Three Tactics for Transforming a Call Center into a Care Center


TeamHealth Medical Call Center


By Gina Tabone

Healthcare strategists must lead the campaign to transform call center agents into caregivers and move from a call center mentality to a care center functioning as the doorway to an organization. Medical call centers have evolved over the past decade from a call center, to a contact center, to the current title of centralized access center. The goal for the patient is a seamless connection to a call center agent equipped to resolve any need presented within the confines of the first call.

Agent positions are often entry level, which they historically abandon once they are eligible to bid on a higher paying, more prestigious role within the organization. What a shame that front-line call center employees do not realize the immense value they play in the continuum of care and the potential they have to impact an exceptional patient experience.

Change, as usual, must happen. Here are three easy-to-implement tactics to begin transforming the mindset of call center agents from telephone operator to a caregiver that is acknowledged as a vital contributor in the continuum of care.There is nothing more motivating than realizing that the work one does is meaningful and makes a difference. Click To Tweet

1) Communication

Healthcare chatter and verbiage flood nightly news reports, political rhetoric, and patient newsletters. It is hard enough for industry leaders to comprehend what is being said and expected, let alone the people on the front line doing the work.

There is nothing more motivating than realizing that the work one does is meaningful and makes a difference. This is most true in the delivery of healthcare. No matter what the role, everyone interacting with a patient can contribute to a positive experience. Here’s how:

  • The messages must be clearly stated from the top-level leadership involved in the call center transformation. Be honest and frank. Leadership is supportive but must be mindful of the ever-present business impact of every department.
  • “You are very important to our organizations and your contribution to the organization are unique and essential.”
  • Think of the call center as the front door to the organization. You are the ones answering the knock at the door.
  • You have the power to either communicate: “Hello, welcome, we are expecting you,” or slam the door in their face by being robotic, irritated, and impatient.

2) Collaboration

Caregivers working in a centralized communication center do not actually have a panel or group of patients specifically assigned to them. Rather, they are there to provide a plethora of services to the patients from a variety of locations, specialties, practices, providers, or payers. The role they play augments the meaningful care provided in an office or clinic setting. Efforts must focus on viewing the call center caregivers as a vital component of the outpatient team.

  • They are the first point of contact for new patients. They can convey compassion and trust in the initial interaction as a precursor of what to expect in a face-to-face visit with a clinician.
  • First point of contact caregivers set the tone for what to expect from the organization. Hopefully they demonstrate a flawless, coordinated experience with a knowledgeable person who has the skills and resources to satisfy their current need.
  • It is valuable for call center employees to spend a day with the clinic team and for the clinic staff to spend a day shadowing the call center caregiver. Bonds forge, and there is an appreciation for the work each group performs.

3) Circulate

Call center leadership is not a stationary job. Every level of management is most effective when present and visible to those working on the phones. The environment is dynamic and requires constant supervision and direction.

  • Seeing team leads, managers, and higher ups walking around and interacting with staff builds confidence and is a sign that they are available when needs arise.
  • Wireless headsets allow for designated support staff to move about, mingle with agents, and overhear calls that may benefit from a higher level of intervention. It is a defensive method for avoiding a potential problem, or even worse, a discontented patient.
  • Call center leaders who take live calls for a portion of their work week can lead by example.
  • Circulating staff are there to advocate for the best possible patient experience, while at the same time nurturing and engaging the caregivers.

There is a need to develop a platform of soft skills training that teaches call center caregivers how to convey interest, concern, and competency to callers. The tactics discussed in this essay are fantastic ways begin the transformation of a call center team.

Gina Tabone, MSN, RNC-TNP, is the vice president of strategic clinical solutions at TeamHealth Medical Call Center. Prior to joining TeamHealth, she served as the administrator of Cleveland Clinic’s Nurse on Call 24/7 nurse triage program.

The June/July 2018 Issue of AnswerStat

Read the June issue of AnswerStat, the information hub for healthcare contact centers.



