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Evaluating Your Call Center Platform
by Ravi Raheja, MD
You already know that nurse triage technology is evolving quickly. In just a few short years, we’ve moved from monitoring fax machines, distributing calls and being available in person, to being able to help patients even more efficiently remotely, using Internet, integrated electronic medical records, and iPads.
Given this new and continually evolving environment, how do you assess whether your call center is using the most appropriate technology and thus maximizing its potential? Before you start evaluating your existing software or new platforms, the first step is to make a list of what functions your call center currently performs and what functions you would like to offer in the future.
With your management team, discuss a 5-year plan for the call center, considering your organization’s vision and needs. Make sure to get input on your plan from your staff members at every level, including non-clinical people operators, nurses, and IT staff. You may get valuable insight about your strengths, weaknesses and the direction to move forward. You’ll want to develop the following lists:
- A SERVICES list:
- Services we offer now
- Services we would like to keep
- Services we would like to add
- Services would we like to discontinue
- A FEATURES list: For every service that you offer, use the input of the staff members who use each service to make a list of features:
- Features that are helpful and we want to make sure we continue
- The functionality we can add that would make the process better
- A wish list of features that we would like to add
As you consider this list, keep in mind the flexibility and capability of your vendor in terms of understanding your needs and adding functionality as you and the technology evolves.
- An IT list:
- What is the current uptime of our system and what would be ideal?
- What is an appropriate disaster plan for our system?
- How much IT support does the vendor provide?
- How much IT support is required from my organization?
- Would we benefit from a hosted solution or an on-premise solution?
- A SUPPORT list: Your platform is only as good as the team that builds and supports it. Consider:
- The IT expertise the vendor has
- The kind of call center expertise the vendor has
- The medical resources the vendor provides
- A FINANCE list:
- What does our current budget look like?
- How can we increase revenue or justify spending?
- What is the cost to replace or upgrade our platform?
- What is the cost to maintain our platform including both vendor and internal costs?
With all this information, you will be in a good position to evaluate software and platform possibilities for your call center. Here are some key questions to help ensure a new or existing platform is a good fit:
- Does the platform have all the modules/functionality you need now and in the next five years?
- Does the platform have additional features that are available to add on?
- Has the vendor continued to develop new functionality to keep up with technology trends?
- Does it integrate well with other EMR or web-based systems
- Does it allow for a hosted or on premise solution?
- Does the vendor have a team of physicians, nurses and IT experts in the call center space to support you?
- Does the vendor provide reliable, 24/7 urgent support?
- Does the platform allow your call center to communicate effectively with the providers (secure text)?
- What is the TRUE cost of your system – vendor fees, internal IT cost, efficiency cost (areas where you could save time by automating tasks or increasing efficiency)?
By keeping in mind these four main aspects; your organization’s vision and needs at all levels, the features you already have and those you want, the customizability of the new or existing software and the IT requirements to support your nurse triage platform, you will be in an excellent position to evaluate and make decisions on expanding or customizing your existing platform or venturing into incorporating new software into your system.
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