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Articles from AnswerStat

Reduce Physician Burnout with Telephone Triage Nurses


TriageLogic


By Dr. Ravi Raheja

Physicians today are experiencing more demands on already busy schedules, and it’s taking a toll on their personal health and professional accuracy. According to recent studies, more than half of physicians report burnout, which is defined as a loss of enthusiasm for work, feelings of cynicism, and a low sense of personal accomplishment. However, establishing a telephone nurse triage service for patients, can alleviate some of this stress and exhaustion.Doctors experiencing burnout have higher levels of divorce, depression, alcohol and drug addiction, and suicide. Click To Tweet

Effects of Physician Burnout

 While job burnout may not seem like a serious issue, it can produce critical circumstances when it involves a physician. Reports claim doctors experiencing burnout have higher levels of divorce, depression, alcohol and drug addiction, and suicide.

Additionally, they have lower levels of clinical care quality and patient satisfaction and higher levels of medical errors and malpractice risk. Medical errors are estimated to be the number 3 cause of death in the United States and annual costs for medical mistakes are estimated to be between 17 and 30 billion dollars. The U.S. healthcare system cannot afford the financial effects of physician burnout.

Better Work-Life Balance

When a physician is on call after office hours or during the weekend, they often receive patient calls interrupting personal time with family or getting needed rest. It would be easier to manage if these calls were rare, but the reality is, patients need access to healthcare professionals 24/7 to avoid unnecessary ER visits. Many of these patient calls regularly result in advice that could have been given by a nurse.

Technology can help minimize the burden. Utilizing telephone nurse triage, physicians can ensure that patients are receiving prompt, quality care based on standardized protocols combined with custom orders. As a result, many physicians who use telephone nurse triage find that their phone doesn’t ring as often after hours, they’re able to spend more time focusing on their patients during office visits, and they can be confident everything is properly recorded in the computer for efficient billing.

There is no single solution to eliminate physician burnout. Providing work-life balance education early in their careers and offering continuing education and assistance for stress management can help many doctors. Additionally, telephone nurse triage provides a flexibility that allows physicians to adjust their schedule more easily to create a better work-life balance and avoid burn-out.

TriageLogicDr. Ravi Raheja is the medical director at TriageLogic, which is 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. The TriageLogic group serves over 9,000 physicians and covers over 18 million lives nationwide.

Why Telephone Triage Nurses are a Perfect Complement to Telemedicine


TriageLogic


By Charu Raheja, Ph.D.

Telemedicine has been a medical buzzword for several years, and the variety and depth of services provided have grown dramatically during this time. There is little argument that telemedicine is a great way to supplement traditional medical practices.

The advantages are clear: more convenient care for patients, more doctor availability, and less driving time and waiting-room time. But like any other new evolving field, there is still a learning curve and a need for developing a process that makes telemedicine viable, profitable, and doesn’t require doctors to work 24/7 to meet patients’ requests.Telephone nurse triage allows a practice’s telemedicine program to work seamlessly, whether the office is open or closed. Click To Tweet

One of the biggest hurdles for doctors is that their time with patients is limited. In a traditional office setting, doctors have a nurse start a patient visit before the doctor comes in. Nurses take vitals, talk to patients, and evaluate their needs before a doctor walks in the room. The same type of process needs to be designed for telephone medicine, with the difference being that the nurse will do her job over telemedicine, just like the doctor.

First, some practices have nurses in their office taking patient calls and scheduling visits with a doctor. When managing these calls, the nurse needs to perform two tasks. First, the nurse must evaluate whether or not the patient needs the doctor at all or whether the nurse can help the patient over the phone with home care advice. Second, the nurse must document patient symptom information before making the appointment for the patient to speak with a doctor.

This is where having a good platform to document patient calls and ensure standard protocols comes in. This can ensure patient safety and help make the process efficient. Medical protocols such as Dr. Schmitt and Dr. Thompson’s protocols ensure a standard care every time a nurse takes a call. These protocols are also available electronically, making them easier to use as compared to textbooks. The electronic protocols can also allow the care advice to be documented directly on the patient chart for review by the physician during the telehealth visit.

However, not all doctors offering telehealth services have their own nurses always available to answer patient calls when they first come in. An alternative for these doctors is to hire a telephone nurse triage service. A nurse triage service can serve as an extension of the office by providing patients with a trained nurse to evaluate patient symptoms and determine what actions to take.

