Category Archives: Articles

Articles from AnswerStat

Provide Meaningful Agent Benefits to Improve Agent Retention



Spend More on Retaining Staff and Less on Hiring and Training Their Replacements

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

We’ve looked at five tips to better retain call center staff. Agent compensation is first on most people’s list. However, it might not be the most important item, merely the one most cited. Pay rate alone isn’t enough to keep most call center agents happy and employed. Other items factor into this equation. A related issue is benefits. Today’s workers expect more than decent pay. They expect benefits too. This includes part-timers. Yes, your part-timers deserve benefits. If you want to keep them, you better provide what they want.

Paid Vacation

Your agents work hard for you and your callers. They deserve a vacation. This gives them a break from the routine of work, provides something for them to look forward to, and helps them recharge. A paid vacation is the top benefit employees seek. Be sure to provide it to them, both full and part-timers.

(As with all benefits for part-time agents, make it proportional to the average amount of time they work. For example, if they work twenty-hours a week, their vacation pay should be based on a twenty-hour workweek.)

Paid Time Off

Next up is paid time off. This includes sick days and personal days. Ideally, we want healthy employees who don’t get sick and who schedule their appointments on their days off. But this isn’t always feasible. Failing to provide paid time off could result in an agent coming into work sick or not attending to some important personal issue, which could have negative consequences later.

Retirement

Though not every employee thinks about retirement, some do. And for those who do, it’s of critical importance. They want to take control of what their retirement looks like, and that means planning for it now, regardless of how far away it is. Be sure to offer them the option to set money aside now for their retirement.

An employee with the opportunity to learn more, will provide more value to your organization and be more loyal. Click To Tweet

Continuing Education

Next up is the ability to pursue ongoing education. As with retirement, this isn’t a benefit that most people seek or will use, but for those who want it, it could make the difference between them quitting or staying. Tailor your program so that it provides value to participants and to your organization too. Also include a reasonable precaution to avoid abuse, but be fair. An employee with the opportunity to learn more, will provide more value to your organization and be more loyal.

Healthcare Coverage

The last significant benefit is healthcare coverage. Healthcare coverage is a growing concern for people in the United States. The cost rises and the coverage shrinks. Yet being in the healthcare industry, we’re in the unique position to help our agents with decent healthcare coverage, or at least we should be.

Conclusion

When it comes to retaining call center staff, don’t skimp on benefits. Offer them paid vacation and time off, retirement and continuing education options, and healthcare coverage. This will increase their loyalty to your organization and decrease the likelihood of them leaving your call center for another company that does provide these benefits. Just as with compensation, the cost of providing benefits concerns most managers. The key is to offer what you can without jeopardizing your organization. But if you think you can’t afford to offer benefits, the reality is that you can’t afford not to.

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.

How Call Centers Can Add Value to Wellness Programs


Call Center Sales Pro, providing proven healthcare call center solutions

By Janet Livingston

Wellness programs allow an employer or healthcare plan to provide participation incentives to members. These incentives may include cash awards, gym memberships, and premium discounts. Some popular options provided by wellness programs include smoking cessation, stress management, weight loss, and diabetes management.

Wellness programs have the direct goal of helping participants move into a healthier lifestyle, with reduced healthcare concerns. The indirect goal is lower healthcare costs. These benefit everyone: the employee, the company, and the healthcare provider.

Wellness programs can tap call center services to better achieve these two goals and add value to their program. Here are some things that a call center can provide to enhance a wellness program.

Wellness programs empower employees to improve their health and help companies hold down healthcare costs. Click To Tweet

Telephone Enrollment

Though most signups for wellness programs happen online, this isn’t a solution for everyone. Some people feel more comfortable talking with a real person over the phone and others have questions. And what happens to those people who can’t access the web form or encounter problems once they get there? Provide a ready solution for these people by offering the option to enroll over the phone.

Class and Event Registration

Most wellness programs offer various classes and events to their participants. These might include stress reduction classes or a 5k race. Just as with enrollment, signing up for classes and events mostly happens online. But this solution won’t work for everyone. That’s why providing alternative phone backup is the way to go to help maximize participation.

Web Chat

Another service call centers can provide to wellness programs is offering web chat capabilities. When a website visitor doesn’t see the option they want or can’t find the answer to their question, help is a click away with web chat. From a technical standpoint, adding a web chat option to a website is easy. Staffing it around-the-clock is hard. That’s where a call center comes in. They’re available 24/7 to help participants anytime of the day or night.

