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The Single Call That Can Reduce Readmissions

by Wendy Smith

Readmission prevention remains at the forefront of hospital initiatives. The penalties for not meeting readmission standards numbers are stiff and even the best acute management practices and discharge plans do not counter all the factors that lead to readmission. As an outsourced medical call center, we offer several successful patient engagement programs and our experience tells us that all of them begin with one important call.

The three main causes for readmission are:

  • Patients don’t follow the right medication regime
  • Patients and/or caregivers don’t understand the treatment plan
  • Patients don’t follow up with the physician

With this in mind, TeamHealth Medical Call Center has found that the single most important post discharge call happens within 48 hours of discharge. Our statistics show that a call made in this time frame is the most effective means of correcting patient misunderstandings, promoting risk management and reducing readmissions.

Patients and/or their caregivers do not always pay strict attention to discharge instructions as they are discharged from the hospital. This initial call can clarify medication or care instructions and alleviate confusion over normal and abnormal symptoms. Often patients don’t know what to look for or what signifies an increased health risk. A nurse or patient coordinator can discuss concerns at the beginning of the patient’s recovery period and provide guidance on when to call or see the doctor. This same call can also stress the importance of keeping scheduled follow-up appointments with the doctor.

Whether the call is made in-house or through an outsourced healthcare call center, telephone contact within 48 hours of discharge can coordinate patient care as they transition from the hospital to home or other setting and can set the stage for their recovery.

At TeamHealth Medical Call Center, our specialized patient experience staff knows how to make post hospital calls that increase compliance with discharge instructions and medication regimes. A phone call, or series of calls, from one of our trained nurses or patient coordinators can clear up care misunderstandings, schedule follow-up appointments and provide condition specific health literature and supporting materials, particularly with high risk patients. We’re experts in the field of readmissions reduction and our experience stands ready to help you navigate this challenging issue.

TeamHealth Medical Call Center is the nation’s premier provider of branded medical call center services including telephone nurse triage and readmissions prevention programs. To receive our ROI report on Outsourcing Readmission Prevention Services, click here or call Karen Brown, RN, at 865-985-7304 or Jeanne Griffin at 865-985-7303.

Wendy Smith

Wendy Smith

By |September 30, 2014|Blog, Patient Engagement|Comments Off on The Single Call That Can Reduce Readmissions

Nurse Essay Contest – Why I Love Telephone Triage

 And the runners up are….

We posted the winner of our first Telephone Nurse Triage Essay contest a couple days ago along with her winning essay. As we noted then, it was hard to choose a runner-up among all the other entries and we finally came to the decision that three nurses would share that honor; Susan Whitaker, RN; Rebecca Boyd, RN; and Kathryn McGinn, RN.

We’d like to wish them congratulations and thank them for their wonderful work. They received gift cards and their essays are published below.

Once again, we’d like to thank all our nurses who felt so strongly about their work that they took the time to write about it.


Why I Love Telephone Triage

By Rebecca Boyd, RN

As a brand new telephone triage nurse I took a call from a mom one night who was very concerned. The chief complaint was that the baby was twitching and less than a month old. The mom was understandably worried. During the call, we determined that the child might be having seizure activity and that mom needed to get the baby to the hospital.

Mom was very upset and crying. Dad was able to call 911 in the background, but while talking to mom, I heard a strange noise. The mother was so concerned and upset. She was crying that she was a bad mother because he would twitch when he ate and she should have known better. I was trying to calm her down and let her that was normal with feeding. I let her know she was a good mom, that’s why she called. However, the noise I heard was the baby seizing in the swing while we were talking. Mom screamed and began crying more. I was able to talk to her until EMS arrived and reassure her that she had not missed a sign or neglected a symptom and that she was a wonderful, concerned mommy.

Thankfully, EMS arrived and took care of them. We were all in tears by the end of the call. I am sure there were many more terrifying moments to come for that young family, but knowing that I was there for her in that crisis and was able to reassure her that she was a good mother and that we would take care of her was wonderful. We don’t always get to find out what happens to our callers after we hang up, but knowing we helped them through a crisis is such a blessing. It really reinforces why having a calm, knowledgeable voice on our end of the phone line is so helpful and even lifesaving. I would not trade these moments of comforting someone for anything.


What It Means To Me To Be A Triage Nurse

By Kathryn McGinn

I have to reference one of my all-time favorite calls to answer this question. I returned a call from a mother of a little boy who was very concerned that he was not gaining weight appropriately. She was very concerned that her breast milk was not “good enough” for her son. As a huge breastfeeding supporter, I was very excited to offer my advice to this mother. Her son had several medical problems and was due for a weigh in at the end of the week and, if he hadn’t gained enough weight, they were going to recommend formula. She was devastated at the thought that she could not provide for her son.