What sets a high-quality telephone nurse triage service apart is the ability for the physician to have custom orders and preferences built into the system so that the nurses can act as a true extension of the physician. A high-quality nurse triage nurse service is also able to schedule the patient appointments for those patients who need an appointment.

Providing patients with access to triage nurses can also be helpful for those doctors who don’t have the ability to provide telehealth services 24/7. If given the appropriate instructions, triage nurses are typically able to resolve over 50 percent of the callers’ issues without the need of a doctor.

Figure 1 comes from a survey of over 35,000 patient phone calls. In over 50 percent of the cases, the nurses were able to resolve the caller’s medical symptoms by giving them home care advice. These nurses were also able to determine which callers required a physical visit to an urgent care or an ER (in an event of an emergency, such as symptoms of a potential heart attack).

Telephone nurse triage allows a practice’s telemedicine program to work seamlessly, whether the office is open or closed. Setting up a nurse triage system where nurses use standardized protocols to answer patient questions increases the productivity and profits for your practice.

When your nurses use triage protocols, you can have the confidence that they are asking the right questions and not missing anything. The basic patient information, the protocols used, and the nurse notes can also be used as a quick reference for the physician prior to the telehealth visit similarly to the notes that the doctors receive when their nurses see a patient before them during a physical office visit.

TriageLogicCharu Raheja, Ph.D., is the CEO of TriageLogic a leading provider of quality, affordable triage solutions, including comprehensive after-hours medical call center software, day time triage protocol software, and nurse triage on call. Customers include both institutional and private practices. If your hospital or practice is looking for information on setting up a nurse triage service, contact TriageLogic to get a quote or set up a demo.

Vendor Spotlight: TriageLogic


TriageLogic


Using Data Analytics to Improve Value-Based Care

As practices and organizations move to value-based care, medical call centers can play a crucial role in improving the patient experience and the quality of care while containing costs. An effective way to find a solution is to evaluate data from nurse triage call centers on patient concerns, caller demographics, nurse triage disposition and effectiveness, and other measures to improve the call center and the patient experience.

Value-based programs focus on the quality of the care given, rather than fee-for-service. Ensuring patients receive the right level of care for their symptoms is an important action to decrease healthcare waste. Providing a quality medical call center that patients can access 24/7 is a great first step in transitioning to value-based care. Providers and hospitals can then gather information from the patient callers to further improve their service while containing costs.

Studies show that incorporating data analytics into value-based care programs can reduce healthcare spending by $300 billion. Healthcare providers need to be able to gather, analyze, and report on patient data to show they are improving the quality of care. This quantitative method is especially important in medical call centers. Call center software should include a data portal to easily evaluate key metrics to spot trends or areas needing improvement.Value-based programs focus on the quality of the care given, rather than fee-for-service. Click To Tweet

Gather Data

For new call centers and those selecting a new platform, start by evaluating data you’ve already collected and what you need to know to help the patients and the practice. For example, TriageLogic’s data portal collects information on the number of calls per protocol, calls per nurse, dispositions, and disposition override. Call centers also get data on nurse performance, such as the number of calls per hour and percentage of patients told to seek emergency care. Information on nurse performance provides a valuable tool to evaluate nurses and determine the focus of further training.

Analyze Data

While gathering the data is a crucial first step, the platform also needs to have a simple dashboard for the manager to monitor the key metrics of patient calls and nurse performance. For example, the TriageLogic data dashboard allows the user to break down the data by date, location, nurse, and so forth. Reviewing the various data sets can help caregivers gather insight on the performance and find ways to improve care.

For example, with the data dashboard, users can see the percentage of the dispositions given to the patient callers. Users can also see the actual data as the number of calls and the percentage of the total, as well as graphs that illustrate any trends of the different disposition percentages.

Report on Data

After analyzing the data from medical call centers, physicians or organizations can better understand their patient population. Look for a quality call center platform that allows call center managers to easily export the information in various formats and then share it with their practices. This is an important feature to improve coordinated care between the office and the call center.

Physicians can see what concerns their patients have after-hours and make positive changes that can address those concerns ahead of time. For example, an increase in stomach pain related issues may mean that a virus is hitting their population.

Another important use of data is to compare the number of patients you prevented from going to the ER. The number of those patients shows how much value the call center is creating for the practices (ROI), and it may motivate hospitals and providers to continue encouraging patients to call a nurse line before going to the ER.