Feature Content:

June 2018Shift from Transactions to Amazing First Experiences, by Richard D. Stier, MBA
We must shift from processing transactions to delivering consistent, compassionate first experiences that earn trust. This is a hallmark of quality and the access to optimal health.… read more >>

Vital Signs: Develop an Ideal Agent Schedule to Maximize Call Center Efficiency and Effectiveness, by Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD
Finding your ideal agent schedule is part art and part science. It’s a time-consuming task, but the results of having an ideally staffed call center are worth the effort. read more >>

Vendor Spotlight on 1Call, A Division of Amtelco
As technology continues to evolve and as customers have new communication challenges, 1Call and Amtelco will continue to develop new innovative solutions.… read more >>

Guest Column: Reduce Physician Burnout with Telephone Triage Nurses, by Dr. Ravi Raheja
There’s no single solution to eliminate physician burnout. Providing work-life balance education and offering stress management assistance helps. Additionally, telephone nurse triage provides a flexibility that allows physicians to create a better work-life balance and avoid burn-out.… read more >>

A Simple Solution to Enhance the Insurance Call Center Customer Experience, by Mark Nathan
Call your health insurance company: you’ll encounter long hold times and endless apologies from reps, who can’t find the information you need. This is the norm for health insurance call centers, but there’s a simple solution… read more >>

Why Telephone Triage Nurses are a Perfect Complement to Telemedicine, by Charu Raheja, Ph.D.
Telephone nurse triage allows a practice’s telemedicine program to work seamlessly, whether the office is open or closed. Using standardized protocols to answer patient questions increases a practice’s productivity and profits.… read more >>

Ten years ago: Breaking the Mold, by Kelly L. Weber
Healthcare call center management focuses on several key factors: efficiency, customer service, and marketing opportunities. But in today’s reality of stiffer healthcare competition and lower reimbursement, there is urgency for us to break the mold.… read more >>

Industry News:

        

Call4Health      TriageLogic

1Call      Startel

TeamHealth Medical Call Center      Ambs Call Center

AAACN       Citra Health Solutions

Call Center Sales Pro, providing proven healthcare call center solutions      Pulsar360


About AnswerStat
AnswerStat is the information hub for healthcare contact center news and resources, published specifically for hospital and medical contact centers and distributed free to qualified readers, decision makers, and influencers at hospitals and healthcare contact centers worldwide.

For more information, email Peter DeHaan.

A Simple Solution to Enhance the Insurance Call Center Customer Experience



By Mark Nathan

In the last decade or so we’ve seen dramatic improvements in customer service call center performance across a wide swath of industries. As a consumer, it’s far easier to troubleshoot your cable service, clear up confusion about your cell-phone bill, or change your flight today than it used to be.

But try calling your health insurance company, even for something simple like updating your address, and you’ll feel like you’ve traveled back to 1999. Long hold times and endless apologies from customer reps, who can’t find the information you need, remain the norm in health insurance call centers.

Saddled with Old Technology

This is largely because those call-center workers use antiquated technology. More specifically, they’re juggling an array of databases, each of which needs a separate login, and many of which require separate terminals. Those long hold times and frustrating delays are a direct result of the time reps spend jumping between screens, logging in and out of different databases, and, in some cases, walking across the room to find what they need.Insurers should focus on implementing technology that integrates the data in their disparate systems into a single view that every customer rep can access. Click To Tweet

A customer rep might have to log into one system to find a doctor’s account information, another to look up specific policy details, and a third to understand the insurer’s arrangement with the hospital system the doctor works for. Tougher questions about procedures that need special authorization or involve complex agreements with large health systems might send the rep spelunking into unfamiliar systems they only access every few months.

This doesn’t happen in most industries, which over the last decade have upgraded to automated systems. Natural-language chat bots and other virtual solutions today handle many basic customer requests, which reduce call center traffic. And when customers do call, reps typically access integrated databases through a single screen. This is true even in industries like cable and utilities, which not long ago battled the same issues that plague health insurers today.

The Challenge of Upgrading Technology

For insurers, upgrading call center technology and systems has proved challenging and costly. The challenge lies in the way insurers’ databases have been assembled over the years. Many were brought together through acquisitions or built by various outside companies in response to a specific need or regulatory requirement. This hodgepodge has left insurers dealing with outdated physical directories. The result is that simple updates, like changing an address, must sometimes be done on paper. The systems can’t be electronically integrated, and the cost of replacing them is prohibitive.

But the status quo has its own costs. Often insurers pay exorbitant licensing fees that haven’t been renegotiated for years. Training customer reps to use multiple systems, some of which are anything but intuitive, is also expensive. And there’s another expense associated with those creaky systems: the fines assessed against health insurers when they give their members inaccurate information.

Antiquated customer service at health insurers also creates systemic costs. When you can’t figure out what exactly your policy covers you might just go to the emergency room when you’re sick. That’s a drain on the hospital’s resources and the insurance company’s bottom line.

