By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.
Some healthcare call centers embrace the work-at-home option, while others are categorically against it. Let’s explore the pros and cons of using home-based agents, along with the potential risks of embracing or dismissing this option.
Benefits of Home-Based Agents
There are two primary reasons to use home-based agents to staff your medical call center. The main reason is to tap into a larger labor pool of qualified employees. This is especially critical given the nationwide shrinkage of credentialed healthcare workers.
A secondary reason is the potential to attract lower-cost personnel. This is because they live in areas with a lower cost of living. Though reducing labor costs should never be the driving force in pursuing work-at-home staff, it may be an exciting side benefit.
Concerns About Home-Based Agents
Opponents to hiring work at home staff site management challenges and HIPAA concerns. This is certainly understandable. Employees who are physically present are easier to oversee. When do they work from home, who knows what they’re doing?
However, keep in mind that in the healthcare industry, on-site call center workers receive more scrutiny than most and are the easiest to manage. Whereas, off-site call center workers have a level of supervision comparable to most other healthcare workers.
The Risk of Using Home-Based Agents
This concern over management brings up the risk of hiring work-at-home staff for your call center. Call center managers fear a HIPAA breach and PHI being abused and misappropriated. The key, however, is not a location but employee ethics. An unethical employee is just as likely to misuse PHI on-site as off-site. It’s just that they must work harder to access and misuse the information if they’re on-site. By the same logic, an ethical employee will treat PHI appropriately whether on-site or off-site. The fear over hiring off-site call center staff is understandable, but hiring the right staff negates this concern.
The Risk of Not Using Home-Based Agents
The chief risk of not using work-at-home agents is the risk of not being able to fully staff your call center. That’s a disservice to callers and causes your existing staff to work even harder, which may result in burnout and resignations. Tapping home-based agents is a smart way to avoid this from happening.
When determining if work-at-home agents are the right solution for your call center, look at the pros and cons. Then factor in the risks. That will guide you to the right decision.