NAEO Newslinks

July 2020



















Be Inspired

Snack Sized News

Member Benefit Spotlight

Featured Articles

President's Letter

In Loving Memory of Michael Goumas

Tips for Hosting a Virtual Meeting

How to Set a Virtual Background in Zoom

Take Your Break

Save the Date for Our 2021 NAEO Conference

In Case You Missed It

NAEO Superior Agent Service Award: Recognize and appreciate your agents for a job well done

Association Station





Webinar Spotlight

View Upcoming and Archived Webinars

Amtelco Annex

Genesis Intelligent Series Voice Mail

Manage IS Directory Role Assignments with the IS Supervisor Role Assignments Tab

Amtelco Webinar Spotlight

Amtelco Employee Spotlight: Mike Beale

Compelled by COVID-19, the Future of Healthcare is Here with Help from Telehealth and Hospital Call Centers

Updates from Amtelco

Be Inspired

Submitted by Gary Blair

"Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under the trees on a summer's day, listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the blue sky, is by no means a waste of time."

~ John Lubbock

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Snack Sized News

Communications Committee:

As always, the Communications Committee has kept our focus on keeping the NAEO community informed. From webinars to step competitions, we will continue to keep you in the know. We continue to publish Newslinks on a monthly basis as well as almost daily posts on social media to keep everyone up to date. If you have any interest in joining our committee, email!

Professional Development Committee

Do you want to learn? PDC wants to hear from you! Submit your ideas and suggestions on the topics you would like to learn about either at conference or Summer Series or webinars! Or maybe you would like to pass on what you have learned. Contact PDC ( to see how you can assist your fellow members. Who doesn't benefit from a good session of 'Things I Wish I Would've Known.'

Also be sure to keep an eye on the webinar calendar. The last half of 2020 is shaping up to have even more great educational webinars!

Membership Committee


The Membership Committee’s mission is to retain current members and to recruit new members by promoting association benefits. The committee works on an ongoing membership recruitment drive, contacts new and current members about their membership and continuously assesses member needs and benefits to keep the association strong and healthy. We meet the first Thursday of the month at 3pm EST/2 pm CST. Most of the committee’s work is done via conference calls and email, so the time commitment is usually limited (1-2 hours a month), and the rewards are plentiful. If interested drop us an email at

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The NAEO Conference Committee is looking for individuals to join their incredible team. The Conference Committee’s mission is to ensure that the annual spring NAEO conference is successful in terms of quality educational offerings and networking opportunities for attendees. 

If you enjoy planning and organizing – we want you! 
If you have strong communication skills — we want you! 
If you have a passion for connecting with others — we want you!
If you are looking to widen your professional circle – we want you!
If you are looking for a way to become more involved in the fantastic organization that is NAEO — we want you!

As a team with different skills, we work together to plan the largest NAEO social and learning event of the year!

Time Commitment

Monthly conference calls, listserv discussions and availability during the annual conference.

How Can You Join?

Email with your interest in joining, and we’ll get you added to the committee listserv and see that you are properly welcomed!

You have an opportunity to be involved in what is surely one of NAEO's greatest member benefits. Stop hesitating — and join!

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Member Benefit Spotlight:

Exclusive Member Benefits

NAEO Healthcare User Group and Online Seminars

NAEO’s Healthcare User Group’s (HUG) primary objective is to give our hospital members, as well as our member companies who have a strong healthcare focus, a venue to network with other member companies of the same focus. The member group shares experiences, ideas to improve their understanding and use of their Amtelco products more efficiently while discovering things and features that can help the needs of their businesses.

Most recently, HUG has begun to offer a Virtual IS Series focused on hospital and healthcare scripting. These are three-day, hands-on educational workshops on Intelligent Series programming, scripting and contact based architecture. 

For more information on the NAEO Healthcare User Group or to join them, please email:

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President's Letter

By Adrian Treviño, NAEO President

Fellow NAEO Members, I have the honor to present the President’s Report for the 2nd Quarter of 2020, and the first quarter of my term as your President.