Secure Data

When collecting patient data, it is vital that all data from the call center software be fully secure and that products are evaluated and updated as technology and standards change. When evaluating call center software, make sure you understand how it stores and secures patient data. Also, ensure you can share the information with providers securely or without any PHI.

The goals of value-based care are to provide better care for patients, create a healthier population, and reduce healthcare costs. A nurse call center system armed with good data analytics allows you to identify the quality of the clinical call center and improve the efficiency of the nursing staff while helping patients at the same time. Having access to this data, analyzing it, and sharing the information with providers improves patient care, while at the same time showing the value of your call center service and saving valuable healthcare dollars.

TriageLogicFounded in 2006, TriageLogic is a URAC accredited, physician-led provider of high-quality services and software for telehealth. TriageLogic is a leading provider of top-quality triage technology, mobile applications, and call center solutions. The TriageLogic group serves over 9,000 physicians and covers over 18 million lives nationwide.

Is Your Call Center a Profit Center or a Cost Center?



Positioning Yourself as a Profit Center Will Help Drive Budget Success

 By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Peter DeHaan, Publisher and Editor of AnswerStatI once heard of a hospital marketing manager who identified their call center as their most cost-effective form of marketing, offering the highest return on investment (ROI). It was a profit center. Further shocking was learning that the entire call center operation fell under the budget of the marketing department. I imagine the call center director had little trouble getting the appropriate budget each year to operate the call center.

The Downside of Being a Cost Center

If upper management views your operation as a cost center, they’ll see your line item on their budget as an expense to control and decrease whenever possible. This results in a scarcity of funds and makes it hard to operate a call center as needed to produce the best outcomes for patients and callers.

Each new budget cycle produces a predictable challenge of fighting to maintain the status quo of your funds. And receiving approval for additional expenditures on software, services, and initiatives to better serve your organization’s clientele looms as a formidable challenge.

If this is your reality, I feel for you. But there is hope: reposition your call center as a profit center.Look for ways that you contribute to the revenue stream of your organization. Click To Tweet

The Benefits of Being a Profit Center

However, if you’re call center generates revenue—either directly or indirectly—you stand a much better chance of coming out on the plus side for each year’s new budget. If you’re a pharmaceutical or durable medical equipment manufacturer, it’s easy to make your case. You track sales, which you then use to offset the cost of your operation. Any expense that produces more sales becomes an easy request to justify.

Even if your call center doesn’t directly handle sales or take phone orders, you can still work to establish yourself as a profit center. It just takes a bit more effort. For example, if you’re a hospital call center, as in the above example, look for ways that you contribute to the revenue stream of your organization.

How to Become a Profit Center

For example, each time you make a referral to a physician or clinic in your system, what’s the value of that connection? Even more significant, what is the lifetime value of that new patient to your organization? Suddenly that single phone call has a value of thousands or tens of thousands of dollars, maybe more.

What about appointments? Each time you set an appointment for one of the providers in your system, what’s its revenue potential? And often that initial interaction leads to a series of follow ups. Though these subsequent appointments may or may not go through your call center, the additional engagements would not have occurred had you not secured the first one.

Without your call center, these things would not have happened. As such, you deserve credit for the critical role your call center played in bringing this new business—and revenue—into your organization.

Start tracking these types of revenue-producing transactions. But don’t just note the number of calls. Instead report the immediate value and long-term revenue potential from each of these interactions. In doing so you’ll help shift your call center operation from a cost center to a profit center. And this will make a huge difference when it comes time to negotiate next year’s budget.

 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.

The Call Center: Coordinating Care and Managing Transitions


LVM Systems


By Mark Dwyer

Historically, nurse triage and marketing referral services have been the cornerstone of most healthcare call centers. But recent healthcare reform initiatives have positioned healthcare call center nurses to play a far broader role. Their experience in assisting patients with complex care needs, supporting specialty referral, offering disease management, overseeing transfer management, providing behavioral health intake, delivering medication management, and even providing hospital readmission reduction programs have positioned the call center nurse as an integral player in the organization’s overall population health initiatives.