Class and Appointment Reminders

Just because someone signed up for a class or made an appointment doesn’t mean they’ll show up. No-shows result in inefficiency and cause a financial loss for the provider, as well as accomplishing nothing for the participant. Making strategic reminders to participants by phone, email, or text will help increase their commitment and ensure their participation. It’s an easy solution for your call center to provide and pays off huge.

24/7 Availability

People increasingly expect 24/7 customer service and support. This is challenging for any organization to offer and cost prohibitive to provide in house. Yet a call center already has staff in place, so extending around-the-clock availability to program participants is a cost-effective solution.

Multi-Channel Access

We’ve talked about self-service over the internet and personal service over the phone. Yet there are other communication channels available for people to use. Why not let them use their channel of choice? This might include email, text messaging, or social media. A full-service call center is already set up to use these communication channels, so why not extend these options to your program participants?

Conclusion

Wellness programs empower employees to improve their health and help companies hold down healthcare costs. To maximize the utility and results of a wellness program, tap a full-service call center to add value. A call center can handle telephone enrollment, offer class and event registration, and provide web chat. They can also remind participants of classes and appointments. In addition, they offer 24/7 availability and multi-channel access, which will delight participants and increase their involvement. This improves health outcomes and saves money.

Call Center Sales Pro, a full-service healthcare call center consultancy

Janet Livingston is the CEO of Call Center Sales Pro, which provides medical answering service and healthcare call center services. Contact Janet at contactus@ccsp.us or call 800-901-7706.

Oklahoma Medical Center Provides Innovative Triage Line to Manage Hospital Overcrowding


TriageLogic

An Effective Approach to ER Phone Calls

Dr. Charu Raheja

Emergency Room (ER) overcrowding is widespread in hospitals, creating delays and diversion from those who need care the most. According to a recent article, “Compounding the problem is the alarming trend of a decreasing number of ERs and an increasing number of ER visits.”

All too often, injury or illness appears without warning for patients. For hospitals trying to control overcrowding, the obvious solution is to redirect patients who don’t need to be in the ER to more appropriate paths for care. Who then determines if it’s necessary for a patient to go the ER? Most people aren’t trained medical professionals, and as a result, they worry and end up in the ER for non-urgent symptoms.

Having the reassurance of a triage nurse could help decrease the number of people in the ER for non-emergency reasons. Click To Tweet

Patients faced with uncertainty about where to go, all too often, end up calling the ER department and receive a standard response: “We are not allowed to give advice over the phone. If you think you have an emergency, please hang up and call 911. If you think you need to see someone, you can come to the emergency room or call your doctor.”

So, who do you call?

Telephone Triage

One hospital in Oklahoma, with a similar issue, wanted to change this process. What if they provided a nurse triage line that would be available to receive calls from the patients calling the ER? Having the reassurance of a triage nurse could help decrease the number of people in the ER for non-emergency reasons.

This would provide patients with quick and easy access to a trained medical professional to assist in determining the appropriate next steps based on their symptoms and medical history. Also, since the nurses work independently from the hospital system, the nurses would provide an objective opinion increasing patient trust.

Results

The results were inspiring. The nurses significantly decreased unnecessary emergency room visits. A random survey of about 520 patients uncovered their plans before talking to a nurse. This helped determine the effectiveness of the system.

Out of 240 patients who were planning to go to the ER, 42 percent of them were diverted to a lower level of care, including 17 percent that received home care needing no additional follow up actions. This translated into a savings of at least 215,000 dollars in unnecessary ER visits, not to mention providing peace of mind for patients being able to stay home and rest.

Better Health Outcomes

The benefits didn’t just stop at ER costs savings. Consider the patients who called into the nurse triage line and were not intending to go to the ER. Some medical conditions are considered emergencies because they require rapid or advanced treatments.

Surprisingly, close to 20 percent of the patients who called into the nurse triage line had symptoms that were serious enough to warrant a visit to the ER. Without the nurse line, the outcomes for these patients could have been life threatening or fatal.

Conclusion

While nurse triage has shown significant effectiveness in an outpatient setting, this preliminary data shows even greater promise to expand this model to emergency rooms around the country.

Providing local communities with a nurse triage program not only prevents unnecessary ER visits and saves on healthcare costs, but it also ensures patients get appropriate care when a serious symptom arises. For the hospital, this increases goodwill in the community while addressing the overcrowding of the ER: a win-win all around.