First and foremost, I want to thank our 2019 – 2020 Conference Committee. They had a great lineup of education and networking opportunities for our membership at the Sheraton on Canal in New Orleans. In addition to our conference volunteers, I want to thank our committed speakers and sponsors. Everybody was committed to putting on a great conference right until the very end. I also want to thank our Board of Directors for making such an important decision to postpone and cancel the 2020 Conference. It was certainly not an easy decision but I appreciate everyone’s commitment to staying informed with the developing situation of COVID19 and making a decision that was in the best interest of our membership. Lastly, I want to thank Ewald. Their commitment to negotiating and utilizing their resources allowed us to be released from our contract with no fees. Many other organizations in our position were not as fortunate. 

This year has certainly come with its opportunities & challenges! 

As an industry we have run into the flames of COVID as we deployed our business continuity plans to ensure that we protect the income of our essential staff and the businesses of our customers. Members were sharing information about employee safety, pandemic planning, and PPP & SBA options, on the NAEO Listserv, Ryver, email, phone calls, Zoom meetings, and Facebook Group Video chats. This level communication and sharing is representative of the power in networking with one another. I am so honored to be a part of such an amazing forward-thinking group!

As leaders, we are dealing with the heartbreak of inequality and unrest as our teams try to make sense of the BLM movement and how they can help make a difference in our diverse world. Although this is a social matter, we cannot ignore that this affects us, our team members, and our communities in which we live and work. Our membership, businesses, and customers are quite diverse and NAEO is committed to ensuring that our Code of Conduct is respected. I am certainly grateful to be a part of such an inclusive user group.

As a family, we have dealt with the loss of two of our members. We will forever remember Linda Wilson & Michael Goumas. Their contributions to the foundation of our organization and growth have impacted our businesses and personal development in ways that continue to appreciate for years to come. My thoughts and prayers are with their friends and family as they seek closure and peace through this terrible loss. We will miss you. May you rest in peace. 

Although we were not able to have conference in 2020, our NAEO Professional Development Committee volunteers will continue developing and organizing relevant educational content. Be sure to review all of our upcoming webinars. 

Our NAEO Future Directions Committee volunteers continue to work closely with Amtelco to ensure that we are communicating our needs and expectation so that we can continue improving our platform to accommodate our changing needs.

Our Healthcare User Group Committee volunteers continue providing education opportunities for our hospitals and healthcare focused members. Be sure to checkout the Upcoming Events Calendar!

And of course, our Conference Committee volunteers are already planning our 2021 conference to be held at the Omni at the Battery in Atlanta, GA Monday 3/8/2021 – Wednesday 3/10/2021. 

If you know of anyone that may benefit from the networking and professional growth opportunities that come with volunteering in one of our committees, please encourage them to visit our NAEO Committees page.

Even though 2020 has presented various challenges, we as leaders have committed to ensure the health and resilience of our industry. I continue to look forward to see how NAEO can be of service to our membership. 

Adrian Treviño
NAEO President

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In Loving Memory of Michael Goumas

It is with a heavy heart that we acknowledge the passing of our beloved fellow NAEO Member and great friend to many, Michael Goumas. His passing came June 20, 2020.

In memory, Michael Goumas

At his first NAEO event, Michael was very shy, but quickly found his place to flourish. Michael was such a giving person and always eager to share his knowledge for the betterment of our association. There are countless examples over the years (too many to list here!) where Goumas would selflessly help anyone that needed assistance or direction. Often Michael was the first to respond with a solution to questions posted on the listserv or in Ryver by other members – he’s even been known to have been on the phone walking them through the solution within 5 minutes!

This March, the NAEO Board of Directors unanimously voted to induct Michael into the NAEO Hall of Fame as a member whose reputation has been one of selflessness to the organization and its members. However, Michael’s selflessness was not bound to just NAEO and our industry.