For the purposes of this article, we will define population health as a proactive solution with personalized care and a focus on wellness that includes all aspects of health (physical, mental, etc.), as well as social determinants of health. Population health goes beyond traditional disease management and incorporates both preventive and chronic care needs. It requires collaboration among healthcare providers to identify gaps in care on evidence-based guidelines and builds on practices to ensure high-quality, efficient healthcare.The failure to prevent hospital readmission adversely affects a healthcare organization’s bottom line. Click To Tweet

As a healthcare organization responsible for patient care, today’s nurse call centers must ensure patients have easy access to healthcare resources and that they take necessary steps to prevent adverse health outcomes.

To effectively engage patients in proactive management of their health, the call center needs to change from a focus on episodic care in response to inbound calls to one of outbound interactions to leverage the full power of the call center to positively impact patient’s lives. The cornerstone of such a strategy is an effective care coordination program that automates a series of defined interventions and supports communication with all stakeholders. A successful care coordination program must support multi-morbidity patients and include detailed health education materials, associated surveys, and targeted next steps.

The best care coordination programs support the management of individuals with co-morbidities. These plans focus on preventive standards of care based on age and gender, along with education and interventions for managing chronic conditions. Patient-centered care, as well as patient engagement and activation, are necessary to succeed in population health management. Self-management support contributes to increasing patients’ confidence and skill, so they can be the manager of their illness. This not only lowers costs but also redefines healthcare as an activity that encompasses far more than sick care.

The more we learn about the Affordable Care Act, the more we understand that prevention and management are of increasing importance. In many cases, the failure to prevent hospital readmission adversely affects a healthcare organization’s bottom line. When managed correctly, the call center can effectively decrease the penalties tied to high readmission rates. Active management of follow-up calls to verify the patient has filled and is taking the right prescriptions, scheduled and attended a follow-up visit, and is adhering to other post-discharge instructions are all verifiable through scheduled follow-up calls or other forms of communication conducted by the call center nurse.

Using an in-depth, post-admission course of care can greatly reduce the probability of the patient returning during the initial thirty days post-discharge, as well as facilitate behavior change over time. It represents the best in evidence-based theory and application.

Whether you choose to invest in a single-source solution to manage these population health components or select best-in-breed solutions interfaced with other internal patient data systems, it is critical that all aspects of the patient’s care be accessible by the call center nurse. A coordinated effort delivered by the call center can improve the coordination of care for numerous individuals while successfully reducing unnecessary costs tied to the delivery of multiple redundant programs.

LVM SystemsMark Dwyer is a 32-year veteran of the healthcare call center industry. Mark is in his sixteenth year at LVM Systems where he serves as COO. LVM Systems provides healthcare call center software. For more information or a demonstration of LVM’s call center solutions contact Carol Zeek, regional VP, sales, at 480-633-8200 x279 or Leann Delaney, regional VP, sales at 480-633-8200 x286

When Patient Satisfaction Matters, Consider Contact Center Improvements



By Allison Hart

When Patient Satisfaction Matters, Consider Contact Center ImprovementsThere is no question that hospitals and health systems strive to deliver the best possible clinical care. But today, organizations aren’t just focusing on providing exceptional clinical services; they also invest resources into efforts aimed at driving superior healthcare experiences at every touchpoint. For hospitals, maintaining high patient satisfaction is more important than ever, primarily because the financial impact of patient experiences has increased due to consumerization and value-based payment programs.

As a result, patient experience has become a force behind process improvements and facility upgrades. The push to improve patient experiences exists in cafeteria and dining service improvements, luxury hospital suites, and even redesigned hospital gowns. But what is surprising is that while hospital and health system teams vigorously work to make their facilities more welcoming and comfortable, many organizations are unknowingly greeting patients who call into their contact center in a much less welcoming way.

To deliver more uniformly satisfying patient experiences, hospitals and healthcare systems can take actions to optimize their contact center—the place where many patient experiences initially begin.Hospitals have more control over each caller’s experience when all calls route through one main gateway. Click To Tweet

Calling a healthcare provider or organization shouldn’t be difficult or unpleasant for patients—even if that organization is a large hospital or health system. However, patients frequently run into issues that lead to frustration, when they attempt to connect with their healthcare team because they:

  • Do not know which phone number to call to find the help they need
  • Are transferred or put on hold multiple times
  • Must repeat personal information or reason for their call several times
  • Have trouble navigating automated options
  • Struggle to find the resolution they need in a timely manner
  • Do not feel their call is a priority

At least one in two patient callers will get “lost” in their healthcare provider’s automated phone system when calling into a hospital or large provider organization. That means at least one in two patients will not have a positive experience when they attempt to communicate about their healthcare needs.

