Healthcare Call Centers

What Kind of Healthcare Coverage Do You Provide to Your Staff?

Take Steps to Meet the Healthcare Needs of Your Healthcare Call Center Staff

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

I enjoy going to the zoo with family. We go several times each year. A special bonus are those opportunities to interact with the zookeepers and learn more about the animals under their care. During a recent visit we had the privilege of an extended discussion with one of the caretakers after she tended to the zoo’s three lions.

She shared insider information about their feeding, their training, and their healthcare. After covering the extensive medical care these three amazing creatures receive—the testing, monitoring, medication, and access to specialists—she grew momentarily somber. “They receive much better healthcare than I do.” We sadly nodded that we understood. Then she perked up and resumed telling us about these animals that she so clearly loves.

I wonder if a similar thing happens in our healthcare call centers. Do employees hang up from a phone call and shake their heads in dismay, muttering “That caller receives far better healthcare than I do.”? I hope not, but I fear it’s true far more often than it’s not.

It may be understandable for this to happen occasionally, but it’s inexcusable if it happens often. This needs to change. Take steps to better meet the healthcare needs of healthcare call center staff.

To expect workers in healthcare call centers to serve patients and callers with excellence, they must first have a good perspective for them to work from. This includes providing healthcare workers with adequate healthcare coverage and services.

Falling short of doing so handicaps them from performing their jobs with distinction and serving callers with appropriate empathy. It would be like making restaurant staff work on an empty stomach but expecting it to not impact their patrons’ experience.

Call centers invest money on ongoing agent training, coaching, and quality assurance programs. Make sure to also invest in call center staff’s healthcare. This will help ensure that they better connect with the people they talk to on the phone, without negativity and resentment showing through.

A key aspect of enabling call-center staff to best meet the healthcare needs of callers is to start by making sure you best meet the healthcare needs of your staff. If you find yourself needing to make changes, you may not be able to fix everything all at one time. But you can move in that direction. Start today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of AnswerStat and Medical Call Center News, covering the healthcare call center industry.

Healthcare Call Centers

The Medical Call Centers’ Role in Telemedicine

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Peter DeHaan, Publisher and Editor of AnswerStat

AnswerStat magazine was present at the recent American Telemedicine Association (ATA) 2008 Annual Meeting. The event was held April 6-8 in Seattle Washington. Over 2,200 attendees were treated to a plethora of educational and informative presentations, as well as a packed trade show with more than 160 telemedicine vendors.

In addition to covering the event, AnswerStat magazine sponsored a half-day, educational session, entitled “The Medical Call Centers’ Role in Telemedicine.” Peter DeHaan, publisher of AnswerStat, served as the event’s moderator.

The course faculty included a stellar group of industry experts, including:

  • Peter Dehnel, MD, medical director at Children’s Health Network Triage Service in Minneapolis MN
  • Carol M. Stock, JD, MN, RN, principal at Carol M. Stock & Associates in Seattle, WA
  • Lois Scott, RN, BScN, MN, vice president for McKesson Canada, from Moncton, NB, Canada
  • Marlene Grasser, RN, regional sales director for LVM Systems, Inc., which is based in Mesa, AZ

Dr. Peter Dehnel started the day’s instruction with his presentation, “From Telephone to Telemedicine and Beyond…” In covering his topic, Dr Dehnel looked at the past in order to understand the present and envision the future.

Among many other talking points, he used two gripping analogies to give perspective. First, he asked us to recall a 60s muscle car. Although impressive and enviable at the time, it no longer possesses the same panache. As such, our industry is changing. Our industry must change. There are cost increases to manage and new technologies to embrace.

Secondly, he used the relative safety of air travel to point out that six sigma is not enough; one hundred percent accuracy is essential – both in air travel and in healthcare. Standardization can be implemented to result in increased reliability and greater accuracy.

Next up was Carol Stock who covered “Legal, Regulatory, and Licensure Compliance for a Successful Medical Call Center.” Carol pointed out that laws often lag behind technology and the current reality in which call centers find themselves. This requires diligence and thoughtful planning in how we implement technology today in the absence of guiding regulation. For call centers that handle calls from multiple states, nurse licensing – a state-by-state requirement – offers an added challenge that must be addressed. She also discussed HIPAA and call recording legalities, as well as emerging technologies, such as live nurse chat.

The “Evolution and Future of Telehealth Contact Centres: An International Perspective” was presented by Lois Scott. Lois enlightened attendees on correcting the myths of the Canadian health system. She also described how telenursing (both over the phone and through video) can greatly increase effectiveness and reach. In this regard, Canada leads the way, given its population is greatly dispersed over a large geographic area. This development is especially important given the growing shortage of nurses; it is a trend that will find worldwide adoption.

Marlene Grasser concluded the session with pragmatic direction in technology selection for medical call centers. Her presentation was entitled, “Decision Support Software for the Healthcare Contact Center.” Among many other topics, she discussed key call center differentiators, including triage, referrals, survey tools, and disease management. She concluded with guidance on selecting and using call center management tools, an often-overlooked element of successful call center management.

The international assemblage of attendees was then treated to an insightful Q and A opportunity that allowed all four speakers to respond to questions and comments from the audience. The entire set of presentations was well-received and highly-rated.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of AnswerStat and Medical Call Center News, covering the healthcare call center industry.

[From the June/July 2008 issue of AnswerStat magazine]