Reading the comments on the listserv, in Ryver and on social media shows just how much of an impact he had on so many people, our industry and our association – his contributions to NAEO are unmatched. 

Please keep his significant other, Michelle and his children, Stephanie and Michael, and his family at AnswerFirst in your thoughts and prayers.

Michael will be truly missed, but we will continue to keep his memory alive.

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Tips for Hosting a Virtual Meeting

# 1 – Connect with people

We all know that sometimes operating in a remote-work environment can feel a bit repetitive and redundant unless we make a conscious effort to engage everyone in conversation. While hosting a virtual meeting, make an effort to connect with your audience. Wake and shake them up. Our organization hosted ‘Crazy Hat Week’ while participating in the virtual meetings. It gave us an opportunity to loosen up, laugh and enjoy the view of all the crazy hats. I noticed we had more communication and participation about topics discussed during our virtual meeting. 

#2 – Be prepared

Virtual meetings may need more preparation than regular face-to-face ones. Work some extra planning into your schedule, so you can prepare adequately for both the meeting itself and for any technical challenges that may occur. 

#3 – Set the ground rules

Ground rules are an important part of virtual meetings. It sets the tone and expectations of the meeting. For example, you may ask that everyone enters the meeting with their mics on mute to cut out background/distraction noise. Or, you may as that they log in five minutes early so they can connect and check their audio or video connections. Whatever your expectations are, make sure to make them clear and available for your audience.

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How to Set a Virtual Background in Zoom

From an article by   | Shutterstock Blog

In the midst of worldwide lockdowns and near-global social distancing decrees, Zoom has emerged as one of the top video-conferencing providers for at-home professionals and the general public. It’s the app of choice because it’s free, it’s reliable, and it’s fun. A lot of that fun comes from the ability to change your Zoom virtual background, which can be a boardroom replacement or boredom cure for those working from home or those simply stuck at home.

>> Here’s how to change your virtual background in Zoom.

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Take Your Break


Play mini putt with coffee cups

ENERGIZING: Energizing activities get you ready to tackle the rest of your day after a break. Use these break activities to improve focus and keep yourself productive.

  1. Strategically place cups around the office. Use duct tape to stabilize them.

  2. Using a point system for an individual or team challenge, create a course.

  3. Be inventive. You can use a golf club and ball or a stress ball.

  4. Putt the balls towards or into the cups.

  5. Award higher points for more difficult putts. Points can also be based on the number of attempts, therefore the fewer the points the better!


Finding time for playing together can energize a team and help to build camaraderie through healthy competition.

Work together on a puzzle

CALMING: Calming activities can help release stress and help to refocus your attention so that you can really work on tasks at hand. Use these prompts as a starting point to have a more calming break.


Set up a large puzzle for co-workers to work on during their break time. Consider laminating the finished puzzle and hanging it in your workplace as an ongoing reminder of the teamwork and fun that went into putting it together.


This is a great team-building activity that encourages everyone to get up from their desks to refocus on something different from their regular work.

Work some yoga into your day

RELAXING: Incorporating relaxation into the day can drastically reduce stress levels. Not only does it improve physical and mental capacities, but it makes you feel good. Try these relaxing breaks with your coworkers or on your own.


Co-workers can actually stay at their own desks and a meeting reminder could be sent daily to encourage staff to take this break time. Yoga @ your desk


Yoga breaks during the workday can help employees relieve stress and become refreshed and more focused for the rest of the workday.


Go to Workplace Strategies for Mental Health for more ideas, tools and resources to help with the prevention, intervention and management of workplace mental health issues.

TakeYourBreak activities should be approved by your employer/leader prior to initiating them. TakeYourBreak activities are provided for general information only and are not intended to be a substitute for medical advice. Always consult your physician or appropriate health care provider with respect to your particular circumstances.

