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Vice President of Business Development, Karen Brown’s Article Recently Featured in Connections Magazine

Article Recently Featured in Connections Magazine

Recently, TeamHealth’s Vice President of Business Development, Karen Brown, RN, wrote an article that was featured on the cover of Connections Magazine’s March/April 2018 issue. We are excited to share her article below, or you can read the original article on Connections Magazine’s website here.

From Efficiency to Experience: Three Major Benefits of a Medical Call Center Partnership

A medical call center partnership contributes to Organizational Efficiency.

Organizational Efficiency is defined as the ability to implement plans using the smallest possible expenditure of resources. It is an important factor in organizational effectiveness and vital to the healthcare industry which continues to experience increasing operating costs and smaller bottom lines.

Medicare expansion and the ACA have contributed to significant increases in patient populations that are a) expensive to treat, and b) provide minimal financial return. This increase can strain an organization seeking to provide adequate post-discharge care, which can result in costly avoidable readmissions.

As patient loads and associated risks increase and reimbursement decreases, the ability to achieve Organizational Efficiency becomes more and more challenging. However, providing the highest possible quality patient care at the lowest possible operating expense can be possible with the assistance of a medical call center. By partnering with a call center’s team of Registered Nurses specially trained in telephone triage, organizations can save a significant amount of time and cost associated with adding staff while reducing the risk of unnecessary readmissions and inappropriate utilization of care.

Telehealth and related services are a large part of a very bright future.

It is no secret that telehealth services and telemedicine are becoming increasingly popular due to the financial benefits they provide. Combined with federal policy changes (MACRA and MIPS) that address care planning and risk assessment – significantly effecting reimbursement in the process – telemedicine is poised to drive more revenue from virtual care directly to hospitals and healthcare organizations. And this is just the beginning: according to a recent report from Grand View Research, the telemedicine market is expected to top $113 billion by 2025.

While telehealth currently focuses on a range of primary care services, the rising occurrences of chronic conditions, as well as the increasing demand for self-care and remote monitoring, are significant factors driving telehealth growth. Healthcare organizations that add new primary care options will be able to reduce costs, create new services while remotely offering existing ones to more of their patient populations.

Partnering with a medical call center provides a healthcare organization with access to established chronic care, self-care and remote monitoring programs, eliminating significant labor costs. It is vital to find a call center with outbound service offerings that include a variety of chronic care and follow-up, post-discharge call programs, including prescription/medicine reconciliation, self-care plan adherence and follow-up appointment scheduling.

Patient (and Provider) Satisfaction = Quality of Care.

In today’s world, people have a multitude of choices when it comes to their care. Because of this, it is vital for healthcare organizations and providers to get every aspect of the patient experience right. Providing the correct medical care is not the only factor contributing to a positive experience. From the initial appointment setting call to the final communication between a patient and provider/organization, every experience contributes to the overall satisfaction and quality of care a patient receives.

One of the largest factors contributing to patient satisfaction is access to care. We live in a 24/7 world and having access to definitive medical care at all times is a standard patient expectation. Providing that level of access is challenging and often costly; not providing that level of access leaves patients feeling less empowered and engaged, which in turn can lead to poor experiences and even poorer satisfaction scores. A partnership with a medical call center gives patients access to definitive medical care 24/7/365 at much lower costs.

Another factor contributing to patient satisfaction is the quality of relationship with their caregiver(s). Patients expect to be engaged in decision involving their care. This includes open communication with nurses and providers involved in that care. If patients do not feel as though their concerns have been heard and taken seriously, they feel less confident in the care they receive, resulting in a negative experience – even if the outcome is positive.

It is not uncommon for providers to become overwhelmed with consistently increasing workloads in a 24/7 environment. This can lead to frustration and burnout, which is often evident in their interactions with patients. Utilizing a medical call center to cover all after hours calls carves the 24/7 access out of the provider’s core responsibilities. This is a powerful physician recruitment and retention game changer. In short, happy providers have more positive interactions with their patients, which result in higher patient engagement and satisfaction.

While no healthcare organization wants a patient to have a negative experience for any reason, there is a new factor regarding patient satisfaction that demands attention. Since the inception of value-based purchasing, the definition of a successful patient experience has been redefined. Now, 30% of the overall quality of care is attributed to patient satisfaction. This means patient satisfaction survey scores directly impact an organization’s bottom line. The shift to pay-for-performance also means that reimbursements are tied to the quality of care that is delivered.  Hospitals that provide a higher quality of care than their peers will receive reimbursement incentives, and hospitals that provide a lower quality of care will be penalized.