Difficult-to-navigate automated phone systems require patients to be on the phone for longer periods of time. But patients say they appreciate efficient communication experiences. West surveyed more than 500 U.S. consumers to better understand communication preferences and how to define high-quality customer experiences.

Survey responses revealed that when customers or patients initiate an interaction, 77 percent of them rate speed to resolution as the best indicator of good service. Multiple transfers, repetitive conversations, and other confusing issues extend call times and hurt patient satisfaction.

Regularly evaluating the functionality, efficiency, and ease of use of automated phone systems is important for creating positive and welcoming communication experiences. But few healthcare organizations prioritize regular contact center testing. In fact, just over half of healthcare organizations occasionally review their automated phone systems to ensure they work correctly and provide value to patients.

Beyond testing the functionality of their automated systems, hospitals and health systems that want to deliver high-quality experiences can work to accomplish the following items.

Ensure Their Contact Center Serves as a Single Entryway for Their Organization

With a single point of entry for all patients, it is easier for organizations to guarantee every patient experiences a consistently branded user experience. It also means less confusion and frustration for callers and staff.

Routing calls through an automated centralized phone system increases efficiency. Overall, hospitals have more control over each caller’s experience when all calls route through one main gateway.

Offer Intelligent Predictive Interactive Voice Response

Interactive voice response (IVR) systems allow hospitals to automate call routing and handle higher volumes of calls. But IVR must be intelligent enough to make navigation easier for patients by detecting what they need.

Ideally, when a patient calls a hospital, the IVR system will authenticate the patient, identify possible reasons for their call, and connect them to the appropriate destination. The right IVR technology will not only make communications more efficient but also more patient centered.

Implement Automatic Data Pass with Every Transferred Call

Healthcare staff can better and more quickly assist callers if background information transfers with each incoming call. Without automatic data pass there is typically a lot of duplication during communication. Staff may end up asking patients for information they provided already to another representative during the same call.

Rather than having staff repeat work by asking questions about information already collected, teams can rely on technology to automatically provide necessary data. This helps patients feel as though they are heard and that the individuals they speak with are knowledgeable and focused on helping them.

Conclusion: A call to a hospital’s contact center is sometimes a patient’s first contact with the organization. Investing in contact center optimization is a must for creating a welcoming and satisfactory first impression. Even for patients who are not new to an organization, a hassle-free experience is appreciated. Giving patients positive communication experiences is not difficult; it simply requires that hospitals and health systems dedicate a bit more attention to call center functionality and optimization.

Allison Hart is an advocate for utilizing technology-enabled communications to engage and activate patients beyond the clinical setting. She leads thought leadership efforts for West’s TeleVox Solutions, promoting the idea that engaging with patients between healthcare appointments in meaningful ways will encourage and inspire them to follow and embrace treatment plans—and that activating these positive behaviors ultimately leads to better outcomes for both healthcare organizations and patients. Hart currently serves as vice president of marketing for TeleVox Solutions at West, where the healthcare mission is to help organizations harness communications to expand the boundaries of where, when, and how healthcare is delivered.

Is BPO a Key Enabler in the Push for Better Patient Outcomes?



By Anand Natampalli

In the emerging value-based world, healthcare providers and payers increasingly align incentives to drive improved patient health outcomes, more patient-centric services, and reduced medical cost for individuals. BPO (business processing outsourcer) service providers can bring a neutral consultative perspective, with design thinking and innovation, to meet the provider’s complex challenges.

To solve individual provider’s specific needs, BPO organizations bring customized solutions using a service incubation approach. It incorporates the following:

  • A new breed of patient engagement and experience solutions, with a consolidated, targeted strategy
  • Data management and integration, sharing intelligence from different segments of the collective healthcare ecosystem, including payers, providers, pharmaceutical companies, and durable medical equipment (DME) providers
  • Process optimization through automation and analytics, with a population health management (PHM) focus

A New Breed of Patient Engagement and Experience

Often, consumers of healthcare services encounter confusing phone directories, difficult-to-navigate-websites, and representatives who may not have the training or resources to make a patient encounter meaningful and productive. One of the most critical areas where BPOs can contribute is by helping provider organizations improve the patient experience and drive better health outcomes.

With the added patient choice in today’s marketplace, patient engagement, and experience—an area traditionally of lesser importance to health systems—is now critically paramount to attracting and retaining patients, driving healthier outcomes, and achieving higher ratings.