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Save the Date for Our 2021 NAEO Conference

March 7-10, 2021 at the Omni Hotel in Battery Atlanta


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In Case You Missed It

From the NAEO Facebook Page

It's a walk off! Are you up for the Challenge?

June 21-27, 2020 marks our 5th walk off to date! 

Every day for 7 consecutive days, each member of each team tracks the number of steps they have taken. Those numbers are entered into a tracking site, and at the end of the 7 days the company with the highest average number of steps per participant wins.

Do you think someone will steal the title from BearCom Canada or will they continue their reign?

Be sure to keep an eye on our social media challenges and next month’s edition of NewsLinks to find out!

June WalkOff

Lessons from the List

Submitted by NAEO Communications Committee

One of the greatest benefits of a NAEO membership is access to our listserv & Ryver and the quick feedback we are able to receive on topics — tech and otherwise! Recently, one of our members was looking for a way to compile daily call volume data for accounts that are in specific distribution groups. Here is the thread, in case you missed it.


Lainya Wingblad (Bennett Answering Service):

“I was wanting some advice on a situation I am having with remotes. Now since Covid-19 we have all of our operators working at home. We are on a one call auto connect and we have been holding & parking for years, but now I am having a hard time with operators not doing this. It is making our waits higher with auto times way to long. Does anyone have an idea how to handle this appropriately. I do not want to discipline if there is a better way to do this.     

Thanks in advance for your help.”

Matt Sanders (American TeleCenters, Inc.):

“I’ve spent a good bit of time searching for a solution to this myself.  I noticed that Additional Call Information on the logger had System Waits and Personal Waits info available.  I tried to write a report that looked at that info but found it only logged it at certain times and wasn’t consistent.  If Amtelco could write the System Waits and Personal Waits to the answer table you could check on a by call basis to see if the policy was being followed, or at least get close.”

Lainya Wingblad (Bennett Answering Service):

 “Thank you so much Matt.”

Amy Downey (Advanced Answering Center):

“Same here and talk times have gone.“

Kelly Cammack (Apollo Answers):

“Remote work creates many new challenges. We are a remote-first company. No office. We have been working 100% remote since 2018, but it was a slow process to get here. We had trials and errors and changed a lot of stuff.  

Originally we were on a two call system with hold and park. Eventually, we moved to our current environment with one call and auto-connect. Now we don't expect the ops to hold and park for waits, they should take the call from start to end, without placing the call on hold unless they need to look something up, or send the call to someone else. Every client does have a customized auto answer we don't use the generic. This is less stressful for the ops and easier to track accountability in my opinion. We still monitor average call times and give feedback on how they can do things to reduce call duration.

Because of this, we adjusted our stats, and now our ops goal is to have 90% talk time.  Most of them get it on most days. Dispatchers' goal is 60% talk time.  We have a disconnect alert set at 60 seconds, and the ops call it "the screech" because it is uncomfortable to listen to. 

Find ways to motivate them to do the behavior you want to see. Explain how things affect waits and the company overall. 

We do monthly bonuses, on different things we are having issues with. For example, we have problems with people not verifying spelling (we don't require it on every name), so for May the bonus was to verify spelling, and everyone who did it on at least 15 their calls we reviewed during QA will earn the bonus. Plus we give them public recognition for earning the bonus in chat. I have not posted May yet, see the image below of the public recognition for the people who earned the April bonus. 

kelly cammack comment

Maybe they forgot they were supposed to do it? Ask them why they are no longer doing it? Maybe they are not aware it is busy and there are waits since they can't hear everyone else talking. Maybe something else, try and see if there is a root cause, and address it. 

Honestly, ops who never worked in our office, are more successful and perform better at home. We hire different people than we would have in our office, our applicant pool is way bigger because we can hire anyone in the entire state. Ops who worked in our office, perform lower, and always find ways to skirt the rules and the system. For example, many of them mute the disconnect alert, so they don't have to hear it when a call is on their screen too long. 

