always feasible. In that case, the goal is to reduce distractions is much as possible. Remove everything from your home office that you don’t need for work. This includes televisions, radios, and books. Delete games from your computer, as well as other programs that don’t facilitate work.

Many home workers buy a white noise machine, turn on a fan, or listen to instrumental music so they can tune out household activities that may occur as they’re trying to work. If you have an office door, close it. Post office hours in your work area. Then enforce them.

Expectations

Establish expectations with family and friends. When I began working at home, I told our young children that until 5 p.m. they were not to interrupt me for any reason unless they were sick or bleeding. That did the trick. Other family members were a bit harder to train, but the point is to insist that your family and friends respect your time in your home office as sacred and not assume you’re available for nonwork activities. This also means not answering your home phone or taking personal calls while you’re working.

Routine

Just as when you work in an office location and have a series of steps you do before work and after work, do the same for your home office. Though it’s quite feasible to do so, don’t work in your pajamas. It conditions you to not take work seriously or put forth your best effort.

Also, don’t eat meals or snacks in your office. Eat breakfast before you arrive, enjoy supper afterward, and leave your office for lunch. Doing so promotes focus, priority, and professionalism.

Tools

An effective office requires tools. First up is a fast and stable internet connection. I can’t think of a job you can do from home for long without internet access. Get the best that you can afford, and don’t let online access hinder your success when you work from home.

A slow or buggy computer is another detriment. Every second of delay or frustration at your computer provides time you’re not being productive. The seconds add up to minutes and minutes add up to hours. Again, get the best computer you can afford. Install all the same programs on your home computer as you have at the office. Don’t skimp.

Also look for tools that you may not use in your workplace office, such as Skype or Zoom so that you can connect with your coworkers as needed.

Schedule

If you’re work-at-home situation is direct contact center work, then your scheduler will tell you when to work. Easy-peasy.

For everyone else, establish your own schedule, just as you would in a workplace setting. You start at a specific time, end at a specific time, and take time out for lunch and breaks. The rest of the time you should be in your office working.

The converse of this is outside of your work schedule you should not be in your office working. This takes us to the final consideration.

Balance

We often talk about work-life balance. Though always a critical consideration, balance looms as an even bigger concern when you work and live in the same place. This means segregating your work from the rest of your life, even though both happen at the same location. Some people prefer the word compartmentalize: to place work in one mental compartment and your home life in another.

When done right, working from home can increase productivity, decrease stress, and improve your enjoyment of your work. Click To Tweet

Action Steps

If you suddenly find yourself working at home, put these tips into practice as soon as possible. Then you will experience a successful, enjoyable, and effective situation. 

If you’re planning to one day work at home, put these steps into place before you start. It will make all the difference.

When done right, working at home can increase productivity, decrease stress, and improve your enjoyment of your work. Though you might now be working at home as a temporary solution to a problem outside your control, you might find the results so beneficial that you want to turn working at home into a permanent scenario.

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.

Good Clinical Documentation and the Telephone Triage Nurse


TriageLogic

By Heather Jarvis

When it comes to documenting triage calls, there’s always a fine balance between effective communications and liability risk. Nurses want to—and need to—effectively communicate information and directions to patients and those who may see their notes after the call. However, triage nurses must also cover themselves when it comes to liability.

So, what elements make good call documentation? Here are three tips to make sure your calls are well documented.

There’s always a fine balance between effective communications and liability risk. Click To Tweet

1. Make Your Communication Clear

Read your notes out loud and ask yourself, would this make sense to anyone else who reads it? Have I used the appropriate words? Does it have a definitive beginning and end?

2. Make Your Communication Concise

Think about what your narrative will look like to others. This applies not only to the next caregiver but six months or a year later when your instructions may face review. Are your communications direct and to the point?

3. Make Your Communication Credible

Use appropriate terminology, punctuation, and abbreviations. Make sure that others would view your documentation as written by someone who is knowledgeable. Always stick to the facts. Avoid jargon or slang. If a patient says she has a tummy ache, put that information in quotes so it’s known these were the patient’s words. Nurse triage documentation is not the place for personal views.

Conclusion

It’s important to remember that a nurse is judged by a reasonable standard: what a reasonable nurse would have done under the same or similar circumstances. See the most recent guidelines and the benefits of protocols for both children and adult triage.

Every nurse wants to provide the best care, perfect care. But perfect care is not what the law requires. The law requires that a triage nurse provide reasonable care. Clear, concise, and credible documentation is always a best practice.

TriageLogic

Heather Jarvis is the communications and client engagement specialist at Triage Logic.