This is perhaps the most beneficial aspect of partnering with a medical call center. Providing positive experiences for both patient and provider can drastically improve overall patient satisfaction and outcomes, leading to a higher overall quality of care and the related financial rewards.

Ultimately, the provision of appropriate, quality care to achieve positive outcomes is the goal of all healthcare organizations. Making that a possibility, while taking into account organizational needs, government regulations, and patient experience can be difficult and costly. Partnering with a medical call center provides access to high quality care at the lowest cost possible.

 

Karen BrownKaren Brown, RN, is the VP of Business Development for TeamHealth Medical Call Center. 

 

 

By |October 2, 2018|Blog|Comments Off on Vice President of Business Development, Karen Brown’s Article Recently Featured in Connections Magazine

It’s Back: Flu Season 2018-19

The TeamHeath Medical Call Center (THMCC) is one of the country’s most established, reputable and sought after providers of telephone nurse triage clinical care. Esteemed clients include academic medical centers, large multi-specialty practices, FQHCs, health plans and university student health services.

For more than 22 years and 11 million successfully managed calls, our team of highly skilled registered nurses know one thing is for certain: every year, the flu returns to wreak havoc on patients, providers, and all aspects of healthcare in general.

As you are reading this, the 2018-19 FLU SEASON is already beginning its annual intrusion.

THMCC is mindful of the valued role the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) plays in the management of influenza. We are proud to share the following pieces of vital information obtained from the CDC as well as the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regarding flu management:

Last year’s outbreak was the worst in a decade. The CDC ranked it as a high severity season that started in November of 2017 and extended through March 2018. There were 30,453 laboratory-confirmed influenza-related hospitalizations in the United States.

The flu is devastating to the old and young. People 65 years and older accounted for approximately 58% of reported influenza-associated hospitalizations. As of August 25, 2018, a total of 180 pediatric deaths were reported to CDC during the 2017-2018 season. Approximately 80% of these deaths occurred in children who had not received a flu vaccination prior to or during that season.

Getting vaccinated in the most impactful, preventative measure to alleviate the effects of the flu. CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against influenza and its potentially serious complications. Flu vaccination can reduce flu illnesses, doctor visits, missed work and school due to flu, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations. Also, there is data to suggest that even if someone gets sick after vaccination, their illness may be milder. People at high risk of serious flu complications include young children, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease, and people 65 years and older.

People who have the flu often feel some or all of these symptoms: Fever or feeling feverish/chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue (tiredness). Some people may also have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.

Do insurance plans have to pay for flu vaccines? The HHS website states that flu and other vaccines are required to be covered by your health insurance without charging a co-payment or coinsurance, but be sure to check with your insurance company to find out if you must go to a specific facility to receive the vaccine. Some insurance plans only cover vaccines given by your doctor or at specific locations.

Experience is the best teacher. THMCC has more than 22 years of experience gained from caring for millions of patients. Preparation and compliance with the CDC recommendations will result in the best possible health outcomes we will all face during the upcoming 2018-19 FLU SEASON.


Gina Tabone, MSN, RNC serves as the Vice President of Strategic Clinical Solutions for the TeamHealth Medical Call Center.

Prior to joining TeamHealth, she served as the Administrator of Cleveland Clinic’s NURSE on CALL 24/7 nurse triage program. Under her direction, ED utilization declined, continuous care coordination improved, performance metric targets dropped from 33% ABD to less than 5%, URAC accreditation was achieved, and the call center grew from covering 350 physicians to the integration of more than 1,500 employed and affiliated providers.

By |September 11, 2018|Blog|Comments Off on It’s Back: Flu Season 2018-19

The Trifecta of Working From Home

The option of working from home is an offering that is commonplace in a variety of industries such as hospitality, banking, retail, and finally – healthcare. Almost one-third American employees work at home – at least part of the time. The discipline of nursing has perfected the remote care of patients over the past decade and is one of the most in-demand clinical service lines in the continuum of care. This article will highlight why and how the “The Trifecta” is beneficial to 1) the patient, 2) the nurses/healthcare workers, and 3) the organization.