We are currently hiring and this is a report based on the last 30 days, over 900 applications. These numbers are normal, actually, they were a little higher before the pandemic.”

analytics overview

Deborah Anders (The Legacy Connection):

“We talked to our ops to see if they had any insight as to why their stats were struggling. The first problem was that they didn’t even realize there was an issue until we shared it with them. They gave us several issues as feedback after they started watching it themselves. The first was the obvious reason that they didn’t have the noise in the ops room to judge the traffic. The next was, due to sending everyone remote without a lot of warning, most were using laptops. With the decrease in screen size, most weren’t able to see the hi-res window as well as they could in the office, & therefore were not reacting to waits as quickly. We made some adjustments and saw improvement across the board. Another thing we found important was to have a supervisor (or the person in charge - what we call the “air traffic controller”) watching the monitor window to be sure everyone is pulling their weight. 

It’s not perfect, but it is better ;-) ”

Lainya Wingblad (Bennett Answering Service):

 “Thank you so much Deborah.
These are great ideas. One problem that I am having is that I do watch EZ Waits and when they are not pulling their weight I chat them, “Please Hold and Park”. Well I guess they are taking this personally and feel offended that I said that. I feel it is part of the job and it needs to be done.”

Deborah Anders (The Legacy Connection):

“When we chat to hold & Park, we chat to all so that no one feels “attacked”. We constantly reinforce that, “if you are holding then we are not talking to you”. That way, if they get defensive, it must be a guilty conscience. Lol”

This is one of NAEO’s great strengths — the willingness of its members to share and help each other. James Sneed asked a question and quickly received what he was looking for! Remember: the next time you face a challenge, need some guidance or would like a recommendation, simply post your question to the Listserv and/or Ryver — problem solved!

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NAEO Superior Agent Service Award: Recognize and appreciate your agents for a job well done

Looking for a great way to recognize and appreciate your agents for a job well done? 

Sign up today for the NAEO Superior Agent Service Award!

NAEO Superior Agent Service Award

The NAEO Superior Agent Service Award program is a "mystery caller" program that offers NAEO members the opportunity to have their call center agents evaluated by an independent panel of judges, over a 6-month period running from August through January. The mystery callers will conduct a test call based on the client profile information members provide when registering to participate in the program.

At the completion of the program, two independent judges will listen to the call recordings and assess a score based on a pre-determined point scoring process. Only companies who achieve an overall score of 80 percent or higher will receive the Superior Agent Service Award, presented at the NAEO Annual Conference.


→ Get More Details & Sign Up Here


Application Deadline: August 3, 2020

In addition to NAEO Superior Agent Service Award given to the company, two additional awards are available to their agents.

  • NAEO Emerging Leaders Award

    Top 10 Agents will take home a glass trophy
  • NAEO Agent Award of Distinction

    The Top Agent with the #1 call overall for the year gets a choice of two prizes:
    • Conference/workshop registration, including airfare and hotel
    • or $500 cash

Register today to recognize your agents as industry leaders in exceptional call handling.

Be an NAEO ★

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Association Station


Respectfully submitted by Linda Osip, Executive Director

Convention Update:

Virtual Convention 2020

Respectfully submitted by Brad French, Convention Chair

To say things have changed would be a monstrous understatement.  I must say that we had an incredible experience lined up for you in Kingston this year, but no one on my convention committee planned for a pandemic!

When given lemons, the best thing to do is to make lemonade.   I am super excited to announce that this years CAMX convention will be our industries first virtual convention.  While we are still working out the details, we will be holding our virtual convention over two days (October 1st, and 2nd) with 3 to 4 hours of programming per day.  As we are all new to this, we will be careful of time zones to ensure people do not have to get up too early or stay up too late!

The price point is also going to make it more attractive for companies to send many team members at a fraction of the cost, considering there will be no hotels, food or travel costs and a reduced convention price.