And beyond that, insurers are missing a prime opportunity to help their members save money by staying healthier. Insurers know when we’re due for an annual physical and when our prescriptions need refilling. They can tell us where the nearest urgent-care clinic is, so we go there instead of the ER. Better customer service would not only be reactive—answering our questions when we go online or call—but also proactive, providing us with prompts and reminders to take actions to keep us healthy and save us (and them) money.

Pursue a Single-Screen View, Single-Login Solution

This is entirely possible, and it doesn’t require ripping out all the legacy systems and databases that plague health-insurance call centers today. Instead, insurers should focus on implementing technology that integrates the data in their disparate systems into a single view that every customer rep can access. That would give them a single login and a single interface to work through when seeking information about a customer.

Moving to a single-screen view, with all the databases connected on the back end, would end the time wasted logging into and out of different systems, switching screens and running around the call center trying to find accurate information. It can be done through an application programming interface (API)—software that connects to all the existing systems—without building new or different databases.

This would result in dramatically shorter hold times, fewer fines for misinforming customers, and happier, healthier members. It would also lay the groundwork for more advanced customer communications, like chat bots and artificial intelligence. So, before you can finish typing “find a doctor” in the chat box, the software suggests a cardiologist near you, because it knows you have high-blood pressure based on your prescription records.

All this is possible if we start by putting a single screen in front of every customer rep in the call center. It’s an elegant solution to a complex problem—and that’s exactly what technology should do.

 

Mark Nathan is founder and CEO of Zipari, a consumer experience software company for health insurance. He’s worked in insurance for the last twelve years, and prior to that worked at consumer-oriented companies including Apple and Disney, after serving as a robotics engineer for NASA.

Vendor Spotlight: 1Call, A Division of Amtelco



Working together to provide the very best communication product solutions, backed by the best support available

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

Hospitals and healthcare organizations around the world turn to 1Call to solve their medical call center, answering service, on-call scheduling, call handling, secure messaging, voice processing, conference calling, and automated middleware notification needs. An independent survey, conducted by TMA+Peritus in February 2015, found that 100 percent of the respondents said they would highly recommend Amtelco and 1Call to another healthcare organization.

Five-Star Service and Support

Amtelco and 1Call are well known for continually developing comprehensive call center and communication solutions, all backed by five-star after-the-sale service and support. Customer advocates and account managers are available to help customers and answer questions before, during, and after the sale.

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

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

Help When Needed

When 1Call customers need help, it’s just a phone call away. They can also email the support team or even access the exclusive online TechHelper tool, with documentation, manuals, videos, and training tools. TechHelper is available 24-hours a day, with unlimited access. Emergency assistance for 1Call systems is also available 24-hours a day, 365 days a year.

Support agreements include software upgrades, which help ensure that 1Call customers always have access to the newest features.

The TMA+Peritus customer satisfaction survey also found that 97 percent of the respondents said the Amtelco and 1Call service and support was excellent. 1Call looks forward to partnering with more healthcare organizations to provide this same level of service.

Solutions That Work

1Call features a complete line of modular solutions specifically designed to streamline enterprise-wide communications, eliminate errors, and reduce training time for new operators. The specialized 1Call solutions save an organization’s limited resources, making each organization more efficient and bringing wellness to their members and their bottom line.

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

Easily Customizable

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

When additional help is required, 1Call also has a scripting team to assist customers with any specific requests.

Why Choose 1Call?

Hospitals continually recommend 1Call solutions to other healthcare organizations, so more healthcare organizations continue to switch to 1Call solutions. And it’s no wonder. With all the customizable hospital call center solutions available, the high levels of customer satisfaction, and quality support services, 1Call is in a class by themselves.

What do customers have to say about switching to 1Call? Here’s one example: “It was a great decision switching to Infinity. The 1Call technology is innovative. It’s easy to learn, and it really seems to mold around what the particular needs of our hospital are. Everything runs so much more smoothly now. I think it’s also worth noting, the customer service—great. We couldn’t be happier.”

Strong Partner Relationships

1Call forms solid partnerships with their customers. Each organization is encouraged to work closely with the 1Call team of consultants and engineers through each phase of system planning, configuration, and implementation. This helps ensure that the 1Call systems are at their optimum performance levels to meet all the communication needs of their organizations.

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

The 1Call Technology Partnerships include:

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

One Company, One Solution

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

Recent Innovations

As customers have come to expect, Amtelco and 1Call continue to create innovative solutions. In addition to frequent enhancements to Intelligent Series, Soft Agent, and miSecureMessages, the newest innovations are MergeComm and Genesis.

