Steps For Evaluating Triage Vendors
Selecting and implementing an after-hours triage solution doesn’t happen in a day. Take the time, well before being ready to implement a new triage process, to select the after-hours triage vendors from a short list of competent nationwide providers. With only a handful of after-hours triage companies with the ability to provide nationwide coverage, it can still be hard to know what to look for. Build time for decision making into the your timeline. Realistically, a successful selection and implementation of a new after-hours triage process and vendor could take up to 4 months.
Determine your organization’s needs prior to after-hours triage vendor selection
Determine what the organization wants out of a nurse based triage solution, including coverage capabilities, reporting, phone technology, experience and support. Determine what level of coverage is needed. Does your organization need coverage 7 days week, weekends only or 24/7? Does the after-hours triage vendor provide only one approach to triage protocol development for every hospice and home health organization? Or does the triage provider custom build protocols and process for each and every client? Does the triage provider force you to let them integrate with your EMR/EHR technology or do they just need access to your systems to do the charting? Having the option to do both is key, but just allowing access to your EMR/EHR provides less of an obstacle for your I.T. departments.
Do background research on the short list of vendors.
Check each vendor’s website. Look for broken links to key pages regarding products and services. Lack of content regarding their solutions often times signals that they are not fully capable or ready to provide a particular solution.
Look for actual customer names. Often times you will find reference to customers in case studies, quotes and testimonials on vendor websites, but without an actual customer name those references are often fabricated and useless. Why is this important? If a customer is unwilling to provide a named reference or allow their organization to be associated with a vendor it signals a lack of confidence. And vendors who don’t list customer names or fabricate customer testimonials with text like “Clinical Director at a Texas Hospice” or “An Ohio hospice and Home Health” company, signals a lack of reference-able customers. Find vendors who have actual customer names and are willing to provide references right out of the gate. Those that do signal a strong customer satisfaction rate and willingness to connect you with other like minded organizations that are experiencing the same challenges.
Request information. Call to ask questions. Some items to evaluate include:
Ask about their telecommunications platform: A state of the art phone and communications platforms is key to the success of your after-hours triage vendor. If your vendor is using a home-grown system or a system that isn’t cloud based or recognized as an industry leader for call center technology, halt your evaluation of them immediately. When asking about your triage vendor’s communication platform ask for some of the following items:
- How reliable is their platform? The most reliable systems will have at least 7 points of presence in the U.S. and their carrier-grade data centers should offer 99.999% up-time.
- Are the data centers for their communications carrier SSAE 16 certified, SOC II audited and offer PCI-DSS certification?
- What is the name of their communications carrier? If they are unwilling to provide that, it could signal a lack of confidence their provider or worse, their system is home grown.
Stable, long-term presence in the healthcare market: IntellaTriage has been in the hospice, home health and physician group markets for over 8 years providing after-hours triage. We were providing triage services years ago to help combat nurse fatigue and burnout. Today we are still going strong with nationwide presence and a long list of reference-able, happy customers. When evaluating after-hours triage vendors be sure to ask the following:
- How long have you been in business working with groups like mine (Hospice, Home Health, Physician Groups)?
- Do you have references you can give me today?
- How many implementations have you done? If the number isn’t significant this could signal a lack of experience and could cause you significant problems down the road when their inexperience affects your patients and their families through lack of quality care.
Interoperability: Make sure your after-hours triage vendor offers the experience of working with your various systems including EMR, DME, pharmacy, and scheduling systems. Lack of experience with these systems can cause delays in implementations, gaps in EMR data if the vendor’s nurses aren’t familiar with your system, delays in referrals, prescriptions and DME communications if lack of experience with your systems is present. Only a proven track record of service over years of business can provide the level of security and service you need.
Customized implementation, project management and training: Your after-hours triage vendor should work with your organization to plan a successful implementation that addresses the needs of the organization, nurses, physicians and patients. If your vendor has a “one size fits all” approach, halt your evaluation with them immediately. This signals a lack of customized protocols and procedures to fit your specific needs. Not all hospice, home health and physician groups operate the same. Some have specific needs and goals for their patient call-to-visit ratios as well as level of care provided by the triage nurse. Some organizations have very specific needs based on religious affiliation, ethnic population or number of patients they serve. Don’t let your vendor dictate how they triage your patients, this can cause inconsistency in care given and diminish the patient experience and satisfaction. You know your patients best, so it’s important to make sure your triage vendor takes your lead on how to triage and care for them. Some questions you may want to ask are:
- Do you have a specific team of nurses assigned to my population? Having the same nurse assigned to your organization is key to building trust and continuity of care.
- Do you customize protocols for my organization? If your triage vendor gives you their protocols and mandates that you use them in a “one size fits all approach” to implementation and service halt your evaluation immediately. What this signals is an unwillingness to work with you to address the needs of your patients as well as lack of experience. Your vendor should present you with best practices approach and help guide you as you develop your protocols and implement the new process.
The quality of the Nurse: This is one of the key ingredients for success. Just as you would only hire the best nurses for your organization, so should your after-hours triage vendor. When evaluating the short list of nationwide vendors, make sure to ask about their hiring practices and whether or not their nurses have gone through rigorous HIPAA training, background checks and have the hospice or home health experience necessary to care for your patients. Some questions to ask your vendor are:
- Do you contract with or employ your nurses? You want a vendor to hire their nurses. This means their nurses are committed to their employer and your patients and will be there for the long term.
- Do you perform background checks, OIG and exclusion checks for your nurses? The only correct answer here is YES.
- Are you willing to share your findings for the nurses that will be assigned to our organization? The only correct answer here is YES.
As you can see there are quite a few things you should be thinking about when selecting an after-hours triage vendor. When implementing a new vendor or a new process to your organization you need to be 100% that your choice is the best and reflects positively not only on you for making the decisions but on the organization and care it provides. IntellaTriage has always operated on the core belief of transparency during the buying process for its customers. We feel that the more we share about our service, our nurses, our customers and success as early as possible in the evaluation process it will help set us apart from other regional, less flexible or less experienced vendors.
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