I spoke to her for quite a while about her concerns and reassured her that she was doing a great job. I told her that even though she may have to offer formula she could continue to breastfeed and he would still get the benefits from her breast milk. I advised her that she was doing everything right in providing her son’s nutrition and that some babies as just slow gainers. I also advised her to share her concerns with her son’s medical team.

She was so relieved at the end of my call and I was very pleased to be able to offer her some encouragement and advice. I still think about him all the time and wonder how both of them are doing.

Triage nursing, as with nursing in general, gives me the opportunity to step into a person’s life for a matter of minutes and offer some help. It can be just a few words that calm a family in time of crisis, verifying a patients concern and plan of action, or just answering question that weighs heavy on a heart. Sometimes, just having a calm and reassuring voice on the other end of the line when you are scared and concerned can make things a little more manageable. I don’t always have all the answers, but I can direct a patient to someone who does. Sometimes as a parent we just need to know that we are doing the right things to keep our kids healthy and safe. From my own experience with my own child, I know that sometimes it can be calming to just hear someone tell you what you already knew in your heart. It is a privilege to step into these people’s lives, and be “the calm during the storm”.

Many of those we talk to have no experience in the medical field, other than being a patient. Many are scared new parents, sent home from the hospital without a manual.  Our patients come from all walks of life, but they all need a little bit of help for whatever they are handling. Having someone to talk to at all hours of the day and night is a blessing and I am just glad that I can be there on the other end of the line when needed.


Why I Love Telephone Triage

By Susan Whitaker, RN, CLNC, BSHA

I am learning that telephonic triage nursing is a specialty where there is only one assumption that can be made. That assumption is that the person on the other end of the call is calling because they need help either for themselves, their infant or child, their parent or someone else.

The art of triage nursing to me is acute and active listening skills and asking the appropriate questions without stopping the caller‘s questions. This may be called appropriate timing.

The caller is often worried about one area, but after speaking with the nurse becomes worried about a different issue. The nurse’s judgment and knowledge, as well as training in telephone triage, will lead him/her to elicit the facts needed to direct the caller to the appropriate level of care and when that care should be sought.

Professional satisfaction in my work as a triage nurse is variable and abundant. For example, the mom who surprised the nurse with a subsequent call about another child remembered the nurses voice from the initial call and said, “You were the nurse who helped with our 4 day old son who had his first seizure….you told us to call an ambulance and we did. He was admitted to the hospital for a few days in the NICU and is doing well now”.

That is what this work means and, even if I don’t hear these beautiful comments frequently, that is enough for me. I do believe that we help people have positive outcomes that otherwise they would not have without access to a highly trained RN 24/7 365.

For this I am glad to help.


By |September 18, 2014|Blog, Telephone Triage|Comments Off on Nurse Essay Contest – Why I Love Telephone Triage

Nurse Essay Contest – Why I Love Telephone Triage

And the Winner is….

We had our first Telephone Nurse Triage Essay contest in August and received many wonderful and heartfelt entries. We are humbled by the commitment and spirit of our nurses who put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) to tell us how they feel about their livelihoods as tele-triage nurses.

Cindy and Lyn sm

Executive Director Cindy Reed presents essay contest winner Lyn Brown, RN, with a gift card

The winner of the essay contest is Lyn Brown, RN. We’d like to offer up a big congratulations to her for her good work. Lyn has been with us for  seven and a half years and is known for her compassion, clinical knowledge and excellent customer service skills. She won a $100 gift card and her essay follows.

It was difficult to choose among all the others entries for a runner-up. In the end, we opted that three nurses would share that honor: Susan Whitaker, RN; Rebecca Boyd, RN; and Kathryn McGinn, RN. Congratulations are in order for them as well. They will receive gift cards and their essays will be published in a separate blog.

We’d like to thank all our nurses who participated in this essay contest. It’s an honor and privilege to work with such dedicated people.


Why I Love Tele-Triage

By Lyn Brown, RN

“Hello, thank you for calling me back.  I haven’t given my baby anything to drink, but she is still vomiting.  Her fever just won’t go away.  Please help, she’s so sick.”

This story, other stories, other pleas – these are bumps in people’s lives. I feel so blessed and privileged to be able to help point them in the right direction; to be part of the professional group of people who respond to the sometimes desperate cries for assistance. The few minutes that I speak with the caller can make a difference in the outcome of his or her situation.