TriageLogic

Dr. Charu Raheja is the co-founder and CEO of the Triage Logic Group. Charu’s personal struggles and triumphs with her health define both her personal and her professional mission. Most recently, her experience in overcoming a life-threatening health event led her to launch the Continuwell brand. The TriageLogic Group provides telehealth software, mobile communication solutions, and services to large medical centers and businesses around the country. It is part of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), and it covers over 25 million lives nationwide. Visit www.TriageLogic.com or contact Amy Smith at 888-TEAMTLC for more information.

Tips to Selecting a Vendor—Don’t Compromise on Security


TriageLogic


By Ravi K. Raheja, MD

The average cost of a data breach in the United States has hit an all-time high of 7.35 million dollars. Just this year, there have been more than one hundred hacker attacks on healthcare organizations, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Despite better awareness among healthcare organizations, data breach costs average 408 dollars per record. Cybercriminals use weaponized ransomware, misconfigured cloud storage buckets, and phishing emails to attack.

Hidden costs in data breaches are difficult and expensive to manage, resulting in customer turnover, reputation damage, and increased operational costs. Knowing where the costs lie, and how to reduce them, can help companies invest their resources more strategically and lower the huge financial risks at stake.

While looking for cost saving solutions is important for any business, it is critical to make sure your vendor partners also meet the same stringent criteria on data security. This extends to your outsourced, after-hours services as well. Not doing the proper due diligence, can lead to a significant risk in terms of data loss and security.Hidden costs in data breaches are difficult and expensive to manage, resulting in customer turnover, reputation damage, and increased operational costs. Click To Tweet

Here are a few critical questions you should consider when selecting your partners in healthcare:

  1. Do you have a chief information officer (CIO) who oversees the security program?
  2. Do you have a formal security compliance program in place with yearly audits?
  3. Is the vendor URAC accredited so there is a third party auditing the triage call center policies and procedures to ensure they are followed?
  4. Does the vendor sub-contract services? If they do, are the proper BAAs (business associate agreements) and contracts in place?
  5. What is their data breach insurance policy limits?
  6. Is the data center infrastructure set up to maximize data protection along with regular scanning of the software and servers?
  7. Does the vendor have an intrusion detection system to alert potential threats?
  8. Does the vendor have adequate IT resources to monitor all systems and to respond quickly to any potential threats?
  9. Do the products meet HIPAA, HITECH, and other security requirements?
  10. Do the security reports meet all auditing and HIPAA reporting needs?
  11. Do you have a formal HIPAA training program for all staff members?
  12. Does the data center where the data is stored have proper security certifications?
  13. Is the patient data secured at all times and in all modules of the product? (This must include strong password protection or other user authentication, data encrypted at rest, and data encrypted in motion.)
  14. Is the patient’s data secured when accessed via handheld devices, such as through secured through SSL web sites, iPhone apps, and so forth?

If the answer is no to any of the above questions, then it may be an indication that you should look deeper and compare vendors before selecting one that will protect your patient data properly. Don’t be afraid to dig deeper and ask vendors questions if you have any concerns. Remember, it is a lot harder to change vendors once you implement a program than to ask questions and make sure that you have the best system in place for your needs.

TriageLogicRavi K. Raheja, MD is the COO and medical director of the TriageLogic Group. Founded in 2005, TriageLogic is a URAC accredited, physician-lead 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. For more information visit www.triagelogic.com and www.continuwell.com.  

For feedback and questions, please feel free to contact Ravi at ravi.raheja@triagelogic.com.

Vendor Spotlight: LVM Systems


LVM Systems


In 1988, Les Mortensen had the foresight to create a product to help hospitals help the patients they serve. Since then, hundreds of hospitals, thousands of users and millions of patients have benefitted.

LVM is now one of the industry’s largest providers of hospital-based healthcare call center solutions. It celebrated another successful year in 2018, marking its thirtieth year serving the healthcare industry.

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.

At LVM, past accomplishments drive ongoing improvements and the development of additional functionality to increase the success of its clients. What keeps LVM the logical choice when selecting a healthcare call center partner is its practice of constantly adding increased functionality, greater usability, and enhanced call handling efficiency to its products. Client input assists the LVM development team to assure the products and services LVM delivers address the industry’s greatest needs.

Some recent enhancements include:

Chat Messages

The chat product is a web-based function that is setup on the client’s website to allow a patient to engage and start a chat with the contact center.

Hospital Transfer

An alternate, streamlined hospital transfer module provides clients a more efficient method to process the initial call’s data capture and needed sending information, track a working diagnosis, and record the data necessary to complete acceptance tracking. This simplifies the process while still collecting all the pertinent information.

