The March 2016 Issue

MedCall Plus: medical support center

Does Your Call Center Have a Fast-Food Hiring Mentality?

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

When I worked as a consultant, one healthcare call center client’s staff kept complaining, “People working in fast food make more than we do.” After hearing too many such complaints, I visited the seven fast-food restaurants within walking distance of the call center. The staff was wrong, but the misinformation had gone unchallenged. After hearing the lie too often, the staff soon believed it as truth. My client had some work to do.

Compensation is a huge issue for call centers. Pay too little and turnover shoots up, training costs increase, and morale decreases. Pay too much and expenses exceed income. No organization can remain viable if it loses money every month.

But what is an appropriate pay rate? Fortunately, the answer is close to home, back at our local fast-food restaurants.

Quite simply, if you hire call center agents at a fast-food wage, you’ll get a fast-food mentality and a fast-food performance. Yes, you will find the occasional star employee, but how long do you expect to retain him or her? Generally, you find people with little work experience. They view the job as temporary, don’t understand customer service, and fail to comprehend the necessity of being at work on time (much less giving two weeks’ notice before quitting).

To succeed, healthcare call centers must pay more than fast-food restaurants, but how much more? Even fifty cents an hour can make a difference. But a dollar or two will have a much greater effect – if you do it right.

What you must avoid when raising your starting wage is to merely make it easier to find the same caliber of people; you must raise your standards, too. When you pay more, you can expect more.

To determine the appropriate hourly rate for your call center agents you could pay someone thousands of dollars to do a wage study, or you could just visit your local fast-food restaurants. Then distinguish your hourly rate and corresponding expectations from theirs.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D., is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Medical Call Center News. He’s a passionate wordsmith whose goal is to change the world one word at a time.

Gear Up for HIPAA Phase II in Your Healthcare Contact Center

By Geoff Mina

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is releasing several key updates to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996. As of now no official announcement has been made regarding when the second round of audits, referred to as HIPAA Phase II, will take effect.

One of the most important changes will affect the types of organizations targeted by HIPAA. Phase I HIPAA only affected healthcare providers. Under Phase II, however, business associates of healthcare providers (such as their call centers) will also receive random audits.

At first the OCR will look for areas with “heightened risk” or revealed to be in non-compliance after HIPAA Phase I was completed. These areas include processes such as notifying patients and customers about privacy practices, performing timely breach notifications and incident responses, and setting up strong data access controls for employees. Other areas include risk analysis and management, workforce member training, transmission security, and device and media controls.

Eventually they will consider encryption and decryption, breach reports, complaints, and facility access control as well. So it’s important that businesses start preparing ahead of time for these changes.

If your business is selected for an audit, you will have two weeks to respond to the request and submit the required information. Audits will take place over a three-year period.

In preparation for a possible audit, it’s important to assess your contact center’s compliance as it relates to HIPAA Phase II and focus on:

  • Securing protected health information
  • Encrypt all protected health information
  • Use VPN for offsite agent access
  • Avoid recording sensitive information (or securely protect its accessibility)
  • Enforce a strong password policy

By preparing ahead of time and assessing your current risk levels and areas that need improvement, you will reduce the likelihood of running into trouble.

Geoff Mina is the chief technology officer and founder of Connect First.

Healthcare Call Center News

Ameridial Announces New Executive VP and VP of Healthcare Sales: Ameridial, a customer service solution center, announced two notable promotions. With ten years of customer service and sales expertise, Matt McGeorge was named executive vice president of the privately held organization.

Over the past seven years, McGeorge has immersed himself in the business, learning and mastering every nuance of the organization, from call center operations to client services. Matt has demonstrated a thorough understanding of the day-to-day operations and program management, with a proven record of accomplishment meeting and exceeding client goals and expectations. McGeorge will be responsible for the company’s overall sales and marketing strategy.

Similar in background and breadth of industry expertise, Craig Vretas was appointed vice president of healthcare services. A true call center professional, Vretas worked his way from managing the call center to project management, most recently serving as director of business development. Joining the Ameridial team in 1997, Craig’s expertise in customer service and support lend unparalleled professionalism and integrity to every project. Vretas will be responsible for developing and acquiring new business for Ameridial’s healthcare division.

A Thought For Today

“One of the truest tests of integrity is its blunt refusal to be compromised.” -Chinua Achebe