The MergeComm Integration Engine

Designed to automate communications throughout an organization, MergeComm speeds response times to help organizations provide better patient care. MergeComm takes an incoming message and uses a script to determine who needs to receive that information. MergeComm accepts messages from a wide variety of sources, including alarms, alerts, HL7 messages, nurse call, severe weather alerts, TCP, WCTP, and web services. Notifications can be sent to an individual, an entire group, or the current on-call personnel. Delivery options include email, miSecureMessages, IP phones, pagers, phones, smart devices, SMS, and Vocera badges.

The Genesis Software Switching Solution

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

More to Come

1Call, a division of AmtelcoAs technology continues to evolve and as customers have new communication challenges, 1Call and Amtelco will continue to develop new innovative solutions, as they have for over forty years.

Shift from Transactions to Amazing First Experiences



Richard D. Stier, MBA

The consumer has spoken. Patient experience is now healthcare’s core differentiator. In a recent study of 2,000 participants across five countries in four continents, six out of ten consumers identified patient experience as extremely important to them as they defined it. [Jason A. Wolf, Ph.D. Patient Experience Journal, Volume 5, issue 1, 2018]

Extraordinary first experiences delivered through your organization’s contact center and across initial touchpoints can strengthen relationships and build trust. First patient experiences influence hospital preference [SHSMD, 2012], and impact subsequent patient volume and corresponding revenue.

A strategic opportunity is to navigate the shift from transactions to deliver amazing, differentiating first patient experiences. Four insights can enable that shift.

1. Discover Your First Experience Differentiator

Exactly what is it that makes your organization’s brand of first experiences truly distinctive from the perspective of those you serve? That is, what separates you from all others in your market?

Consider these related questions:

  • Do your team members or associates feel personally supported and cared for? Are they eager to support and care for those they serve?
  • What level of trust have you earned with providers? Are they strong advocates for your organization with their patients?
  • Are callers to your contact center enjoying remarkable first connections? Are they so delighted that they become personal champions for your hospital or health network?
  • What do patients say about their experiences at your organization when they’re talking with friends across social media?
  • What is different about the first experiences you deliver? What’s better? What’s not so great?
  • Are the first experiences you deliver consistent at all first touchpoints across your enterprise? Where are they best? Where do they need help?

Stakeholders move through an integration or an assimilation process as they experience healthcare organizations. For many, hospitals are scary places. People die in hospitals. Initial emotions can easily include fear and distrust.Put Patient Experience First

Intention and focused effort are required to move many stakeholders beyond negative emotions and over the tipping point into positive responses such as safety, trust, and finally, to advocacy.

A foundation of trust with team members or associates, enables them, in turn, to express confidence in the organization when they interact with providers, callers, and patients. Each individual stakeholder is at a differing level of negative or positive response based on their own personal experiences.

Identify a baseline measurement of how each key stakeholder group perceives your organization. Understand which behaviors move that group from negative to positive responses. Listen deeply and in-person to the concerns of members of each stakeholder group to clarify how to differentiate your organization for them.

2. Audit First Experiences Across Initial Touchpoints

Once each stakeholder group’s requirements to earn trust are understood (vertical alignment), it is time to achieve consistent first patient experiences across initial touchpoints (horizontal alignment).

Perhaps your organization provides the initial touchpoints. Audit first patient experiences from the perspective of stakeholders who utilize each of these first touchpoints.Patient experience beats transactions

Partner with the team members or associates in each of these patient experience one (PX1) touchpoint areas to eliminate barriers to extraordinary first experiences. Outline desired themes for first conversations, not word-for-word scripts, which become mechanical, but conversation guides that are responsive to each individual and relevant to their needs.

Role-play initial conversations. Each team member should experience the role of the “patient.” Then they can share how the experience felt and suggest ways to enhance it. Include these role-plays as a permanent and recurring component of team member education.

3. Earn High Trust

Trust must be earned. It is evidenced by deep, focused listening, which seeks to serve each unique stakeholder. Every interaction is an opportunity for a memorable decisive moment.

Once established, elevate trust—even catapult it—by delivering unexpected “wows.” A wow is a surprising, proactive response to a stakeholder’s need.