Quick Entry Screen

A reformatted quick entry screen optimizes data entry and ease-of-use.

Auto Merge Data on Save

A new view records option appears on the data conflicts screen. Selecting this option allows the user to evaluate the record in conflict for changes when saving.

Protected Fields

The following fields are marked “protect this field” by default: myLVM password, SMTP password, credit card user password, and PDF owner password. Data stored in these fields is not viewable during a call.

Read Only Fields

Fields can be set as read only giving the user the ability to see the information displayed in the field, but they will be unable to make changes. The field will be grayed out on the screen.

Login Screen

The updated sign on screen alerts the user that their password is going to expire by the changing background color. The color changes when the password is going to expire in less than ten days. 

Security Settings

The optimized and updated security settings provide for more finite control and consistent security measures. The following are some recent changes regarding password security set-up and use rules designed to make using the product more secure:

  • Heightened Login Security: When a user exceeds the number of failed login attempts, their record is locked. It requires a user with manager authorization to unlock the record.
  • Inactive Accounts Expire in x days: Sets the number of days until the password automatically disables inactive user accounts. Inactive user accounts are marked “Don’t Use” when disabled.
  • Login Attempts Before Account Lock: Designates the number of consecutive failed login attempts required before locking a user’s account. Once locked, a manager can unlock the account, or the user must wait the designated time before it will unlock.Account Lock Will Expire in x minutes: Designates the number of minutes before a user’s account will unlock and they can try to login again. This field works in conjunction with “login attempts before account lock.”
  • Password History Entries: Choose how many previous passwords are kept to prevent re-use. The user will be prevented from using these passwords when creating a new one.
  • Password Minimum Special: Choose the minimum number of special characters required to be in the password.

LVM’s team of industry experts constantly study changes in healthcare to stay abreast of significant changes affecting healthcare call centers. These efforts distinguish LVM from other companies whose sole focus is software development.

At LVM, healthcare organizations have a partner to provide ongoing updates to its pediatric and adult nurse triage functionality, CRM database segmentation and marketing capabilities, physician referral, class/membership management, service referral, patient transfer, behavioral health input, and many other functions. LVM also offers a comprehensive co-morbidity care management program (CCMP) for individuals with chronic disease(s). CCMP focuses on educating and engaging individuals, earlier interventions, coordinating care, and managing transitions across the continuum.

LVM Systems logoFor 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.

Mark Dwyer is a 32-year veteran of the healthcare call center industry. He joined LVM Systems in 2003 and currently serves as COO.

Take a Fresh Look at Agent Compensation



Don’t Brush Aside the Importance of Providing Appropriate Call Center Agent Pay

 By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

In my article “Ideas to Better Retain Call Center Staff,” we looked at five tips to improve call center staff retention rates. I first considered compensation, a topic of great concern for managers and which carries a critical consideration for call center agents. Because of its complexities, it’s too easy for managers to shrug and say, “We’re doing the best we can. We can’t afford to pay anything more.” In fact, I’ve shared this sentiment with call center staff a time or two myself.Make incremental steps to what you pay, what you expect, and what you get in return from your staff. Click To Tweet

Survey Your Local Market

Several years ago, I consulted for a county medical bureau’s answering service. As I met with the call center agents, each one had the same complaint: “People working fast food make more than we do.” After two days of repeatedly hearing this grievance, I did some research. I walked into the eight closest fast food restaurants and asked what their starting wage was. Each one paid less, often considerably less, than the answering service.

Agent Compensation

Armed with this information, I set about correcting the agents’ unchallenged misconceptions about their pay. My research approach was a quick and easy one, and you may want to do a more thorough analysis, but the point is to survey your local job market to know where you stand. Then you can make informed decisions about what your agents should make.

Establish Your Compensation Paradigms

Another answering service I consulted for paid their agents comparable to the local fast food restaurants, which hovered near minimum-wage. I told the owner, “When you pay fast food rates, you get fast food mentality.” This isn’t to imply criticism against fast food workers, because some of them do their jobs with excellence. It is, however, my intent to point out that taking an order for a hamburger isn’t on a par with handling a phone call at 3 a.m. from a hysterical first-time mom concerned about her screaming baby’s high temperature.

Decide what you want your call center agents to make in comparison to other area jobs. Remove the concern of what you can afford from this equation, and focus on what you should aim for instead.

