Call Centers that process calls for the healthcare industry have the same needs as other call centers, plus more. These call centers handle a variety of functions such as telephone triage, PBX/console call routing, emergency dispatch, nurse call, on-call scheduling, appointment setting, insurance claims, or physicians’ answering service. (Telephone triage is an especially specialized medical call center function; see “Telephone Triage” for more information.) While no medical call center would attempt to handle all of these functions, many have more than one specialty, especially hospital-based call centers.
According to Amcom’s Steve Green, “A primary role of the [medical] call center is to help the hospital compete for ‘customers’ – that is, for the physicians who bring in the patients. The call center must provide services that keep physicians happy – especially paging services, call processing (with accurate transfers/connections and short hold times), messaging, and registry/locator services.” This is true rather it is an internal hospital-based call center or an outsource call center.
Equipment that is applicable for an outsource call center is generally appropriate for the medical call center as well. Many vendors, however, have added features to address the unique needs of the medical call center. Here is a brief overview of what is available for a healthcare related call center:
1Call: A division of Amtelco: To meet the specific needs of the medical community, each healthcare facility can design a custom system by selecting the appropriate modules:
Console Call Answering: Answer and transfer calls quickly and easily.
On-Call Scheduling: Let physicians and staff members enter their own on-call schedules. The schedules are automated, ensuring that the information agents see is always current.
Appointment Taking: Simplify appointment scheduling for physicians and personnel, as well as for rooms and equipment. Appointment reminders can also be sent.
Class Registration: Register callers for classes, with tools such as enrollment sizes and automatic reminders.
Help Desk: Scripts with branching capabilities guide agents through various types of questions, helping them find solutions for callers and staff.
Patient Placement: Enter information about incoming patients, refer patients to other facilities, and verify room availability.
Physician Referral: Search multiple criteria to help refer the appropriate physician to each caller.
R.E.D. Alert: Instantly notify personnel and groups about internal and external emergencies or disasters, including instructions on what they should do.
IVR (Interactive Voice Response): Automates routine phone calls.
eConferenceLink Web Conferencing: Offer on-line classes, seminars, meetings, or training sessions to the community and to employees. Attendees join a conference call for audio and use a Web browser to see the information being presented.
Just Say It Speech Recognition: Provide internal and external callers an easy way to route their calls using speech recognition.
Perfect Answer: Simplify call handling with prerecorded messages in each agent’s voice.
Voice Logger: Automatically record all calls, enabling facilities to ensure accuracy.
For more information, contact 1Call at 800-356-9148 or email@example.com.
Amcom Software Inc.: Amcom software products unify existing telephone, paging, and computer information systems to create a comprehensive call center solution. Core products include:
Speech Recognition: Amcom Smart Speech applications enable call centers to process a majority of routine phone requests including directory assistance, messaging, and paging independently of an agent and with more ease of use than touchtone.
Paging Management: Comprehensive paging execution, monitoring, and archival documentation. The system’s design provides a transparent front end for agents and users of IVR, speech, and Web-initiated pages to all paging devices (in-house and wide-area pagers, cell phones, and PDA’s).
PC Attendant Console: Workstations automate agent tasks and integrate caller and directory information in one PC-based application. Screen-based interactive functions include automatic screen displays (screen pops) of incoming calls, single button call transfers, conferencing, speed dialing, and other telephony functions. This Windows-based application provides easy access to database information, messaging, and staff tracking options. Features and options include:
- IVR: Applications include auto attendant, page request, meet-me paging, status change, message storage, wake-up call, and event notification.
- Event Notification and Response: Initiates, monitors, and manages emergency notifications of all types, automatically delivering the message, collecting the responses, escalating if needed, and logging all activities for reporting and analysis.
- Web-Based Applications: Employees and other authorized users can do directory searches, view scrolling rosters, update status and availability, view and maintain monthly on-call calendars, and activate pages from the Internet via PCs or wireless devices.
For more information, call 800-852-8935.
LVM Systems: LVM’s components of their e-Centaurus system are designed to position the medical call center as the communication hub. The primary modules include:
- Physician Referral
- Physician to Physician Consult
- Service Referral
- Class & Screening Registration
- Health Information
- Contact Management
- Literature / Brochure Fulfillment
- Answering Service
- Behavioral Health Intake
- Membership Registry
- Complaint / Suggestion Tracking
For telephone triage, LVM has collaborated with Drs. Barton Schmitt and David Thompson, to make available the most tested and clinically proven protocols. Additionally, LVM will customize the software screens and fields to support a center’s unique call process. It includes:
Medication / Dosage Calculator: When over–the-counter medications are recommended within, the nurse can access the software’s dosage calculator – saving time while enhancing accuracy.
