Call Recording Resolves Disputes at Medical Practice

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North Scottsdale Family Medicine, a single-facility medical practice in Scottsdale, Ariz., employs nine doctors who treat about 250 patients a day. Three other employees answer the 1,000 daily calls from patients seeking to schedule appointments, renew prescriptions, follow up after medical procedures, get lab results, or discuss their conditions with doctors. Then there are calls from insurance companies and drug and equipment manufacturers, as well as outgoing calls.

With such a high call volume, call recording technology has become vital to the operation for office administrator Charlene Burgett. Not only has technology increased efficiency, but being able to store, search, play back, annotate, and share phone-based interactions also has been a lifesaver for the practice.

"From a malpractice standpoint, we need to protect ourselves," Burgett says. "A frivolous lawsuit can literally stop our practice. But if we can document everything that happens during an office visit and during follow-up phone calls, it adds something. And to have it in the patient's own words and voice is invaluable."

North Scottsdale Family Medicine purchased the Oaisys Talkument call recording system in late 2008 and upgraded to Oaisys Tracer—which allows call recordings to be burned to CDs—a year and a half later. During that time, the practice has faced three inquiries from the state licensing review board that could have led to malpractice cases. In each one, "we were able to show, through the Oaisys recordings, that we were in the right, and the cases were dismissed," Burgett says.

That amounts to hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars that the practice did not have to pay out in damages.

The practice's bottom line has been helped in other ways. Burgett realized an almost immediate benefit in dealing with health insurance companies. In many instances, insurance companies have denied payments after a procedure claiming that they never granted prior authorization. Through the call recordings, Burgett has been able to prove when prior authorizations had, in fact, been given, and the insurance companies have paid out on the claims.

The system "has definitely paid for itself many times over," she says.

Quality assurance has been another benefit. In the past, Burgett usually was left to side with the patients when they complained. But now, with the recordings, she can review the telephone conversations between the patients and staff to ensure that the employees are giving patients the right information and treating them with the respect and dignity they deserve. "Now I can go in, review the recording and find out if the staff member was the problem," Burgett says. "A lot of times, the caller—not the staff member—was the problem."

When the recording shows that the staff member was at fault, Burgett can coach the employee. "It does help patients because we can provide better care. I can make sure my staff is doing what they're supposed to," she says.

Prior to installing Talkument and Tracer, Burgett's only means of recording calls was with the record button on the phones themselves. But that functionality was extremely limited and required people to go in and manually start the recordings. Quite often, the employees forgot to turn on the record function. With Talkument and Tracer, recordings are done automatically, and the system captures every call from start to finish. 

Burgett first encountered Oaisys a few years ago during a conference and was convinced almost immediately that the company's call recording systems were exactly what she needed. "I did look at some other [vendors], but [Oaisys] stood out because of their customer service and because their system is so easy to use. There was not much to it at all in terms of a learning curve."

Incorporating Talkument and Tracer into the phone system was simple, and Burgett likes the ability to use the auto attendant. "If the callers know where they want to go, they can press that number and get to the right extension without having to wait in the queue. And the recordings go with them," Burgett says.

Burgett also likes all the features available with the Oaisys products. All call recordings are automatically time- and date-stamped so she can search recordings by date and time, phone number, person, or subject. "It's very robust in its search capabilities," she says. "That's why I went with [Oaisys]."

While the call recording system has earned 100 percent support and approval from the doctors and staff at the practice, some people were skeptical at first, according to Burgett. The doctors, for example, worried about patient privacy. "It was a hard sell with the physicians because of that," she recalls.

That concern was addressed in several ways. First, the selective call recording function contained in both the Talkument and Tracer solutions lets her select which extensions will be monitored. She doesn't, for example, record calls on the phone in the employee break room. Then, Burgett set up a password and encryption system so that only she could listen to the recordings. "Because everything is password-protected, I am quite confident that no one else will be able to get into the recordings," she says.

While some states would require North Scottsdale Family Medicine to notify callers that their phone conversations are being recorded, Arizona state law does not require such notification. "I had the doctors and employees sign a consent form stating that they know the calls are being recorded, and that's enough," Burgett says.

Once they warmed up to the idea of the recordings, getting them to sign the form was easy. "The physicians know it's a valuable tool that's there to support and protect them," Burgett states. "I didn't get the system for the lawsuits. I got it so I could know whom to believe when we have a dispute. It gives me the opportunity to get the true story."

Talkument and Tracer offer other functions that Burgett has not been using. For instance, the systems come with call visualization, which shows all the activity that took place during a call; integrated live call monitoring and review; customizable employee evaluations and quality reporting; and desktop screen capturing.

"I admit that I'm not using the solutions to their full potential, but they do everything that I want them to do," Burgett says. "They've met all expectations. I'm very satisfied with where I'm at right now."

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