Tag Archives: COVID19

How Hospital Contact Centers Support Emergency Departments During COVID-19


1Call, a division of Amtelco

By Nicole Limpert

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

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

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

Telephone Triage Nurses

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

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

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

COVID-19’s Impact on Hospitals

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

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

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

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

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

COVID-19’s Impact on Hospital Contact Centers

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

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

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

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

1Call, a division of Amtelco

Nicole Limpert is the marketing content writer for Amtelco and their 1Call Healthcare Division. Amtelco is a leading provider of innovative communication applications. 1Call develops software solutions and applications designed for the specific needs of healthcare organizations.

TriageLogic Releases Data on Remote Nurse Triage Calls


TriageLogic

TriageLogic®, a leader in telephone nurse triage and remote patient communication, released data pertaining to remote nurse triage in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. The results of this study provide insight into how triage nurses can help hospitals and healthcare organizations provide high-quality remote care for patients during major public health episodes.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how doctors and health facilities care for patients. Between lockdown orders and public fear of going to doctor’s offices or hospitals, telemedicine and remote nurse triage has become a vital service for the healthcare industry. Through these changes, TriageLogic has kept meticulous records on patient sentiments, attitudes, demographics, and triage outcomes to help providers and hospitals better understand their patients. While doing so, TriageLogic has provided high quality care to callers by diverting patients without worrying symptoms with homecare advice or by scheduling telehealth visits.

With this data, TriageLogic extrapolated trends and insights to help the healthcare industry better understand the pandemic and patient responses to it. The white paper, “Nurse Triage: Patient Phone Calls About COVID-19,” is for all healthcare providers and organizations. 

The insights from this paper are helpful in explaining the importance of telephone triage and remote patient care. The numbers clearly support the fact that patients, in times of anxiety and genuine sickness, turned to these lines because they are an effective, convenient, and safe alternative to going to the emergency room or doctor’s office. This has helped alleviate the healthcare system during a time of record hospital admissions due to COVID-19.

This data is provided to the medical community in hopes that it sheds light on patients and their behavior during this challenging time. 

TriageLogic

TriageLogic (info@triagelogic.com) is a URAC-accredited, physician-led provider of top-quality nurse telehealth technology, remote patient monitoring, and medical call center solutions, all with the purpose of encouraging positive patient behavior and improving access to healthcare. Founded in 2006, the TriageLogic Group now serves more than 9,000 physicians and covers over 20 million lives nationwide.

COVID-19 Hotline Screens Patients and Connects Them to Physicians


TriageLogic


The governor of New Jersey has decided to offer a COVID-19 hotline in the state to help address the pandemic and the challenges it brings. Implementing emergency support solutions like a 24/7 hotline provides Governor Phil Murphy and his administration thehttps://triagelogic.com/ tools they need to help burdened hospitals and identify patients who need further care. New Jersey has equipped themselves with operators to screen callers, and they have an option for automated screening using CDC based guidelines. The operators connect the patients to an NDS physician if further testing and treatment is needed.

As the COVID-19 pandemic progresses, cities, counties, and states like New Jersey have realized that changes must be made to accommodate the influx of patients that doctors and hospitals see. Considering the challenges that the coronavirus brings, many healthcare organizations have set up COVID-19 hotlines. These hotlines answer frequent questions and screen patients to either direct them to the care they need or reassure them that it’s safe to stay home. Telephone triage companies help these hotlines by screening patients with a fully automated system and sending information about the patients to providers when a further medical visit is appropriate.

The Benefits

Balancing workloads and optimizing time management for doctors and nurses at a time like this is vital for an effective community response. It’s important to understand that parsing or deciphering between sick patients and those who just need reassurance is a big part of navigating this pandemic successfully. Because of this, cities, counties, and states need the capability to screen patients based on established guidelines with trained, non-nurse staff or with a fully automated system.

It’s no secret that many people today prefer to use their smart phones or computers instead of placing a phone call. Many organizations that understand this strive to make systems for screening and information accessible and easy to use. In addition to being user friendly, fully or partly automated phone lines can save countless man-hours and cut costs. Telephone triage lines have seen call volume skyrocket since the onset of the coronavirus, overwhelming call centers and multiplying phone line costs.