Frequently Used Protocols: This feature presents a pick list of the top protocols and can be changed as needed to reflect seasonal variations.
Question or Advice-specific Comments: e-Centaurus allows ad hoc information to be captured at the point in the call where it occurs.
Adjustable Views: LVM provides two ways to view triage questions: one at a time or full screen (showing many questions in sequence) to suit nurse preferences.
Remote Access: Staff for short periods of peak call volumes or tap into more abundant labor pools. LVM supports Citrix or MS Terminal Server and has successfully implemented remote access at several client sites.
For more information, contact LVM at 480-633-8200, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Startel: Healthcare organizations use Startel equipment to centralize existing hospital telephone systems into one main call center. Startel’s healthcare clients can make use of the following features in their call center:
OnCall Scheduling: Automatically displays time and date sensitive information when a call is presented to an agent. Clients, departments, or specified individuals can enter and update information. On-call schedules can be accessed through a Web browser for a convenient updating interface. Internet users have their own security log-ins and all activity is tracked in a detailed history file. Information can be categorized by primary on-call and backup(s).
Time Activated Alerts: Users can enter an unlimited number of agent instructions that are automatically displayed to call center staff during specific time intervals. When a call is presented to an agent, all instructions that are applicable to that day and time will be automatically displayed.
Answer-with-a-Smile: Automatically plays client-specific greetings using the actual voice of the agent answering the call. Various greetings can be recorded and played based upon time-of-day and day-of-week, creating versatility and flexibility for supporting all of your departmental or client needs.
Voice Logger: The voice logger will automatically record the phone conversations in an MP3 format, storing them as discreet digital recordings for future playback.
HIPAA Compliance: Startel has added additional system security features as well as privacy and transaction tracking features to assist medical call centers in protecting personal information, as specified by HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act).
Contact Startel at 800-782-7835.
Telescan: Telescan recognizes the importance of effective call processing in the healthcare market. “The ability to speak to an actual agent is more important in the medical industry. Voice prompt doesn’t work well in a medical emergency,” stated Lee Mueller of Telescan.
Spectrum Messenger is a secured, selective instant messaging system. With Spectrum Messenger, a client can directly contact call center agents through email to update information or advise them of any necessary changes. At anytime of day or night, a doctor may notify the service through text message, PDA or through basic email of schedule changes or patient information.
Spectrum On-Call Scheduler helps track the medical community’s complex schedules. With this program, the call center can manage the on-call schedule for a physician or group, including combined schedules for large groups or a weekend shared schedule.
Spectrum VMail: Telescan is planning to introduce Spectrum VMail, a full function application that brings integrated voice messaging to the Prism platform; Spectrum IVR, interactive voice response, and companion to VMail.
Spectrum Data Manager is also expected to be released this year. It will combine a high-performance database server with a full-range of networking and reporting capabilities.
Xtend Communications Corp: Xtend Communications has provided call-processing systems to various industries, including healthcare, since 1967. Here is a brief overview of the systems and modules they have to offer:
MediCall: Designed specifically for the healthcare industry, MediCall is a Windows-based CTI application that gives agents visual access to advanced telephony capabilities from their computer, delivering information about the call before it is answered. Alphanumeric messages can be delivered through email, pager, fax, or on-screen. All PBX functions such as overhead and radio pages, park and page, and code calls are automated with MediCall.
Paging Gateway is an integrated paging platform that enables staff to generate pages – voice, numeric, or alphanumeric – with or without staff intervention. IVR-type voice prompts and single keystroke execution allows end-users and agents to initiate pages both on and off-premises. This system can handle thousands of pages per hour, automatically log the page request, provide unanswered page notification, and reduce paging errors.
WebXchange provides enterprise-wide on-line, up-to-date directory information services centralized into one easy access format is a necessity. This can be combined with on-call scheduling abilities and radio paging.
STARchive is an on demand system for recording, archiving, and delivering telephone calls and their content from any phone, anywhere. STARchive stores and delivers the content of the call as a .wav file.
Marathon is a digital call recording and logging solution that offers voice recording, retrieval, archival, and call management on an open systems platform.
Flash Alert is a mass notification communication solution that provides a centralized command center for alerting and notifying personnel – simultaneously or within a pre-defined period – of an impending issue.
AnswerPro is a powerful Windows-based CTI application that gives call center agents visual access to advanced telephony capabilities right from their desktop computer.
[From Connection Magazine – April 2004]