Here are several examples of first experience wows suggested by Inspire Digital Solutions’ National Advisory Council:

  • Deep, active listening to providers, callers, and patients by team associates
  • First experience ambassadors who make personal visits to hospitalized frequent callers
  • Personalized greeting and wayfinding by first experience ambassadors
  • First experience ambassadors in the ER to align ER patients with in-network PCPs
  • First experience ambassadors in the contact center calling an elderly patient’s caregiver, who might be a friend, neighbor, or relative to arrange transportation to follow-up appointments
  • A dedicated triage phone line for team members and associates

4. Multiply Extreme Service to Accelerate Results

Addition is one associate earning trust with one stakeholder at a time. Multiplication is a team of equipped first experience leaders who train and empower their first experience ambassadors at each initial touchpoint across the enterprise.Patient experienceContact Center: The first contact with your hospital or health network is usually with the contact center. That first connection may be on the phone or online.

Establish behavior standards for that initial contact. As discussed above, outline key themes to guide the ideal first interaction. Listen deeply to acknowledge and validate both needs and feelings and to understand what the individual desires most—regardless if that desire is verbalized. Ask clarifying questions. Listen deeply.

Reduce or eliminate transferred calls. Make the contact center a single-stop solution. Once the initial request is addressed—whether online or on the phone—ask, “What can I do now to elevate your experience?”

First Touch Points: Establish behavior standards for delivering unexpected value. Work with first experience ambassadors to develop a unique list of wows at each initial touchpoint.

For example, first experience ambassadors for concierge, info desk, or wayfinding might include volunteer parking lot greeters who welcome patients with a smile, provide free parking vouchers, and escort them to their destination.

First experience ambassadors in the emergency department might carry a tablet loaded with contact center software, greet patients with kindness, and offer those without a primary care physician an immediate referral to an in-network provider for follow-on care.

First experience ambassadors in the contact center can reach out to a discharged elderly patient’s caregiver—such as a friend, relative, or neighbor—to arrange transportation to follow-up primary provider visits. This unexpected value reduces stress for the patient, increases kept appointment rates, and reduces avoidable readmissions.

A dedicated triage line in the contact center with a specific phone number expressly for team members or associates can speak volumes about the organization’s priority for caring for its own caregivers.

Hospital and Enterprise Integration: Preparation for service recovery should enable team members to seek first to understand, identify problem causes, discuss possible solutions, and suggest problem resolution.

First patient experience follow-up and follow-through should identify delays or roadblocks to appointments for needed services. Document complaints and compliments to enable both process improvement and recognition for excellence.

As extraordinary first experiences ripple across the enterprise, performance appraisals of all first experience ambassadors should include a review of their fluency with extreme service standards and provide financial incentives to recognize stellar performers. If your commitment is to set a standard of excellence in quality care, then more is required. Click To Tweet

Conclusion for Patient Experience

What is the monetary value of consistently delivered first patient experiences that positively distinguish your organization? Consider delighted patients who share their enthusiasm with friends across social platforms, higher satisfaction scores, and fewer avoidable readmissions. Also look at increased revenue and expanded market share. Is it one million dollars a year, ten million dollars a year, or more?

What is that value multiplied across your network? What is that value multiplied over five or ten years?

More fundamentally, what is the non-monetary value of an extraordinary first patient experience? This question goes to your reason for being, to your ethos, and your mission.

If your mission is satisfied by maximizing the bottom line over the immediate fiscal period, let’s be candid. In the near term, accomplishing transactions may be adequate.

However, if your commitment is to set a standard of excellence in quality care, then more is required. If your DNA is to transform the health of those you serve, more is needed.

We must navigate from success to significance. We must shift from processing transactions to deliver consistent, compassionate first experiences that earn trust. This is a hallmark of quality. This is access to optimal health.

Richard D. Stier, MBA is president of Inspire Digital Solutions. He brings three decades of results, improving first experiences as a senior executive, consultant, speaker, and author. He is honored to have led engagements resulting in more than 100 million dollars for clients. Inspire Digital Solutions partners with healthcare leaders to navigate the shift from transactions to deliver amazing first patient experiences.

Develop an Ideal Agent Schedule to Maximize Call Center Efficiency and Effectiveness



For Optimum Results Schedule Agents to Meet Projected Call Traffic

 By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Peter DeHaan, Publisher and Editor of AnswerStatCall centers rely on people—that is, agents—to meet the needs of callers. This requires developing an ideal agent schedule.

