Portrait of happy successful doctor on phone at officeBy Wendy Smith

There is a tendency to believe that we can do anything better if we do it ourselves. This is the usual thinking behind an in-house post discharge call program. Although it is true that some healthcare organizations do manage comprehensive post discharge programs, it is more likely that this type of program suffers in an in-house delivery mode. Subjectivity, objectivity, time and infrastructure are four reasons to think about outsourcing this program.

1. Subjectivity. Despite the push to increase patient safety, hospital staff may be reluctant to report incidents that reflect poorly on the hospital or its personnel. This is due to the often punitive culture that still exists in many hospitals. Fear of retaliation and intimidation trump honest reporting of issues. Knowing this, is it realistic to expect unit employees to thoroughly report their own shortcomings as discovered during patient interviews? Along these lines, is it realistic to believe that clinicians, already familiar with a patient’s situation, will collect pertinent data over the phone impartially? Outsourced medical call center staff do not experience the culture or have relationships within the system and can collect data impartially and thoroughly. They can offer clear and independent data to a healthcare system.

2. Objectivity. We probably all had the experience of saying something positive but not quite true because we were concerned of repercussions. In this light, is it realistic to expect a patient to honestly evaluate the healthcare professionals and organization that recently provided them with care and that are likely to provide them with care again? Even in branded seamless service, a patient are more likely to be forthcoming to someone they don’t know, a third party, in regard to problems or trouble with care providers.

3. Time. Healthcare personnel (or hospital personnel) are already under pressure to provide extensive face-to-face care. Is it realistic to expect those same people to be able to successfully execute a comprehensive (and time consuming) call outreach program. Outsourced call programs use comprehensive scripts to accurately mirror patient experience and listen to patient concerns. This can mean a lengthy Q&A time during a post discharge interview. Outsourced staff members are able to take this time with patients giving in-house staff more time to concentrate on bedside care.

4. Infrastructure. Hospitals may lack the telephone health training, triage software, IT support and staff to do triage and to support a telephony based outreach program. Is it realistic to ask nurses to teletriage discharged patients or track discharge calls and health information without the proper infrastructure in place? In an outsourced medical call center, the infrastructure of training, software, staff and IT support is already tested and working. A clear escalation plan is in place should the patient need clinical help and complex reporting is available for organizational review at any time.

The interest to provide post discharge services in-house may be strong. However, a medical call center with a core competency of telephone assessment has the focus and technology to provide this service as an extension of the hospital. The hospital and medical call center collaboration can ensure a seamless service that represents the high quality of the hospital, provides meaningful information, and helps meet the hospital’s initiatives for high quality service in the presence of cost containment.


Wendy Smith

Wendy Smith