Patient engagement and experience is often a critical missed opportunity for provider organizations of all sizes. Patient access centers are legitimate business departments and have an important role to play in the transition to value-based, patient-centric care. They have the potential to create new streams of revenue. They engender patient brand loyalty. Most importantly, access centers are a critical first impression that ultimately determines whether a patient chooses to purchase healthcare services.

In a patient-centric healthcare economy, BPOs offer the right balance of technology and talent for seamless, patient-experience delivery. BPOs play an effective front-line role to drive revenue and patient satisfaction, reduce no-shows, and eliminate the need for patients to fish around for answers to their questions. These partners can more effectively employ their analytics and automation expertise to make the patient experience as easy as possible through both personalization and self-service—striving for that perfect balance between automated bots and live, human-touch interaction.

Data Management and Integration

In the new healthcare landscape, PHM is a key area of focus for providers. According to a May 2017 Deloitte Center for Health Solutions survey of hospital CEOs, population health analytics investment is the highest-rated analytics priority for healthcare organizations.

The amount of data attached to every patient has grown exponentially. This must be gathered, integrated, and interpreted according to compliance guidelines and processes that can vary widely between payers and providers. Additionally, the datasets held by payers and providers can be different. For example, payers possess data on claims, financial analytics, and risk models. Providers have administrative and clinical data that includes case histories and outcomes.

BPOs with both payer and provider expertise can best assist, by bridging the data gap between these two organizations. For example, BPOs not only have claims data from provider groups but also from payers. By leveraging this comprehensive information, providers have a better, more holistic view of patient health. Armed with this intelligence, providers can positively affect a patient’s health outcomes, through PHM processes that also bend the cost curve.

Further to this point, each data set is valuable, but in isolation it doesn’t provide a holistic and contextual perspective of the patient. Providers need to leverage health plan data to move from episodic care to delivering outcomes-based care across the care continuum. Payers need access to patient information to work with providers to establish appropriate care plans for their members. Again, this is where BPOs bridge the gap for providers, as well as payers.BPOs offer the right balance of technology and talent for seamless, patient-experience delivery. Click To Tweet

Automation and Analytics with a PHM Focus

With better patient engagement and data integration to leverage PHM, there is an ideal scenario for best use of automation and analytics. BPO partners can bring the requisite advanced automation and analytics, as key drivers of business improvements or process changes. With more understanding and awareness of the data coming downstream, BPOs know how to analyze these data points and decouple nonessential activities with automation for a positive impact on health outcomes and to drive costs down.

They also can offer “automation and analytics as a service,” relieving organizations of the capital and time investment of developing these abilities in house. Today’s cognitive computing capabilities will affect more complex, judgement-based activities (like origination and underwriting) with compliance objectives, too. Agility, speed, and accuracy are all positive customer satisfaction results derived from these transformations. Most impactful may be the automation data and applied analytics that will dramatically improve outcomes, for more forward-thinking strategies.

Conclusion

Today, BPO partners take an active role in helping provider organizations manage change, internally and externally. This puts them in a better position to take advantage of the opportunities found by optimizing patient experience journeys. By selecting the right partner, hospitals and health systems can position themselves to gain a competitive advantage in the present, while setting themselves up for an even brighter future.

Anand Natampalli is a senior vice president, global business development, for HGS, a provider of end-to-end business process services for numerous Fortune 100 health insurance companies and large provider organizations.

Answering Services Can Help Medical Clinics Do More for Less


Call Center Sales Pro, providing proven healthcare call center solutions


By Janet Livingston

Everyone in healthcare knows the key challenges the industry faces: do more, do it better, and do it for less. These pressures confront healthcare providers, coming from both the insurance companies that reimburse them and the patients that they serve.

But how can providers achieve these objectives of doing more, doing it better, and doing it for less, when these goals run counter to each other? Finding a solution requires innovative thinking and doing things in new ways.

Enter the venerable telephone answering service. Today, leading answering services are stepping up to this challenge.

For decades answering services have provided telephone support to the healthcare community by answering calls, taking messages, and dispatching emergencies. They’ve done this afterhours and 24/7. When it comes to supporting medical clinics and healthcare practices, answering services can do these things. But they can also do much more.