We are finalizing our agenda, but sessions will include:

  • Motivating a remote workforce
  • Operator bonus plans, driving results
  • Sales and marketing
  • AI and practical uses in the answering service environment
  • Virtual networking
  • AGM
  • Award of Excellence and awards presentations

I would like to thank my convention committee that have really stepped up to plan two conventions in one year!  Thank you Desiree Bombenon, Gary Blair, Gary Pudles, Steve Newall, Cindy Roma, Dana Lloyd and of course Linda Osip.

I look forward to seeing you all in October, even if it is virtual!

COACH U Update:

We are holding a Virtual COACH U for 2020.  Tentative dates are September 16 & 17

Program to include:

  • Networking Breakout rooms with a wide variety of timely topics
  • Gamification
  • On-Line Learning Platforms

All sessions will be interactive with a focus on learning while attending.

The Education Committee is actively working on a program that will shine!

All Webinar recordings are available through the CAM-X office.

Please email for recordings of these sessions

Recent Webinars:

Remote Agent Series, Mental Health Series, Coping Skills, The Employee Experience

Pre Employment Testing Demo Available
Contact for instructions

Show your staff they are worthy: 
CSR and Supervisor Certification


Our association is dedicated to the education and promotion of industry best practices.​​ We are primarily made up of members from telephone answering services in the Atlantic and New England States but we welcome anyone to join our association.


2020 Sales Symposium
August 5-6, 2020
Ameristar Casino Resort ~ St Charles | St Louis, MO

2020 ASTAA Conference
October 11-13, 2020
DoubleTree by Hilton | Lancaster, PA 

Visit for more info.

​Through Business Calls, ASTAA is offering a client newsletter for your business. It's a perfect way to 'touch' your clients monthly. For more information please visit our website.

Atlantic States Telephone Answering Association - ASTAA | PO BOX 356 Alton, IL 62002
Executive Director - Maryellen Pruitt | 618-696-8174 |



Caller Chaos Webinar Series 2020– presented by Marla Duncan

Save the Dates!

  • August 25th and 27th
  • September 15th and 17th
  • October 13th and 15th

Recovering from 2020… getting your people back on track. Help your supervisors create and maintain a team you can rely on. The Caller Chaos webinar series can give tools for your supervisors and managers to have the ‘perfect crew’ not the ‘perfect storm’

The Caller Chaos: Not reinventing the wheel, giving it new spokes. An interactive webinar for your supervisors, managers and/or Leads. Giving and sharing ideas on recruitment, interviewing, integration of new hires, keeping the communication in your office flowing, and so much more!

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Webinars and the Webinar Archive

NAEO webinars are presented frequently and focus on hot topics throughout our industry. Showcasing a balanced approach towards Operational, Technical, and Managerial content, each presentation is made by a member of NAEO or guest speaker, lasting about one hour. Offering rich opportunities for interaction and a plethora of takeaway information, our webinars are certainly a first-class member benefit. With a schedule as dynamic as our membership, it is always best to check our calendar for accurate and timely updates!

Past webinars are also available to members in the Resource Center of the NAEO website.


View Upcoming & Archived Webinars

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Amtelco Annex

All rights reserved © March 2020 Contact: 

Genesis Intelligent Series Voice Mail

Author David Drenk

Manage IS Directory Role Assignments with the IS Supervisor Role Assignments Tab

Author David Drenk

Amtelco Webinar Spotlight

Genesis Web Agent: Hidden Features

Date: Tuesday, July 14, 2020
Time: 1:00 PM CDT
Description: Join Amtelco staff as they discuss the hidden features of Genesis Web.

New Features in Prism II

Date: Thursday, July 23, 2020
Time: 1:00 PM CDT
Description:  Join Bob Vornberg as he reveals new features coming for Prism II.

The Link between miSecureMessages and miTeamWeb

Date: Tuesday, August 11, 2020
Time: 1:00 PM CDT
Description:  Join Amtelco staff as they discuss linking miSecureMessages and miTeamWeb together.

Register Now for these Informative Webinars!