If you are feeling skeptical about the cost and logistics, allow me to explain. The implementation and equipment costs are often less than the cost of the real state and boarding expense of an in-house worker. McKesson, the American Healthcare company estimates a savings of $2 million annually since allowing employees to work at home. Training and access to resources including charge nurse support parallels what is available to brick and mortar located staff and for all your operations people- the ability to monitor and supervise the performance and productivity of work at home staff is just as accurate, if not better than the activity in a traditional setting. Here are the winners and the reasons why:

PATIENTS

  • A sign of an organization that is committed to providing exceptional patient experiences is one that provides their patients access to 24/7 nurse triage services. Market studies indicate today’s consumers want what they want when they want it–including clinical care. Providing patients with the option to speak directly to a triage nurse at any time is now an industry expectation. A high percentage of this work is done by nurses working from home. One of the most established medical call centers in the USA currently has 85% of their nursing team practicing out of their homes. In many cases, the outcome does not involve a trip to the ED. Patients don’t need to leave their homes, drive across town to a network facility or wait in a crowded waiting room for hours waiting to be seen.  Telephone Nurse Triage can definitely enrich your patients’ experiences while providing optimal outcomes. Patient satisfaction improves!
  • With nurses working from home and when a patient feels the need to talk to a nurse, regardless of the time day has the potential to ensure that once a thorough assessment is performed by the skilled RN and the patient is advised to seek the most appropriate level of care (in the most appropriate setting) and there is no risk for a delay in care. The biggest winner of all is the patient with an improvement in health outcomes.

NURSES

  • Telephone triage is a relatively new specialty of nursing that has evolved over the past 20 years. Being educated in the skill of remotely caring for a patient is a unique opportunity for experienced nurses to expand their clinical knowledge base and fill a gap in the patient’s plan of care. The prospect of working as a nurse from the comfort of home is intriguing to many and helps with recruitment efforts. An established outsourced call center reports considerable increase in employee satisfaction scores among work from home staff and a 2017 retention rate of 93%. That translates to a cost savings in new hire onboarding and training. A win-win!
  • Roberta RN, started at the call center in late 2016. Within six months she was working from home. “Never in my 23 years of being a nurse did I ever think it would be possible to help patients from my home office. There are so many perks that I never even imagined. My ride into work was at least 45 minutes; I figure I’ve gained about 10 hours a week that I spent in the car and I’m saving at least $50 weekly in gasoline. With the extra time I have in the morning I started walking. I’m up to three miles a day, never felt better, and I lost 33 lbs. I not only care for patients, but I have been able to improve my own health. I love my job.”
  • Marcy worked in a busy inner-city Emergency Department for most of her career. Her years of ED experience made her a great candidate for a part-time triage RN position at her organization’s medical call center. “Initially I was very nervous about giving people nursing advice when I couldn’t see them, touch them or be in the same room with them. Luckily, my department had a very detailed training process, and assigned me a preceptor who worked the same schedule as me for my first 90 days. Slowly but surely I began to feel more comfortable and had come to appreciate the impact we were having on patient access. When the opportunity came up for me to work from my home, I was hesitant to apply, but I did go for it. Every written resource, cheat sheet, medication chart, and approved websites that I had at my fingertips and had come to depend on, was available to me at home. I was able to communicate in real time with the other RNs working on my shift as well as my charge nurse. The support was unbelievable. The feeling of being part of a team was something I really needed and something my company made sure was a priority regardless of where you were practicing.”
  • Nora, an RN, shared this: “Calls usually take about 10-12 minutes. That is time I am spending 1:1 with that patient; dedicated to their needs and collaborating with them on their plan of care. I came from a very busy med-surg floor where we often had up to six assignments per shift. It got really crazy at times, you were constantly being interrupted, called away from your patient to help with another patient, and having to admit new patients all evening long. Taking care of all the needs of one patient, is ideal and reminds me of my early years as a nurse when we practiced ‘primary nursing’. I live in upper Michigan where winter temperatures drop to sub-zero levels and being able to triage pediatric patients from the warmth of my home, while working in my sweats, and commuting to the basement is a dream come true for a nurse.”
  • Samuel Joseph told us, “Of course I am grateful to have the chance to take care of patients over the phone set up in my house, but I am also shocked at the money I am saving. I’m a guy and I guess I must be tough on my work scrubs (and terrible at doing laundry) because I was always spending money on new scrubs when I was working in the hospital. Not anymore! I take a quick shower throw on a pair of jeans and a tee shirt and I’m dressed for work. It’s very cool! I just turned in my leased car and it was the first time ever that I didn’t have to pay for being over the mileage allowed. And one more thing – I used to spend at least $10 a day on coffee, lunches and Diet Cokes I bought whenever I worked. With that savings alone, I have an extra $200 a month. It is an awesome job! “