Two Key Considerations

EMR Integration: One key way to make your answering service invaluable to a medical clinic or healthcare facility is to integrate your answering service platform with their EMR (electronic medical record) system. This allows you to automatically transfer the information you gathered from the clinics’ patients to the clinics’ EMR platform.

Without this capability, one of two things will occur. Either someone will need to manually rekey the information, or the information will forever remain isolated. Neither scenario is a good one.

The first instance requires hours of labor each day to reenter the information. Plus, as with any manual process, there’s a chance of data-entry errors. This will then put into question the reliability of the information and reflects badly on your answering service, even though the problem occurred after the data left your facility.

In the other scenario, though you’ve provided important information to the clinic, it’s of little value to them because it sequestered in an isolated database that’s not integrated with their main systems.

This is why EMR integration is so critical. Any answering service that can provide it distinguishes themselves from the competition. Plus, grateful clinics will form long-term relationships with their answering service because they don’t want to lose this valuable feature.

Smart Phone Integration: Virtually everyone in healthcare carries a smart phone (and sometimes more than one). This mobile technology has become indispensable in today’s business world, including the healthcare industry.

Leading answering services offer a data portal to their clients. This portal provides a powerful tool to access their account and the information in it. The next step is extending this functionality to the smart phone, such as with Amtelco’s miTeamWeb. This and other similar products enable answering service clients to review their answering service information, make updates, and manage their account at any time, from anywhere, using a smart phone app. This puts control of answering service accounts literally in the hands of its clients.

These apps work great out of the box and require little configuration for basic functionality. However, the most powerful answering service apps allow for customization in how the information is displayed, as well as to create widgets to accomplish specialized tasks and enhanced integrations.

For all its value and power, creating the widgets—especially the more complicated ones—requires technical knowledge and carries the need for programming skills. Not every answering service can do this, but those who can provide tremendous value to their clients.

Again, this enhanced service offering distinguishes one answering service from most others. It allows an answering service to better serve its clients in ways that the competition can’t match.

Conclusion

Most answering services can work for medical clinics and healthcare facilities. However, answering services that integrate with clinics’ EMR systems and provide sophisticated smart phone integration distinguish themselves from other less-equipped providers.

Which type of answering service do you want to be?

 Call Center Sales Pro, a full-service healthcare call center consultancyJanet Livingston is the president of Call Center Sales Pro, a premier consultancy and service provider for healthcare call centers and answering services. Contact Janet at contactus@callcenter-salespro.com or call 800-901-7706.

Vendor Spotlight: LVM Systems Celebrates 30th Anniversary


LVM Systems


LVM Systems continues to evolve within the dynamic healthcare industry. Now, thirty years since its inception, hundreds of call centers, thousands of users, and millions of calls have established LVM as a leading provider of healthcare call center software solutions. LVM’s Centaurus software is the industry’s product of choice.

This year, as LVM celebrates its thirtieth anniversary, it reflects on its humble beginnings in the garage of Les Mortensen. Then only one man with an idea, today LVM operates from its two-building complex in Mesa, AZ.

Over the years, LVM has added new products while implementing hundreds of changes and enhancements to its flagship Centaurus software in response to its clients’ needs. Through it all, LVM has stayed true to its mission: helping healthcare call centers help patients.

This year, LVM’s development focus turned to cyber-security. With the ever-increasing number of cyber-attacks on personal health information (PHI), heightened security became critical. Numerous enhancements in LVM’s 2018 release of Centaurus relate to strengthening security safeguards.

Here are a few of the security changes:

  • Protected key fields from viewing until clicking the field. When clicked, the field displays, and a log is written noting the user that viewed the information.
  • Included a site level default that defines the required minimum length of passwords, along with the number of upper and lower-case letters, numeric values, and special characters allowing clients to follow their internal standards.
  • Upgraded credential system to modern best practices.
  • Enabled user accounts can expire on a particular date, making the user unable to log in to Centaurus.
  • Added the ability to lock a user’s record when the user exceeds the allowed number of failed login attempts. A user with manager authorization can unlock their user record.
  • Upgraded handling of passwords to store previous password hashes to prevent re-use.
LVM’s continued growth throughout its 30-year history is built upon providing comprehensive, efficient software, using recognized, quality clinical content, and building positive client relationships. Click To Tweet

Other recent enhancements include:

  • Centaurus authorized users can now create custom screen views from a “clean slate” to include only the fields used, greatly simplifying the screen presentation.
  • A web-based chat product, set up on the client’s website, allows a patient to engage and start a chat with the contact center.
  • Profiles display dynamically as a user views them. This way, the user always sees the most current data.
  • A national provider ID field now appears on the physician search screen.

