Who Staffs Your Healthcare Call Center?
October 6, 2016
Setting appropriate staffing levels in a call center is a critical task, an absolutely essential one. If you overstaff then payroll costs will explode your budget, and if you understaff then service levels plummet. Finding the right balance is tricky and even the most experienced schedulers can make mistakes, sometimes-drastic ones. Crafting the optimum call center schedule requires part skill and part art; it’s facts balanced with instinct.
However, call center staffing presents an even bigger challenge for healthcare call centers, where agents can have drastically different levels of skill and training. We see this most pronounced at call centers that staff a mixture of nurses and non-nurses to handle the needs of callers and patients.
When the balance between nursing and non-nursing call center staff is out of whack, one of two things can happen. Both are bad, but one is detrimental. In the first scenario one group sits by idly while the other group cranks through calls as quickly as they can. This misbalance results in both wasted payroll and poor service levels. But this isn’t the worst outcome.
An even more damaging scenario occurs when well-meaning agents from the overstaffed group tries to help the understaffed group. In one situation we end up with nurses taking messages, setting appointments, and giving out routine information. While they are certainly capable of doing these things, they will not be as proficient or as effective.
The opposite situation occurs when non-medically trained staff attempts to help the nurses with their calls. No matter how well intended or how careful they may be, the likelihood of them inadvertently dispensing medical information, no matter how slight, is quite high. Even agreeing with a patient that perhaps a trip to the ER is wise or offering that “if it were me, I would (or wouldn’t) be worried” implies a level of medical expertise that the non-medically trained agent doesn’t possess.
This puts the agent, the call center, and the caller all at risk. For the agent and the call center there is a legal liability and a moral responsibility. For the patient, their health or perhaps even their life is in jeopardy.
The first solution is an immutable policy in which non-nursing personnel cannot, under any circumstance, handle any aspect of a call intended for a nurse. The second solution is to ensure proper staffing levels at all times so that the temptation, no matter how admirable, is never a consideration.
A third solution, and the safest by far, is to simply outsource healthcare calls to an established healthcare call center that has firmly addressed these issues and can protect you and your patients from harm.
Janet Livingston is the president of Call Center Sales Pro, a premier sales and marketing service provider for the call center and telephone answering service industry – and who provides a call center matchmaking service. Contact Janet at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 800-901-7706.
Peter Lyle DeHaan is a freelance writer from Southwest Michigan.
Use an Answering Service to Block Out Time
People at all levels of business, in all sizes of businesses, struggle to find time to focus on key projects. Nowhere is this more critical than for e...
Selling a Distressed Answering Service
Prior posts have addressed the right time to sell your answering service, the wrong time to sell, and about leaving a legacy when it’s time to move ...
Why Insisting on a Stateside Call Center is an Ill-conceived Goal
When people reach a call center, they make assumptions about the agent and the agent’s location based on what they hear. While these assumptions may...
Use an Answering Service to Better Serve Callers
When someone calls your office, what happens? Don’t answer this question with what you hope happens or what you ideally want to occur but with the t...
7 Steps to Deal with an Underperforming Answering Service Sales Rep
If an answering service has sales reps they either produce consistent sales month after month or they underperform. Too often sales reps underperform....
A Professional Billing Service Provides Added Value to Answering Services
With the right software, anyone can generate telephone answering service invoices—and get them mostly correct. Yet it takes a company with unique in...
Use an Answering Service to Back-up Your Staff
In today’s fast paced business environment we all have more to do and less time to do it. Too often something needs to give. We skip some aspects of...
Use an Answering Service to Handle Your Office Hours Calls
Most everyone knows that answering services are great at answering the phone in the evenings and weekends, but they can also answer your phone during ...