For more information email

Amtelco Employee Spotlight:

Mike Beale - Project Management 1Call Team LeadNancy Lee

Those who have had a new system installed within the past three years may be most familiar with Mike Beale. As the Project Management 1Call Team Lead, Mike works closely with both hospital customers and Amtelco staff to plan and supervise the implementation of Amtelco's call center software.

Before he was hired in 2017 as a project manager, Mike interned at Amtelco for 5 years in both the Field Service and Software Departments. The experience he gained as an intern gave him valuable insight he needed to perform as a project manager. In addition to working with existing customers to upgrade them from Infinity to Genesis, Mike is working with a number of new customers such as UnityPoint Health and UF Health Shands, and is excited to be overseeing the implementation of Genesis at twelve hospital groups within Ascension - the largest Catholic health system in the country.

As an organization, Amtelco prides itself on being true business partners with its customers. Mike's role in project management embodies this mission. Orchestrating all of the moving pieces to meet project budgets, timelines, and expectations demonstrates the commitment Mike has to make customers successful. In recognition of his endeavors, Mike was honored with an Employee of the Year award from NAEO (National Amtelco Equipment Owners) earlier this year.

Mike is an avid outdoorsman and enjoys hunting and fishing, which compliments his recent hobby. "I have been really getting into cooking lately. Both wild game and garden-grown vegetables," says Mike. His dream is to own a home with acreage and waterfront.

Three Random Things to Know about Mike

  1. At which store would you like to max-out your credit card? Cabela's
  2. If you could visit anywhere in the world you've never been, where would you go? Greece (both Athens and the Greek Islands)
  3. What's the craziest thing you've ever done? I went to Europe for six weeks and visited Italy, Latvia, Germany, and Austria.

Compelled by COVID-19, the Future of Healthcare is Here with Help from Telehealth and Hospital Call Centers


Nancy LeeThose of us in the healthcare communication field already know the value of telehealth and virtual care. As the COVID-19 pandemic evolved, telemedicine gained worldwide recognition as a critical healthcare tool to keep both patients and medical staff safe.

Telehealth has predominantly been used to bring healthcare to rural areas or isolated populations, such as overseas military personnel and those who work in the maritime industry. Until recently, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) placed certain stipulations on telehealth providers and would only reimburse for services provided in rural areas with specific audio-visual equipment.

However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, on March 6, 2020 CMS relaxed restrictions and removed many of the conditions clinicians had to adhere to in order to provide telehealth services to patients residing across the entire United States. Later, CMS expanded its telehealth adoption to include 85 new telehealth services to their covered list and set provider reimbursement rates for telehealth visits to be the same as in-person services.

Are We Ready for Telemedicine?

Many people are new to the concept of telemedicine. On July 31, 2019 JD Power reported that nearly three-quarters of Americans weren’t aware of telehealth options or didn’t have access to technology to partake in telehealth. Yet the American Hospital Association states that 76 percent of U.S. hospitals were already using telehealth before the coronavirus pandemic. Currently, forty-eight states require telehealth coverage in insurance plans.

Healthcare-related industries already had infrastructure in place and were prepared for the use of telemedicine and telehealth. However, few anticipated how quickly the use of these virtual tools would grow or how they would be used in new ways when COVID-19 began to spread. The coronavirus pandemic has dramatically accelerated the adoption of telemedicine usage. Telehealth visits sky-rocketed by 50 percent in March 2020 according to data from Frost and Sullivan, and analysts at Forrester Research estimate that virtual healthcare interactions will reach more than 1 billion by the end of 2020.

Hospital Call Centers Experience Increased Telehealth Calls 

Call centers in every industry have been affected by the pandemic. Most business websites have placed a message at the top of their home page warning of long hold times and delays in service. In healthcare, communication setbacks can mean life or death. Understandably, hospital call centers experienced a substantial increase in calls early in the pandemic. Many healthcare call centers assist with telehealth efforts, and they also serve as a hub for their healthcare organization during a crisis.