Having too many agents results in idle time, with staff on the clock but without enough work to do. This bloats operational costs. From a theoretical standpoint, an overstaffed call center should provide a high level of service, but this doesn’t always happen. Sometimes an overstaffed call center grows lackadaisical and provides poor service.

The opposite of overstaffing is not having enough agents. Not only does this cause agent burnout, but it also lengthens hold times and lowers service levels.

The key is to schedule the appropriate number of agents throughout the day to provide a suitable level of service at an acceptable cost. This minimizes complaints from both callers and agents.

Consider these key points when developing an optimum agent schedule.Schedule the appropriate number of agents throughout the day to provide a suitable level of service at an acceptable cost. Click To Tweet

Balance Staff Needs with Patient Needs

If your call center agents work eight-hour shifts, I guarantee your schedule needs work. Though their average workload and service level may be acceptable, most of the day they will swing from either working too hard to not having enough to do.

This means moving away from eight-hour shifts and scheduling staff to work when you need them. This may result in shorter shifts or longer shifts. To accomplish this, you’ll need a mixture of full-time and part-time employees, with part timers usually being predominant. This could be a huge culture shift.

Analyze Small Time Increments

If you track call traffic by the day, your scope is too large. One hour is the longest increment you should consider, but quarter hour segments are better, and some call centers look at six-minute increments (a tenth of an hour), or even less. When you analyze traffic in this granular fashion, you’ll see predictable rises and dips throughout the day. Overlay your shifts to cover these peaks and miss the valleys.

Consider Historical Data

In most cases the call traffic from one week will approximate the traffic for the following week. Averaging several consecutive weeks produces a more accurate projection. You can also look at traffic from one year ago if you have seasonal fluctuations. Last, to staff for a holiday, consider the historical traffic from that holiday last year or other comparable days. This lets you project traffic demands and develop an accurate agent schedule.

Pursue Incremental Improvement

Hoping to develop one agent schedule that you can copy each week isn’t realistic. Even if traffic doesn’t change much, you’ll still need to fine-tune it to best align your agents’ availability with your patients’ calling patterns. Also, most call center traffic trends up or down from one season to the next. Be sure to adjust for that.

Conclusion

Finding your ideal agent schedule is part art and part science. It’s a time-consuming task, but the results of having an ideally staffed call center are worth the effort.

 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.

Android Update for miSecureMessages Secure Messaging App

1Call, a division of Amtelco1Call announced that the miSecureMessages Android app version 4.1.1.49 was released to the Google Play store on Tuesday, May 15, 2018. Adding contacts to messages and the entire conversation flow process have been improved for efficiency. User interface updates were made to the login, create account, inbox, message thread, account management, and user setup screens.

1Call president Tom Curtin stated, “MiSecureMessages continues to gain momentum in healthcare organizations because it’s HIPAA-compliant, but it’s also used by other businesses that want to communicate securely and protect their client’s personal data or need to have reliable and fast communications.”

MiSecureMessages is a secure messaging app that encrypts user information to ensure data remains confidential. Secure text messaging protocols include these benefits:

  • End-to-end message encryption
  • Messages aren’t stored on devices so messages are safe if a device is lost or stolen
  • Quickly and reliably sends large amounts of information through Wi-Fi and data networks
  • Easy to use, customizable, and available for Android and Apple
  • Detailed and dynamic message reports with full message history and contact details

For more information visit www.misecuremessages.com or email info@misecuremessages.com.

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.

1Call Integrates with QGenda to Enhance On-Call Scheduling

1Call announced that healthcare customers who manage on-call and physician scheduling with the 1Call and QGenda scheduling platforms, can now deliver calls and messages to the right people, at the right time thanks to an integration initiative between 1Call and QGenda. 1Call’s comprehensive healthcare on-call scheduling and communications suite works seamlessly with QGenda’s physician scheduling software to provide a fully integrated scheduling platform.

The integration ensures that schedule assignments in both platforms are synchronized at all times. The result is a powerful tool that plays a critical role in helping nurses and doctors save lives each day.

“The 1Call on-call scheduling platform is utilized by healthcare organizations for critical communications and secure HIPAA-compliant messaging,” said Tom Curtin, president of Amtelco and the 1Call Healthcare Division. “This integration makes it possible to update on-call schedule shift assignments on a real-time basis in our Intelligent Series software with information originating in the QGenda application.”

1Call, a division of Amtelco1Call systems send roughly 14.5 million messages a day or 5.25 billion messages a year. QGenda provides automated physician scheduling for more than 170,000 providers, covering 20 million monthly shift hours.

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