Make Expectations Match Compensation

At this point, I doubt you’ve decided you’re paying too much. Though you could have concluded you’re paying your agents an appropriate hourly rate, you more likely determined that ideally you want to pay them more.

But don’t make the mistake of increasing your starting hourly pay, without making a matching adjustment to increasing your screening processes, employee expectations, and desired outcomes. Pay more and expect more.

Conclusion

Making a significant change to agent compensation is one of the most terrifying decisions to make when running a call center. Trying to make huge adjustments too quickly could produce devastating consequences. Instead determine where you want to get to, plan how to get there, and implement it with care. Over time, make incremental steps to what you pay, what you expect, and what you get in return from your staff.

As you do, you will improve agent retention and increase quality, along with enhancing your employees’ attitude and workplace environment.

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.

Balancing Patient Care with Data Security and Privacy Starts with the Contact Center



By Tim Critchley

The stakes have never been higher for healthcare providers to deliver a positive patient experience. According to a recent study by Prophet, 81 percent of consumers are unsatisfied with their healthcare experience, while only 40 percent believe providers are best meeting their needs. At the same time, data breaches in the healthcare sector are at an all-time high—occurring at a rate of more than one per day in the United States.

These security incidents not only jeopardize patients’ privacy but also put both patient trust and brand reputation at risk.

All the while, medical practitioners, hospitals, and insurers are pressed to keep up with the ever-evolving regulatory compliance landscape. This not only includes the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) but also the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and a long list of individual state regulations and data breach notification laws.

With HIPAA violations alone incurring fines as high as 50,000 dollars (for each violation or exposed record), healthcare organizations are finding themselves wedged between conflicting objectives: how do you protect patient data and maintain compliance, without losing sight of providing the best possible patient experience? Data security and privacy are key to providing positive interactions with your customers and patients. Click To Tweet

Contact Center Security

While you can’t please every patient, you can strike a balance between care and data security. The first place to address this is your contact center.

Although online interaction tools and patient portals are gaining in popularity, you can’t underestimate the value of the voice channel. Research by PatientPop shows that 58.5 percent of patients still prefer to schedule an appointment via phone.

As such, your contact center is often the go-to point of interaction for your patients and can set the tone for their entire experience. But this also means that your contact center intrinsically holds, processes, and stores copious amounts of personally identifiable information (PII), from medical records to payment card data. This makes the contact center an alluring target for fraudsters and hackers.

However, it’s not only devious cybercriminals who threaten your patients’ data. Company insiders, such as rogue patient service representatives (PSRs) or contact center agents, pose a massive threat, especially if they have access to patient data given over the phone or stored in desktop applications. In fact, 58 percent of all healthcare data breaches and security incidents are the result of insiders, according to Verizon’s Protected Health Information Data Breach Report.

Security Best Practices

With inside and outside threats, as well as vulnerable legacy systems serving as entry points for enterprise-wide breach incidents, contact centers are undoubtedly a weak link in your security chain. But protecting PII, maintaining compliance, and providing a positive patient experience first involve a hearty dose of security best practices:

  • Treat all data as potentially toxic: The more information that is available in the event of a breach, the easier it will be for a malicious insider or cybercriminal to steal a patient’s identity or access their private medical records.
  • Train all employees and always perform thorough background checks: Go beyond basic employee vetting and background checks, especially when hiring for your contact center environments. Educate PSRs and customer service agents on data security best practices and how to spot social engineering and phishing tactics.
  • Prepare your response management policy: Have an incident response management policy and process in place, preferably as part of an information security management system. Prepare for a worst-case scenario, and test your incident response plan at least annually.
  • Tokenize data: Replace PII with a meaningless equivalent, so even if a breach is successful, the hacked data will be of no value to the cybercriminal. This approach can also assist in the event of a social engineering attack, which can put even the most trustworthy employee at risk for exposing PII.
  • Enforce the principle of least privilege: Give employees the minimum level of access required to perform their job function at the appropriate time. Introduce exception procedures for when emergency access is needed.
  • Authenticate the user to authenticate the service agent: Prevent PSRs and agents from accessing patient data until the PSR has received the right data from the user. This means that until the caller has been successfully identified using the appropriate secure authentication approach, deny access to detailed PII.

Descoping Technologies

With these tactics creating a foundation for security in your contact center, you can introduce descoping technologies. Such technologies not only strengthen data security and compliance by removing sensitive data from your infrastructure, but they also garner a positive patient experience and journey.