“We played an immediate role in the hospital’s corporate response to the coronavirus pandemic,” explains Shelley White, MS, CHAM, FACHE, Director of Patient Access Services for State University of New York (SUNY) Upstate Medical University. “A COVID-19 hotline was established and we took calls from multiple counties in our area. Within two weeks, our call volume drastically increased, and we needed more space in our call centers to work while practicing social distancing. We used free operator licenses from 1Call to set-up additional remote operator work stations so more of our agents could work from home. This kept our staff safe while serving the community.”

Running a call center in a virtual server environment, or in the cloud, is giving hospitals the ability to stay flexible and available by using remote operators. These tools are scalable and result in fully functioning call handling to transform any personal computer into a professional telephone agent station.

Call Center Software Assists Telehealth Communication

Using telehealth for virtual appointments with medical staff and patients has been essential during this pandemic. There are other ways in which telehealth communications are used by healthcare systems. Hospital call centers are leveraging their communication software, often in new ways, to provide their communities and staff with accurate information, quick responses, and – in some cases – hope.

  • Nurse Triage Centers – Agents use a customized script to triage calls.
  • Improved Navigation Menus – Callers are directed to additional, updated information.
  • Non-Clinical Services – Non-clinical administrators establish and maintain on-call schedules for COVID-19 volunteer pools, and even create announcements using a song, tone, or message to broadcast throughout the hospital when a coronavirus patient is released – a wonderful way to spread hope and encouragement to patients and staff.

Many telehealth agents are working from home, and it is crucial for them to have access to the IT support they would normally use when working in the call center. Jennie McWhorter, Information Services Operations Manager for Ephraim McDowell Health in Danville, KY explains how the system can help here as well. “We have entered a ‘Telehealth Support Hotline’ in the call center software that allows the operators to connect to our Help Desk directly,” says Jennie. “This is very important as our main Help Desk line is usually a voicemail-only system that creates a ticket in our Help Desk software.” 

Remote Operators Help Medical Staff

Shelley White’s team has also been able to assist staff who are still located within the hospital. SUNY Upstate Medical University is the only ACS certified Level I Trauma Center in the region and serves about 1.7 million people and 28 referral hospitals. Shelley says, “During this coronavirus crisis, our ER registration is short-staffed, but we are able to help by watching our track board, which is tied into the EMR system with Epic. When a COVID-19 patient is admitted, we can call the patient to register them and verify insurance information over the phone. This process would normally be done in-person by ER staff, but we can do it remotely and ease some of their workload.” 

According to numbers reported from Becker’s Hospital Review on April 7, 2020, employees from 243 hospitals have been furloughed during the pandemic. Hospitals are taking steps to save supplies, suspend elective procedures, and focus on treating COVID-19 patients. 

To avoid layoffs, some healthcare organizations are reassigning their medical staff as remote call center operators. “We were able to redistribute existing staff from other departments and tap into their skills to cross-train them to work for the switchboard,” states Shelley. “In our situation, patient access staff and medical answer teams were trained on easy calls and were then able to work from home as remote operators. These staff members are now even more valuable to our organization.”

Kathleen Kerrigan BSN, RN, and Manager of Medical Communications Center, Radiology Contact Center and Pager Services for Nebraska Medicine mentions her experience, “Nebraska Medicine has created a Flex Pool for employees that work in areas of the organization that have closed or severely cut their workflows due to COVID-19. I was able to add 19 of these employees to my team, including both nurses and agents.” 

Telehealth as the New Normal

Telehealth has suddenly become crucial for patients and healthcare organizations. The use of telehealth has undeniably demonstrated what an important tool it is in maintaining a healthy population. 

Hospital call center and healthcare professionals have already shown agility in adapting communications software in new ways to improve telemedicine applications while enhancing patient care – even during a pandemic. Advances in technology and our ability to use it could soon make the use of telehealth a standard healthcare practice. 

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