THE ORGANIZATION

  • No healthcare organization will invest money or allocated resources – especially nurses without a proven contribution to the overarching strategic goals. Whatever the discipline under consideration to work at home, be it clinical or administrative caregivers, one thing for certain – they must at the very least support, if not completely resolve, many of the requirements imposed by the shift to value-based care.
  • Nurses working from home promote better patient health, improved population health and a reduction in the cost of care. If one didn’t know better, it would seem that the specialty practice was developed with the Triple Aim in mind.
  • Access to clinical care is there when the patients deem it necessary. Work from home staff guarantees that care is provided regardless of the time of day, volume of calls, or hours of operation of the PCP’s clinics. Giving patients more control over their healthcare needs will foster engagement, compliance, and, ultimately, outcomes. Better outcomes result in a cost savings across the continuum of care.
  • Remote triage nurses should be proud of the influence they have in the organization’s effort to optimally use all resources. This is most obvious with referrals to the ED. Triage nurses are trained to refer patients away from the ED and towards more appropriate locations of care such as urgent cares, express clinics, or virtual visits. Patients appreciate the collateral benefit of a co-pay savings of hundreds of dollars out of pocket.

The possibility of working from home may sound too good to be true. That may be the case in many professions, but not Telephone Triage Nursing. Patients are better served, nurses love their job and the organization reaps countless benefits. Remote Nursing is truly the Trifecta of healthcare – a Win-Win- Win strategy!


Gina Tabone, MSN, RNC serves as the Vice President of Strategic Clinical Solutions for the TeamHealth Medical Call Center.

Prior to joining TeamHealth, she served as the Administrator of Cleveland Clinic’s NURSE on CALL 24/7 nurse triage program. Under her direction, ED utilization declined, continuous care coordination improved, performance metric targets dropped from 33% ABD to less than 5%, URAC accreditation was achieved, and the call center grew from covering 350 physicians to the integration of more than 1,500 employed and affiliated providers.

I’ve Got Good News: Medical Call Centers are Here to Stay!

Changes to the American political scene are upon us and most certainly will have an impact on the provision of healthcare. Regardless of party affiliation, there are several healthcare reform objectives that need to be remain in the forefront by future government leaders. Examples include enhancing quality of care, interdisciplinary coordination and collaboration and better utilization of available resources.

Focusing on those concepts will contribute to the goal of improved outcomes for both individuals and overall patient populations we serve. The benefits achieved from the implementation of the Triple Aim must continue regardless of who is leading the country. Nurse Triage as a component of an Integrated Medical Call Center is a pivotal intervention and no longer optional.

The world of Medical Call Centers (MCC) has finally gained the recognition and credibility in the healthcare marketplace that many of us have been trying to expound for two decades. Centralized MCCs are rapidly emerging as the backbone of health systems because they are integral in achieving better patient outcomes.

The new Administration has wisely sought healthcare advice from the most innovative physician leaders in America. Toby Cosgrove of Cleveland Clinic and John Noteworthy of the Mayo Clinic were invited to meet with President Trump to share their thoughts on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and ideas to plot out the best plans for the future.

Concerns were expressed that the current model needs to focus more on patient health and wellness and less on the avalanche of paperwork. This has negatively impacted day to day responsibilities of clinicians accountable for reporting on 100’s of quality indicators. These points of contention are agreed upon by most caregivers. Cleveland Clinic and Mayo Clinic have improved patient access, outcomes, and satisfaction by integrating state of the art integrated call centers with clinical access across their multi-state enterprises.

Hopefully, their example will resonate and motivate other organizations to rapidly integrate outsourced or optimized in-house MCC’s as a proven solution for reaching the goals of the Triple Aim: improving the patient care experience, improving population health and reducing per capita cost of health care.

Improving Patient Experience of Care requires open access channels to care. Access means that patients are able to receive the most appropriate level of care needed, in a time frame best determined by specially trained nurses guided by evidence-based tools. The patient learns to expect reliable advice, taking into account their current health state and is consistently available day or night.

Gaps in care are eliminated and delays are avoided, leading to favorable patient outcomes and higher reimbursements in a fee for value model. When patients’ well-being is enhanced, everyone gains – most especially the patients! Medical Call Centers’ can stake a claim for making that happen.

2017 will have many organizations taking a close look at their operations and making tough choices about what functions are best accomplished internally and which ones can be entrusted to an outside partner. IT is a department that is being outsourced by some of the largest hospital systems in the country. IBM is by far the vendor of choice. Patient Financial Services is another service with options for outsourcing where the benefits to an organization outweigh the costs incurred. Incentives for meeting targets are common. Lastly, there is a surge by strategic decision makers to explore Nurse Triage services being performed by an outside call center partner. The common denominator in all three areas where outsourcing is increasing is the fact that there is a reliance on human capital and all of the contingency costs that goes along with being an employer. High labor costs often consume up to 70% of many call centers operating budgets. Outside partners can assume the responsibilities with greater efficiency, better outcomes and at a lower cost. There is also the possibility that many vendors are willing to assume some of the risks associated with the successful attainment of goals. The choice to retain, outsource or develop a hybrid of both is a multifaceted decision that is reserved for leaders at a higher level than the call center. Organizations have to thoroughly evaluate the options which one best aligns with their mission, vision for the future and strategic plans.