In addition, LVM has updated its iCentaurus program to allow call centers to provide to select organizations the ability to set-up and maintain their physician and class profiles from remote locations via the web. A set of client-defined rules directs how the profile data is stored within N-Centaurus. Now, physician office managers and class instructors can be responsible for keeping their respective physician and class profiles current.

Capitalizing on the improvements in cellular phones’ ability to send photos and videos via the internet, Centaurus now supports a patient sending a photo or video of the reason prompting their triage call to the call center triage nurse. Centaurus saves the photo or video to the patient’s file making it available for inclusion in the patient’s EHR or paper chart. This allows the call center triage nurse to use an otherwise missing critical tool of triage: visual assessment.

LVM’s Centaurus healthcare call center solutions offer advanced nurse triage functionality, along with a full array of physician referral, class and membership management, patient transfer, behavioral health intake, a co-morbidity care management program, and marketing and CRM capabilities. Centaurus is available installed on-site or run as SaaS hosted by LVM at one of its two data centers.

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

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

LVM SystemsMark Dwyer is a 32-year veteran of the healthcare call center industry. He has been with LVM Systems since 2003.

Voice AI in the Healthcare Call Center



Should We Embrace Technology in Our Medical Contact Centers or Fear It?

 By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Peter DeHaan, Publisher and Editor of AnswerStatThroughout the history of the call center industry we’ve looked for ways to help our agents be more effective. In the pre-computer days this often meant physical solutions and electromechanical devices that allowed staff to answer calls faster, record information easier, and organize data more effectively.

Then came rudimentary computers that provided basic call distribution and CTI (computer telephony integration). Computer databases allowed us to retrieve information and store data. Following this we experienced voicemail, IVR (interactive voice response), and automated attendant. More recently we’ve encountered speech-to-text conversion and text-to-speech applications. Then came the chatbots, computerized automatons that allow for basic text and voice communication between machine and people.

Computers are talking with us. Smart phones, too. Consider Siri, Alexa, and all their friends. Technology marches forward. What will happen next?

I just did an online search for Voice AI. Within .64 seconds I received two million results. I’m still working my way through the list (not really), but the first few matches gave me some eye-opening and thought-provoking content to read and watch.

In considering this information, it’s hard to determine what’s practical application for our near future and what’s theoretical potential that might never happen. However, my conclusion is that with advances in chatbot technology, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning, we aren’t far from the time when computer applications will carry on full, convincing conversations with callers, who will think they’re talking with real people.

While many pieces of this puzzle are available today, I submit that we’re not yet to the point where we can have a complete, intelligent dialogue with a computer and not know it. But it will happen. Probably soon.  With AI and machine learning, the potential exists for an intelligent interface to provide the conversational bridge between patients and triage protocols. Click To Tweet

What Does Voice AI Mean for the Medical Call Center?

Voice AI in the Healthcare Call CenterJust like all technological advances since the inception of the earliest call centers, we’ll continue to free agents from basic tasks and allow them to handle more complex issues. Technology will not replace agents, but it will shift their primary responsibilities.

Or maybe not.

With the application of voice AI, might we one day have a call center staffed with computer algorithms instead of telephone agents? I don’t know. Anything I say today will likely seem laughable in the future. Either I will have overstretched technology’s potential or underestimated the speed of its advance.

I think I’m okay talking to a computer program to make an appointment with my doctor. And it wouldn’t bother me to call in the evening and converse with a computer as I leave my message for the doctor, nurse, or office staff. However, what concerns me just a tad would be calling a telephone triage number and having a computer give me medical advice.

Yet in considering the pieces of technology available to us today, this isn’t so far-fetched. Proven triage protocols are already defined and stored in a database. Giving them a computerized voice is possible now. And with AI and machine learning, the potential exists for an intelligent interface to provide the conversational bridge between me and the protocols. And this could be the solution to our growing shortage of medical practitioners.

For those of you actually doing telephone triage, you might be laughing right now. Perhaps you’re already implementing this. Or maybe you’re convinced it will never work.

Yet it’s important that we talk about technology and its application in healthcare call centers. Regardless of what happens, the future will certainly be an interesting place.

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.