With so many callers, calls cannot be taken in real time and caller information is delayed in getting to healthcare providers. A remote patient communication system ensures that pertinent information is collected and relayed to the proper caregiver promptly. The automated system that New Jersey has implemented avoids these extra costs and collects more of the patient information that providers would need to follow up, all while maintaining social distancing.

How it Works

A good telephone triage company will set up a custom screening process in conjunction with the medical director of the organization. The screening process should be client-specific and customizable.

Then a custom screening tool based on the state’s or municipality’s requirements should be built. Users would come to a website and access a link or can call a hotline number to speak to an agent. The patient information as well as the results of their screening should be captured in a HIPAA compliant system.

Users should be sent information based on their questions. The users who need further care should have their information sent to the appropriate physician for follow-up.

Patients who show symptoms of COVID-19 and need testing will need a visit with a telehealth doctor—of the state or municipality’s choosing—to be evaluated further or to get a prescription for testing if indicated.

TriageLogic

Products like TriageLogic use triage protocol and demographic data in compilation with a client-specific algorithm that separates distinct kinds of patients and funnels them through the correct channels to an appropriate provider. The process is concise, saving healthcare organizations the most valuable resource of all: time. 

Making this careful triage easily available to its citizens helps states, like New Jersey, manage the incursion of sick patients they are likely to see or have already seen. A telephone triage system can help support communities by offering the same remote systems that New Jersey has implemented

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


TriageLogic

Lessons from Nurse Triage Calls

By Dr. Ravi Raheja, MD 

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

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

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

The First Two Weeks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TriageLogic

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

Protocols Updated to Cover Coronavirus


TriageLogic


To address Coronavirus concerns, Doctors Schmitt and Thompson have updated their Clinical Content protocols. The coronavirus protocols include appropriate questions to screen patients who may be at risk as well as dispositions based on symptoms and exposure. The protocols also contain pertinent information from a public health reporting perspective to help prevent the spread of the virus. 

Coronavirus is a respiratory disease caused by a new strain of coronavirus, first detected in China, has now been diagnosed throughout most of the world. The virus is named SARS-CoV-2, and the disease it causes has been named coronavirus disease 2019, abbreviated COVID-19. On January 30, 2020, the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee of the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern. 

At this time, there is no vaccine to protect against COVID-19 and no medications approved to treat it. According to the CDC, nonpharmaceutical interventions are the most important response strategy. As the virus outbreak continues to evolve, TriageLogic will provide its clients with the latest information to allow for the best-possible patient care. 

TriageLogic

Contact TriageLogic if you have questions about their protocols or if you would like their triage nurses to be available to answer your patient phone calls. To learn more about COVID-19, see information from the World Health Organization

TriageLogic Implements Emergency COVID-19 Hotlines and Remote Care Solutions


TriageLogic

TriageLogic announced easy-to-implement solutions that hospitals, medical organizations, and health centers can use for patient care during the COVID-19 crisis. As the healthcare sector adapts to the coronavirus pandemic, many medical professionals work around the clock to implement emergency support solutions for patients who present worrying symptoms, as well as those who need help understanding the guidelines for care. 

The following solutions have minimal implementation time requirements:

  • A Coronavirus-trained hotline is available 24/7 to screen patient questions, provide information, and follow scripts on behalf of specific practices and medical groups. With a significant increase in patient calls, the ability to discern which ones require additional medical attention and which are only seeking advice is paramount to a functional office staff. 
  • Nurse triage software with Covid-19 protocols, through MyTriageChecklist, is a fast-to-train, web-enabled software that provides continuity in patient care and education. It takes less than an hour to implement, does not store any sensitive patient information, and offers an easy-to-use interface to ensure nurses consistently ask and document all relevant questions related to patient symptoms. 
  • Remote call center with phone system can enable your certified nurses to work at any location connected to a call center-grade, HIPAA-compliant phone system. This allows an organization to keep their clinical staff at home and coordinate as a team to remotely evaluate patients.

