Whether independently operated or part of a larger network of home health providers, there are many different applications where partnering with a call center service can help maintain business operations, or even expand them.
The services offered by call center providers today go beyond simply answering and fielding phone calls. Their capabilities allow them to help with management of staff, allocation of certified or skilled resources, and ensure HIPAA compliance.
“For home health agencies, what’s really critical is that they have a [solution] in place that ensures 100% of the time, internal and external callers are always going to get someone who answers the call and can deliver what’s needed,” says Rich Press, Stericycle Communication Solutions’ national account manager for home health.
But gone are the days when call centers simply answered and redirected calls. Stericycle Communication Solutions handles more than 100 million call transactions annually with more than 1,000 home health and home care locations among them. Many of the calls today cover the bases when agencies are short staffed or are not open, but additional services are rising in demand as well.
Here are six ways call centers are working with home health providers to streamline service and operations.
1. Providing a live voice. Some agencies have forwarding systems that send callers to a staff member’s cell phone. But it takes management of that system without a call center in place, Press says, to avoid the outcome of sending a caller to an answering machine.
“Agencies have a need after hours, on weekends and on holidays for someone to answer their phone. A human being projects a sense of compassion. All of these [companies] are in the business of being compassionate and caring and this acts as an extension of their own staff.”
2. Fielding urgent care calls. Call center employees can be trained to determine the urgency of a call, and direct the service accordingly. While a large percentage of calls are not urgent, Press says, a small proportion need attention immediately.
“A human being is able to ask questions and apply protocols that are unique to each [agency] that allow us to triage that call and learn if someone needs to deal with that call immediately,” he says.
3. Appointment reminders. Call centers can take calls, but they can also make calls—to remind customers about upcoming appointments, or for medication reminders. Stericycle’s system is integrated with electronic medical record systems to automate the process.
4. Turning calls into sales. “For certified agencies, business doesn’t come from someone who is shopping,” Press says. “It’s a referral from city or state agencies who need a skilled nurse or aide. They may have referral partners who will call in those needs in the evenings. If the response is not good, they are not going to want to work with that agency.”
And extension to full time, all-hours staff can help take the calls, rather than losing the potential business, he says.
5. Ensuring HIPAA compliance. Today’s call center has the capability to relay information over the phone, but also via encrypted text message. There are systems available to ensure that all communication is HIPAA compliant.
6. Driving staffing efficiencies. For skilled services such as the care of a Registered Nurse, companies can use a call center to reduce the number of hours an RN needs to work, instead placing that nurse on call.
“If you are paying an RN to be on call all night you’re paying that person for eight to 10 hours and the chance that he or she doesn’t get any phone calls,” Press says. A call center staffed with registered nurses in each state can take those inquires on a per-call basis.
Written by Elizabeth Ecker