For the voice channel, in particular, dual-tone multi-frequency (DTMF) masking solutions hold great promise, allowing patients to discretely enter numerical PHI, such as payment card, insurance, or account numbers, using their phone’s keypad. The keypad tones, however, are masked with flat tones, so they are not exposed to anyone but the patient. The data collected is encrypted and sent to a compliant third party, bypassing the contact center’s environment completely.

While this process may invoke notions of automated interactive voice response (IVR) systems, it is not quite the same. Here, agents and PSRs can remain on the line in full voice communication with the patient, guiding them through the transaction, answering questions, and even handling wrap-up tasks. There are no challenges with misheard or miskeyed data, which can lead to premature hang-ups and abandoned calls. In addition, patients have full control over inputting their information and can enjoy peace of mind that their data is protected. This makes for a better overall customer experience.

Conclusion

Data security and privacy are key to providing positive interactions with your customers and patients, and there really is no longer any need to compromise in either area. A combination of security best practices, strategies, and emerging descoping technologies are ideal solutions to achieve both. No matter which route you take, the less PII you hold and handle, the better off you’ll be. Remember, no one can hack the data you don’t hold.

Tim Critchley is the CEO of Semafone.

Vendor Spotlight: Call Center Sales Pro


Call Center Sales Pro, providing proven healthcare call center solutions


Call Center Sales Pro Helps Healthcare Call Centers Achieve Better Outcomes

In 2014 Janet Livingston formed Call Center Sales Pro (CCSP) to help outsource call centers and telephone answering services. Since then the business expanded rapidly to cover all aspects of call center operation, with a focus on the healthcare call center industry and medical answering services.

Here are some of the key services CCSP provides to the healthcare call center industry.CCSP is a reliable, full-service call center consultancy that specializes in healthcare call centers. Click To Tweet

HIPAA Training

HIPAA compliance training by CCSP will educate your healthcare call center employees about HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996), why it’s important, and how to follow its guidelines. This includes learning about PHI (protected health information), how to recognize it, and the essential steps to protect it. Also covered is the critical understanding into how PHI is transmitted between covered entities (CE) and business associates (BA).

This online video course has a live instructor and takes about 45 to 60 minutes. To avoid costly litigation and protect patients’ health information, HIPAA training is essential to your healthcare workforce.

Here is the key information about HIPAA training and certification:

  • HIPAA training is required for anyone with access to PHI.
  • Organizations must provide HIPAA education for all staff, with periodic refresher training.
  • CCSP’s online video course has a live instructor and takes about 45 to 60 minutes.

Healthcare Call Center Consulting

CCSP provides full-service call center consulting to help healthcare call centers with almost any facet of their operations, not just phone answering. Their professional call center consultants can assist organizations with call center operations, accounting and finance, IT, customer service, training, human resources, call center acquisitions and mergers, and other administrative tasks, as well as sales and marketing.

To help you make your call center better, CCSP can:

  • Add expertise to supplement your management team.
  • Optimize systems, protocols, and processes for optimal results.
  • Pursue new opportunities.
  • Solve problems that hold you back.
  • Change the direction of your call center.

CCSP is a reliable, full-service call center consultancy that specializes in healthcare call centers. Their team of professional consultants can assist healthcare organizations with their call center operation, customer service, and agent training. They can also address staffing, disaster recovery planning, and call center technology.

1Call Infinity System Optimization

The preferred call center system provider for many leading healthcare facilities is 1Call, a division of Amtelco. And CCSP, a contracted services provider, is an expert resource on mastering this powerful technology and harnessing it to achieve maximum results. Their contracted services can provide:

  • Strategic planning and logistics
  • Technical support and system engineering
  • Agent training and coaching
  • System setup, configuration, and optimization
  • Medical answering service functions

With CCSP as your strategic call center partner, you can expect these highly sought-after outcomes for your healthcare call center:

  • Help patients better manage their healthcare.
  • Increase per-patient revenue.
  • Maximize patient lifetime value.
  • Move your call center from being a cost center to a revenue center.

CCSP Fuzion Data Portal

Today’s leading call center systems produce an array of detailed reports to help management make informed decisions. Unfortunately call center managers and supervisors often spend too much time tracking down this information, merging it from disparate sources, and trying to make sense of it.

In the worst-case scenario, they simply ignore the data. That’s why CCSP developed CCSP Fuzion, to provide easily actionable information to healthcare call center management.