When I go home after my shift, I feel tired, but I am confident that the sleep-deprived new mother is assured she can do this; that the caregiver is complimented that he his observations regarding his spouse are important; that the woman, who swears her shortness of breath with heavy chest pressure is not a heart attack, is persuaded that she perhaps, just maybe, is having a serious heart problem and needs to call 911. Although I don’t usually know the outcome of these calls, I am happy to be able to touch people’s lives from all over the United States in such a positive way.


By |September 17, 2014|Blog, Telephone Triage|Comments Off on Nurse Essay Contest – Why I Love Telephone Triage

TeamHealth Names Oliver Rogers Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer

Oliver Rogers

Oliver Rogers

(KNOXVILLE, Tenn.) Sept. 15, 2014 – TeamHealth Holdings Inc. (NYSE:TMH), one of the nation’s largest providers of outsourced physician staffing solutions for hospitals, announced the appointment of Oliver Rogers as the company’s executive vice president (EVP) and chief operating officer (COO) effective Sept. 15, 2014. Rogers previously served as the organization’s president of hospital based services.

“As EVP and COO, Oliver will play a key role in positioning TeamHealth for continued growth and operational success,” said Mike Snow, president and CEO of TeamHealth. “His depth of experience, proven leadership abilities and professional integrity are qualities that will strengthen TeamHealth’s reputation as a leading healthcare solutions organization.”

“I am honored to accept the position of EVP and COO,” said Rogers. “I look forward to continuing to work with our executive leadership team, affiliated clinicians and administrative teams to strengthen TeamHealth’s level of service excellence, operational efficiency and financial performance.”

Rogers has more than 35 years of management experience in a variety of healthcare organizations, including hospitals and large physician practice groups. He joined TeamHealth Southeast in 2003 as executive vice president and was promoted to CEO of that division in 2006. Under his leadership, TeamHealth Southeast experienced unprecedented growth and client retention. Rogers was promoted to president of TeamHealth hospital based services in 2010 and was responsible for national contract management of TeamHealth’s emergency medicine, hospital medicine, anesthesia, urgent care and specialty hospitalist service lines. Prior to joining TeamHealth, Rogers was responsible for a $1.5 billion revenue division of a publicly traded healthcare company. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina and a master’s degree in health administration from Duke University. Read More…

By |September 15, 2014|News & Events|Comments Off on TeamHealth Names Oliver Rogers Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer

Raising Call Quality Through a Strong Call Auditing System

By Teresa Pelizarri, RN, MSN

As a national outsourced medical call center representing some of the most prestigious organizations in the country, TeamHealth Medical Call Center is committed to unsurpassed service quality. To obtain comprehensive audits on the large volume of calls that we take monthly, we invested in the resources to develop an automated system that provides 100% documentation auditing on the pertinent elements of every call based on our quality standards.

In 2010, our in-house information technology department developed MCCCAMS, a TeamHealth proprietary auditing tool that documents listening and triage record audits and generates reports. One of our “must-haves” was the ability to track and trend listening audits through time according to three data groups: for the call center as a whole; for each nurse; and for the separate call-quality elements. We now conduct monthly listening audits using MCCCMS, which compiles the results to identify issues and trends.

Armed with the MCCCAMS reports, supervisors meet with the individual nurses to discuss their scores on the quality of the various call elements that are grouped under the following categories:

  • Communication (between nurse and caller)
  • Nursing advice
  • Documentation
  • Job knowledge

The call elements are “graded” using numeric scores and colors: green = “meets standards;” yellow = “needs improvement;” and red = “does not meet standards.” Any score with a red color code is immediately addressed with an action plan.

A robust call auditing system enables us to quickly identify and address performance issues with individual nurses or the entire call center and to identify our call center’s actionable items to continually improve the call process. We obtain a clear picture of where additional training might be needed, and our nurses can view their performance at a glance and know immediately where they need improvement and where they’ve improved.

Call auditing in a manner that allows us to constantly improve our services means that we can offer our clients tangible assurance that we have a comprehensive quality program in place. By developing our own audit tool, we are able to customize, refine and add or remove elements as needed to both meet changes in our processes and the needs of our clients.


Teresa Pelizzari, TeamHealth Medical Call Center Leadership, VP of Quality and Process Improvement

Teresa Pelizzari, MS, RN, BC

Teresa Pelizarri, RN, MSN, is the Vice President of Quality and Risk Management for TeamHealth Medical Call Center.

By |September 12, 2014|Blog, Quality Improvement|Comments Off on Raising Call Quality Through a Strong Call Auditing System