by Karen Brown, RN

Affordable Care initiatives are here and many provider groups will be considering the value of creating a call center to manage after-hours services. There are five
areas of discovery that will help you make this decision. You will need to:

  1. Know how to identify and recruit nurses that have the competencies required for telephone triage and know how to train them in the art and science of this specialized area of nursing.  Strategic recruiting and specialized training in telephone triage ensures that nurses are competent and can represent your high standards of quality and deliver excellent customer service resulting in a positive patient experience.shutterstock_61246741_72dpi
  2. Know how to develop a QI program that is specific to telephone triage. A triage QI program incorporates clinical monitors, unique to this specialized area of nursing, to identify service accessibility. Other QI areas are client satisfaction, clinical practice, communication and documentation. A well-designed QI program will identify key elements of patient health issues that will help you meet your objectives for patient care.
  3. Know how to staff for cost control and service levels. Hourly volume fluctuations, holidays, unexpected closings and weekends all require experience coupled with a workforce management tool to maintain favorable service levels. This is the balance between a quick response to a caller and the high costs of being overstaffed.
  4. Know what technology is needed to drive provider specific customizations and standards of practice. Although it is customary that provider groups desire provider specific directives, it’s not always a standard feature of triage software. You need to know what types of customizations your providers want and be able to accommodate them.
  5. Know what technology is needed to capture the data elements unique to your practices and create meaningful reports. A robust software documentation system, developed specifically for medical call centers, contains valuable information that needs to be easily accessed through customized reporting.

Knowing the answers to these questions upfront can help ensure your success. One of the best ways to acquire the information is to contract on a short term basis with an experienced medical call center that focuses on delivering telephone nurse triage for physicians in group practice and has a program already in place to assist you in obtaining the answers to the five questions above. A temporary partnership can provide a discovery process that will help you figure out what you need in terms of staff and technology and can point out areas in your organization that need adjustment prior to making the investment in a call center.


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

TeamHealth Medical Call Center is the premierHospital Call Center Partnership Guide provider of nurse triage services in the country and offers short-term contracts for organizations that are in the discovery process of implementing nurse telephone triage services.