The September 2014 Issue

My Optometrist Ordeal

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

Being farsighted and using a computer all day makes glasses a necessity. Imagine my dismay while cleaning my glasses when I heard a snap and a lens fell out. I arrived at my optometrist’s office as the doors opened.

“Can you fix them?” I asked.

The technician replied that, short of an eye exam, new lenses, and a new frame, the only option was sending the broken frame out for repair. “It will take a few days, hopefully by Saturday.” He put my lenses in an ill-fitting loaner frame. “We’ll call you when your frames come back.”

I confirmed the plan at the front desk. “Yes,” she said, “we’ll call you when they come in.”

Saturday came, but without a call. Monday the office was closed. On Tuesday morning I left a message on their answering machine. No one called back. Wednesday I called again. “Yeah, they’re here. You can stop in any time.”

When I arrived, the technician switched my lenses from the loader frame to my newly repaired one.

When he finished, I said, “Here are the lenses from my old prescription. Can you put them in another frame – any frame – so that I can have a backup pair?”

After much fruitless discussion, he ended the conversation with, “Sorry, we can’t help you,” and walked away.

Two days later, I went to a different optometrist. This office was closer, easier to get to, and had free parking at the door. I walked in, explained the situation to the receptionist. In a few minutes, I was greeted by an empathetic young lady. She said she would do her best to find a frame for my old lenses. Since they were busy, I left my old lenses and left.

I returned the next afternoon. “I’m really pleased with how they turned out,” she said. She only charged me for the frames; there was no labor fee. I got a free case and a discount, too.

By giving poor customer service, my eye doctor lost a loyal patient; by going the extra mile, someone else gained one.

What does your call center do to go the extra mile for your callers and patients?

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, 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.

Sound Telecom Releases Article on Secure Messaging for the Medical Industry

Sound Telecom, a telecommunications company offering answering services, call center solutions, and cloud-based business communication systems, unveiled an article titled “Three Things You Need to Know about HIPAA-compliant Secure Text Messaging.” The piece examines medical messaging and what healthcare professionals need to do to remain compliant with HIPAA and HITECH requirements.

Brian Gabriel, the author of the article and COO at Sound Telecom, confirms that the use of text messaging is growing substantially and its usage within the medical community is rapidly rising. However, standard text messaging is not intrinsically secure communication, and even many “secure messaging platforms” are not HIPAA-compliant. Those in the medical field who share patient information via text on a platform that is not compliant are putting patient information at risk and leaving themselves open to all kinds of legal issues.

The article dives into the elements surrounding secure messaging for medical professionals – from what technically makes a platform compliant to what can happen in a lawsuit if a covered entity is found in violation of the regulation. “With close to 90 percent of physicians using smartphones in the workplace and more than 80 percent of healthcare providers regularly texting patient health information (PHI), there are lots of fingers in the text messaging pie,” Gabriel states.

In the article, he mentions steps a secure messaging platform uses to stay HIPAA compliant. He also highlights a handful of providers of these services, while warning against others that claim to be secure but are not compliant. “As a healthcare provider, you need to know the difference,” Gabriel adds.

With the rise in text messaging in the medical field, the time has come for the healthcare industry to get serious about using compliant platforms to communicate PHI. There are legitimate solutions, so there is no reason not to use them to protect patients, stay compliant, and continue to take advantage of technology that makes the communication of information easy.

Using Electronic Health Records to Support Hospital Medication Reconciliation

While electronic health records (EHRs) can help standardize medication reconciliation for hospitalized patients, data quality, technical problems, and workflow issues continue to pose challenges, according to a new qualitative study from the nonpartisan, nonprofit National Institute for Health Care Reform (NIHCR).

Designed to reduce errors, medication reconciliation is a systematic way to ensure accurate patient medication lists at admission, during a hospitalization, and at discharge. Previous research found unintended medication discrepancies are common, affecting up to 70 percent of hospital patients, with almost a third of discrepancies potentially causing patient harm.

Despite hospital accreditation and other requirements, use of medication reconciliation has lagged for many reasons, including insufficient physician engagement (which stems, in part, from lack of professional consensus about which physician is responsible for managing a patient’s medication list) and the value of medication reconciliation as a clinical tool to improve care.

Conducted for NIHCR by researchers at the former Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC) – Joy M. Grossman, Ph.D., Rebecca Gourevitch, and Dori A. Cross – the study examined how nineteen hospitals across the United States were using EHRs to support medication reconciliation. Key challenges to effective medication reconciliation include improving access to reliable medication histories, refining EHR usability, engaging physicians more fully, and routinely sharing patient information with the next providers of care.

Delta Dental Earns Prestigious Center of Excellence Recognition

Delta Dental of Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana has been certified as a Center of Excellence by BenchmarkPortal. The Center of Excellence recognition is one of the most prestigious awards in the customer service and support industry.

“We are very proud that our customer service call center has received this recognition,” said Laura Czelada, president and CEO or Delta Dental of Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana. “This award demonstrates the hard work our call center employees do every day to provide outstanding service to our customers across Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana.”

Contact centers achieve the Center of Excellence distinction based on best-practice metrics drawn from the world’s largest database of objective and quantitative data, which is audited and validated by BenchmarkPortal.

The Center of Excellence award recognizes customer service call centers that rank in the top 10 percent of call centers surveyed. To earn the award, call centers must demonstrate cost-effective service solutions and exceptional service performance.

“We certified Delta Dental’s customer care operations as a Center of Excellence after evaluating the company’s effectiveness and efficiency in interacting with their customers,” said Bruce Belfiore, CEO of BenchmarkPortal. “We applaud their commitment to superior customer service.”

Southeast Alabama Medical Center Slashes CHF Readmission Rates to 13 Percent

Mere months into a post-discharge follow-up program for its congestive heart failure (CHF) patient population, Dothan-based Southeast Alabama Medical Center experienced a significant and historic decline in its thirty-day re-admission rates, beating out the national average by 10 percent. Since its inception in October 2013, the hospital’s CHF thirty-day re-admission rates continued to fall at a consistent pace month after month, according to the program’s chief overseer, Kevin Ross, RN, clinical coordinator and call center manager for the 420-bed regional facility.

“We had the most CHF patients hospitalized in January and the least amount re-admitted,” he notes. The national average for CHF thirty-day re-admission has been creeping up over the last few years and is currently at 23 percent, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Of Southeast Alabama’s sixty-two CHF patients admitted in January, only eight patients were re-admitted within thirty days of discharge, a 13 percent re-admission rate. Ross attributes much of the success of Southeast Alabama’s low CHF re-admission rate to a customized daily follow-up routine supported by the Clinical Solutions Readmission Management Module.

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