MCC’s are branching out and taking on a variety of responsibilities that are well suited to be conducted remotely and reliant of state of the art technology and a dedicated work force. Once the technological infrastructure is created, the MCC can be enhanced to take on additional functions. The function of appointment scheduling is the most common function of many MCC’s and often happens in tandem with the strategy of centralization. Electronic Medical Records (EMR) products have customized templates embedded with providers’ schedules that are used for office visits, imaging or procedural appointments. Outbound calling campaigns are often conducted in conjunction with scheduling for appointment reminders.

Centralizing all medication refill requests is emerging as a successful addition to many MCC’s. Call center technology such as CRM allows for requests to be tracked, acted upon and measured ensuring that established targets are being met in a timely manner. Without measurement there is possibility for improvement. Patients can expect a standard process for medication needs, and defined time frames responses or resolution. Medication management and compliance is critical for optimal outcomes, so implementing a process that fosters it is a good idea. Patients stratified as high risk garner the most advantages which contribute to maximum reimbursements for medical treatments.

MCC’s have taken on the significant task of not only caring for the acute needs of primary care patients as well as the chronic needs of vulnerable high risk patients as well. Successfully coordinating and transitioning of care is central to every health systems strategy for sustainability today and growth tomorrow. Nurses are the clinicians assigned to figure out how to morph from case management to transitional care coordinators. Regular communication between the patient and the caregiver is vital and is often by telephone, text or email. Training the newly created care/transitional care nurses in the fundamentals of remote patient care is imperative and is based on the standards of care for Telephone Triage Nurses. The practice of triaging the acute symptoms has branched out and will serve as the starting point for nurses involved in coordinating care.

It is up to those of us established in the Medical Call Center industry to continue to proclaim the unlimited value of a MCC to the healthcare industry. In many healthcare organizations more than 10% of employees spend the majority of their day, doing their job on the telephone. The benefits of centralizing and consolidating the work they do are undeniable.

C-suite leaders must accept the fact that Medical Call Centers are no longer considered an expense, but an investment with impactful ROI.

Initially there were call center, then access centers, followed by a contact centers, and in 2017 we are Engagement Centers. The task at hand is to capture the limited attention of decision makers and educate them on the role MCCs play in a fee for value system and the distinct results that are possible. The future may be uncertain but there remains a need for products, services and expertise that bring the call center to the forefront of patient care.

By |September 26, 2017|Blog|Comments Off on I’ve Got Good News: Medical Call Centers are Here to Stay!

Case Study: THMCC Outbound Call Campaign Connects FQHC to 14,000 Patients

The Challenge:

In 2015, a large Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) in South Texas needed to notify their entire patient population of an important change to their insurance, and that to continue seeing their primary care provider or specialist, they would need to change insurance plans.

This change would have an impact on their ability to continue providing care to more than 14,000 patients. This health center needed a coordinated campaign to send a notice of the changes via email, and then complete a follow up phone call to ensure that the patient received the notice and answer any questions.

The Solution:

TeamHealth Medical Call Center offered a two-pronged solution that included a live call and automated call.

The program includes the following:

  • A follow up phone call from a nonclinical patient coordinator tasked with ensuring:
    • The patient received the notification via email.
    • Answer any questions the patient had.
    • Offer to transfer to the state Medicaid hotline if the patient was ready to make an insurance change while on the line.
  • An additional follow up automated phone call with a prerecorded message to patients who were unable to be first reached by a patient coordinator. The automated call offered a hotline where the patient could call back and have any questions answered.

The Results:

The outbound campaign exceeded the anticipated results.

  • 51% of patients successfully completed the call with the following results:
    • Requested to be transferred to change insurance plans during the course of the call.
    • Patient had already made the insurance change prior to receiving the call.
    • Were unable to be transferred at the time of the call, but requested the information on how to do so at a later time.
    • Did not request a transfer or info.
  • Of the 51% of total patient successfully reached, more than 75% either requested to be transferred, requested the contact info to do so later, or had already made the insurance change.
  • For the more than 4,500 patients receiving an automated call, THMCC achieved a 90% reach rate.
  • Of this, more than 3,800 (95%) of patients listened to the initial message.
By |August 24, 2016|Case Study|Comments Off on Case Study: THMCC Outbound Call Campaign Connects FQHC to 14,000 Patients