The CCSP Fuzion data portal provides one-stop management resource for call center supervisors and managers. It was developed by CCSP, who understands the importance of timely data presented in easy-to-digest formats. CCSP Fuzion comes with key reporting tools and evaluation instruments as standard components of this comprehensive portal:

  • Message logs
  • Customized agent QA and report cards
  • Agent productivity stats
  • Scheduling data
  • Center KPI and SLA metrics

Call center leaders need accurate tools that allow them to measure and manage in real time. They also need to be able to look at historical metrics to make solid decisions on running a call center. Everything call center leaders need to effectively gauge agent and call center performance is included in CCSP Fuzion.

Find an Outsource Call Center

CCSP offers a call center and medical answering service locator service. If you need a healthcare call center or medical answering service, CCSP can find the perfect match to meet your exact needs. With CCSP’s locator service, you can remove the hassle of vendor selection, tap the benefits of superior call center consulting services, and enjoy the convenience of a one-stop consulting solution.

If you need a call center or medical answering service provider to handle your facility’s communication needs at an economical price, then let CCSP take care of this for you. Because they have access to a wide network of providers, their call center locator service can find you the best provider for your needs and budget.

Call Center Sales Pro, a full-service healthcare call center consultancyContact CCSP for a free, no-obligation consultation on how they can help your healthcare call center or medical answering service. Learn more at 800-901-7706, contactus@ccsp.us, and www.ccsp.us.

Should Your Answering Service Be a Generalist or a Specialist?



From MedConnectUSA

Most telephone answering services take on a wide range of clientele, from roofer, to funeral home, to property management company, to consultant, to attorney. Oh yeah, they’ll handle healthcare too.

These answering services try to be all things to all people. They’re generalists. Some do okay at it and others not so well. As the saying goes, “They’re a Jack (or Jill) of all trades but a master of none.”

Other answering services are specialists. They focus on one industry, such as healthcare.

Do you want your answering service or call center to be a generalist or a specialist?Do you want to be a general answering service (or call center) or a medical answering service specialist that focuses on healthcare? Click To Tweet

A Generic Answering Service

All answering services that want to stay in business know they need to grow. They realize that with growth comes increased economy of scale. This helps them serve their clients with greater efficiency and increase their bottom line. Because of this push for growth, some are willing to handle any type of business or situation.

Sometimes they end up taking on some strange accounts. Such as a clown or a rock star or an entrepreneur with a questionable business ethic. Add the medical field to their eclectic mix of clients. For them, every call is completely different because every client is completely different. Sometimes they handle this client-multitasking challenge well and other times, not so well.

When an operator at a generic answering service answers the phone for a medical practice, imagine what type of account they handled just before that, how the caller acted, and the way they responded. Does this prepare them to talk to the patient with excellence and treat them precisely the way they should be treated? Some telephone answering service operators can make this mental transition, whereas others struggle.

A Medical Answering Service Specialist

Seeing the downside of these generic, one-size-fits-all answering services, some answering service leaders realize that trying to be all things to all people doesn’t work out so well. They decide to specialize. When they specialize, they become experts in their niche. This allows them to provide a higher level of service then what would be possible if they remained a generic answering service, taking all types of clients.

They decide to specialize in healthcare. They become a medical answering service—a medical answering service specialist, if you will. This allows them to focus on things that are important to their clients in the healthcare field. This includes being empathetic to callers and their health situation, knowing how to handle health emergencies and on-call personnel, and the importance of taking appointments to maximize provider effectiveness.

The result of this is a high level of patient-centric service that meets the needs of the healthcare industry, including medical practices, clinics, hospitals, and healthcare networks.

Summary

When it comes to handling the communication needs of healthcare providers, do you want to be a general answering service (or call center) or a medical answering service specialist that focuses on healthcare? How does this answer apply to the strategy you have for your answering service or call center?

Should you be an answering service generalist or specialist?

Kurt Duncan is the director of operations at MedConnectUSA, a leading provider of medical answering services, that specializes exclusively on the communication needs of the healthcare industry.

Secure Text Messaging and Email Security for Healthcare



By Aaron Boatin

Most healthcare providers send text messages and emails throughout their day. Unfortunately many choose unsecured methods of transmission. This is bad news for protecting patient data and worse yet, a clear HIPAA violation.

Embracing technology to increase the speed of healthcare is a good thing, but only if it’s done right. This means encrypting protected health information (PHI), to ensure the privacy protection mandated by HIPAA and HITECH.

Managing Protected Health Information with Secure Text Messaging

Standard texting on cell phones and alpha/text pagers is not HIPAA compliant. However, implementing secure text messaging for providers is a painless process, and allows users to receive HIPAA-compliant, secure text messages using a smartphone.

