The Role of Hospital Call Centers

Smiling operator in a hospital call center.

The Role of Hospital Call Centers

Medical call centers are the communication hub for the hospital enterprise. They handle a multitude of different calls including: the main switchboard, calls with patients and their family members, emergencies, transport dispatch, telehealth services, disaster response, on-call medical staff, providing 24-hour access to healthcare, scheduling, internal hospital communications, and more.

Influencing the Patient Experience

Patients are asked to provide information about their health care experience via the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey. Unacceptable survey results can result in hospitals losing some reimbursements.

The American Medical Association Journal of Ethics reports that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services can currently withhold one percent of Medicare payments – 30 percent of which are tied to HCAHPS scores. When Medicare and Medicaid account for more than 60 percent of all care provided by hospitals, the possible amount of dollars lost due to poor patient experience is a significant number. In 2017 alone, approximately $1.7 billion in reimbursements were withheld from hospitals.

Because the call center functions as a virtual lobby for a healthcare organization, the patient’s experience with call center agents plays a critical role in their satisfaction with care access and the health care they receive.

Call Center Software Improving Workflows in the Hospital

The software used by call centers can be leveraged by staff in clinics and hospital rooms to enhance workflows. The same communications integration engine software that incorporates personnel directories and on-call schedules used by a hospital call center, can also integrate with nurse call and alert solutions, third-party devices (such as IP phones and mobile devices), and other applications to automate the handling and dispatching of messages and alerts.

Integration engines act as the “glue” that hold disparate IT systems and software together and translates a variety of different inputs to interpret data. These solutions appear as one, seamlessly integrated system to the average end user, but behind the scenes they handle the complex work of merging multiple systems into a single touchpoint.

Telehealth and the Hospital Call Center

As the current coronavirus pandemic has evolved, telehealth became recognized as a critical healthcare tool to keep both patients and medical staff safe. One of the most commonly used forms of telehealth is a Nurse Hotline. 

During the current COVID-19 crisis, other hotlines are being established. Jennie McWhorter, IS Operations Manager for Ephraim McDowell Health in Danville, KY says, “We are using the operators as a hub to our COVID-19 hotline so the community can dial the number they already know and find what they want through our 24/7 operators.”

Other types of telehealth services that have been critical during the pandemic include:
    • Virtual Appointments – Patients can visit a doctor or nurse via web-based videoconferencing.
    • Medical Staff Consults – Telehealth is also used for patient/doctor communications. Doctors, nurses, and specialists use virtual consultations to coordinate care.
    • Remote Health Monitoring – Communication between a patient’s home monitioring medical devices and their doctor.
    • Non-Clinical Services – Remote, non-clinical uses such as, administrative meetings and provider training and education.

As needs arise and technology advances, the role of hospital call centers will grow and become more complex.

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