“We are working around the clock to help our current clients as well as other health centers put processes in place to help patients and concerned callers. We are also working with remote monitoring companies to have a process in place to help patients at risk, or after a hospitalization at their homes,” said TriageLogic’s Ravi Raheja, MD.

TriageLogic

TriageLogic offers easy to implement solutions for healthcare organizations to address the COVID-19 crisis. This includes setting up information hotlines, giving nurses the tools to evaluate patients over the phone, and helping set up remote call center phone systems. Visit www.triagelogic.com for more information or email info@triagelogic.com.

Implementing Virtual Call Centers with Telehealth Systems to Address COVID-19


TriageLogic


TriageLogic announced a quick-to-deploy and easy-to-use telehealth system with a virtual call center that hospitals, medical organizations, and health centers can use for patient care during the COVID-19 crisis.

As health organizations adapt to the coronavirus pandemic, they look for a system they can deploy quickly for staff and nurses to work remotely to set up doctor visits, answer patient questions, evaluate their symptoms, and determine who needs further evaluation by a doctor. Team members can communicate with their physicians and set up two-way video visits using secure, HIPAA-compliant texting options that do not require the use of a mobile app. This allows the remote hospital associates to set up and coordinate telehealth visits for doctors instead of in-person visits.

Nurses can also be included in the solution by having COVID-19 and other medical protocols available in a web-based system. The information from the phone call can be exported to the hospital’s EMR system or be integrated with Salesforce.

TriageLogic can deploy the following solutions related to sending staff home:

  • Cloud-based HIPAA compliant call center telephony system for coordination of remote staff
  • Phone system to connect remote workers with queueing and full contact center capability
  • COVID-19 nurse triage protocols for use with existing EMR or CRM such as Salesforce
  • Web-based triage software with COVID-19 and other protocols
  • Coordination of telemedicine visits between non-clinical, nurses, and doctors in client EMR
  • TriageLogic assists in recommending efficient workflow and implementation of two-way video visits

Additional solutions such as a fully staffed COVID-19 hotline and remote patient monitoring are also available. “TriageLogic was able to set up a telehealth system within a couple of days for our nurses and doctors to work remotely and continue their medical visits,” said Melinda, director of PPM business operations for a large children’s hospital.

TriageLogic

Visit www.TriageLogic.com or email info@triagelogic.com for more information.

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


TriageLogic

By Ravi K. Raheja, MD

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

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

Set-up a Virtual Doctor Office

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

Here are some things to consider:

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

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

Software System

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

TriageLogic

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

1Call Offers Free Licensing to Customers and Advice in Response to COVID-19 Crisis


1Call, a division of Amtelco

1Call, a division of Amtelco, announced the offering of free licensing to their customers during COVID-19.

“1Call has recently expanded its mission statement, adding ‘It’s All About the Why,’ said Tom Curtin, president of Amtelco and their 1Call Healthcare Division. “This has been implemented company-wide to reaffirm the reasons why we do what we do through the original company motto created in 1976—to provide the most innovative solutions backed by the industry’s best customer support.”

1Call is offering free operator, supervisor, and call recording licenses to all customers to assist with the increased call volumes because of the COVID-19 virus. They are also advising their customers on how to leverage their existing 1Call solutions during this crisis. 

Examples include:

  • Implementing a work from home model using a concurrent licensing structure and free additional licensing offer
  • Creating new custom codes specific to COVID-19
  • Utilizing 1Call software’s inherent skills-based call routing tool to ensure specific calls go to the right operators
  • Producing new scripted workflows to help guide new operators through any scenario
  • Leveraging group messaging and mass notification capabilities, which references directory listings, on-call schedules, statuses, and preferred contact methods
  • Recording new automated greetings and pre-call announcements to guide callers to the appropriate departments
1Call, a division of Amtelco

1Call features a complete line of modular solutions specifically designed to streamline enterprise-wide healthcare communications, save an organization’s limited resources, and help them bring wellness to their patients and their bottom line. For more information visit 1Call.com and contact them at 800-225-6035 or info@1call.com.