Secure messaging apps allow medical practices to stay on top of their customer service, anywhere they may be, and remain HIPAA compliant. App capabilities vary, but look for one with powerful enterprise paging and messaging application built for Apple iOS and Android mobile phones and tablets. This can replace or supplement current paging technology and enables instant two-way communications.

It’s ideal for organizations where HIPAA compliance is a necessity or when sensitive data needs to be securely delivered to mobile devices. When the recipient receives a new message alert, the secure message can be viewed instantly using the secure messaging app. The secure messages are kept separate from email and text messages.

Many apps allow staff to acknowledge they’ve received the call without having to speak to a call center agent. This saves time, money, and improves response time to patients. Faster response can have a big impact on patient satisfaction scores.Embracing technology to increase the speed of healthcare is a good thing, but only if it’s done right. Click To Tweet

Socket Layer (SSL) Technology

Call centers that serve the medical community should seek solutions that offer compliance, privacy, and sender/receiver authentication, using 256-bit encryption SSL technology. This exceeds compliance standards and is the same technology that protects sensitive information on major websites that offer secure online transactions.

Other ways that most secure messaging apps are useful to medical practices complying with HIPAA and increasing efficiency include:

  • Reporting with an audit trail of all messages with all message events.
  • Issuing persistent alerts to the recipient’s mobile device, helping ensure immediate action.
  • Allowing users to designate high priority messages, displayed at the top of the message list.
  • Providing encrypted message delivery and message read receipts, indicating that the device received the message or the recipient opened the message.
  • No need to add a text messaging plan; the app bypasses traditional SMS messaging.
  • Free secure messaging between devices; no text charges apply.
  • Ability to send secure broadcast messages to a group.

Management of Secure Text Messaging for Medical Practices

The management of secure text messaging users is easy. For some apps, the management of devices is done through a web portal so that staff can add, delete, or change user settings. If a device is lost or stolen, the data on the phone can be deleted using the remote wipe function.

Secure text messaging solutions work by hosting the encrypted PHI on hosted secure servers. The phones then access this secure data via the secure texting app. This is a great solution for medical practices where most providers use their own phones. It fits in perfectly with BYOD policies in place at large healthcare organizations.

The best apps mimic the ease of use of regular text messaging, making adoption easy and intuitive. They also bring several nice enhancements and integrations. For example, the ability to send and receive images (x-rays for example) and audio files saves an enormous amount of time.

Many medical practices that have implemented secure text messaging have seen boosts in productivity. Aside from HIPAA compliance, the speed of communications accelerates dramatically. This has a direct positive effect on patient care.

Encrypted Email

Standard email is not HIPAA compliant. Without email encryption, email sent from one user to another is vulnerable at any point along that transfer route. Using unencrypted email not only puts the content of the information at risk but also the identities of the sender and receiver.

To provide additional protection for email communication in transit and keep electronic communication from prying eyes, companies often apply encryption methodologies to their electronic communication. Encrypted email refers to the process of encoding email messages in such a way that eavesdroppers or hackers cannot read it, but that authorized parties can.

There are two popular options for encrypting email. They are TLS and Secure/Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (S/MIME) encryption methods.

TLS Encryption: Transport Layer Security transcription (TLS) protocol prevents unauthorized access of emails while they are in transit. TLS is a protocol that encrypts and delivers email securely for inbound and outbound email.

It helps prevent eavesdropping between email servers. It’s worth noting that email messages are encrypted only if the sender and receiver both use email providers that support transport layer security.

Not all email providers use TLS. Not sure if an email server has TLS enabled? Use this online tool to test an email address.

S/MIME Secure Email: S/MIME (Secure/Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions) is a widely accepted method for sending secure email messages. It allows users to encrypt emails and digitally sign them. It gives the recipient the peace of mind that the message they receive in their in box is the exact message that started with the sender.

It also ensures the person receiving the email knows it really did come from the person listed in the “From:” field. S/MIME provides for cryptographic security services such as authentication, message integrity, and digital signatures.

Conclusion

Putting it all together is a challenging endeavor, but doing nothing is risky for your organization and the patients’ PHI that is vulnerable for interception.

Aaron Boatin is president of Ambs Call Center, a virtual receptionist and telephone answering service provider, that specializes in medical answering services. His passion is helping clients’ businesses succeed. Melding high tech with high touch to provide the best customer service experience for clients is his core focus.