Consult Coordination Center: Nerve Center of Acute Telemedicine
Jack Spradley, VP, Operations for SOC Telemed (SOC), is an experienced healthcare operations leader who enjoys the challenges of working in a complex, patient care environment. Spradley manages the SOC Consult Coordination Center, the largest nerve center of acute telemedicine in the US. Spradley explains how his team coordinates over 11,000 consults every month in teleNeurology, telePsychiatry, teleICU, and teleHospitalist service lines.
“The Consult Coordination Center, or CCC as we call it, requires discipline and structure while being able to adapt to an ever-changing healthcare environment. We’re responsible for patients when they are at their most vulnerable and highest level of need. For our teleNeurology practice, it can be a matter of life and death, just like any hospital. The CCC team comes to work every day focused on patient care as their #1 priority; knowing that we can make a difference in someone’s life makes this a very fulfilling job,” says Spradley.
How do you build a telemed team that thrives under pressure?
We rely on rigorous recruitment and continual training. We have a robust recruiting engine and focus on getting the right people with experience in healthcare and customer service. We hire employees who are accustomed to dealing with high-pressure environments. It is essential to bring energy to the job, but it has to be controlled. We look for people who are passionate about SOC’s mission and have the potential to take on additional responsibilities as they gain experience; we have created a clear career path for them to grow with us. We are also very open about the challenges faced with a 24/7 operation needing multiple shifts and managing a large volume of activity.
Once on board, the new hires spend over two weeks in training. We even have a dedicated training room where we can conduct mock consults until they gain a level of competency in handling all service lines. After training, new employees are shadowed by an experienced member of the CCC to continue sharpening their skills. A Quality Assurance program continually reviews the work of all CCC employees to identify any retraining needs.
How is the team structured?
We have built distinct processes for consult intake, consult preparation, video checks, and physician assignment. There are also structured processes for potential client-side downtime due to inclement weather or system issues to ensure patient care continues without interruption. There are several roles aligned with these processes:
The intake for consult requests can be by phone or through an online portal. Accuracy is of utmost importance: we need to know why the consult is being requested, the level of acuity for the patient, and the contact information for the clinical staff at the hospital. After intake, the coordinator continues to prepare the consult by obtaining detailed clinical information on the patient by fax or image transmission. The coordinator ensures the SOC physician has all the pertinent information to treat the patient.
The dispatcher is the ‘air traffic controller’ between the hospital staff, the coordinator, the patient, and the SOC physician. The dispatcher ensures that all patient information is available, validates the patient through a video check, and assigns the consult to the next available physician using our proprietary Telemed IQ engine. The physician receives notification via a mobile app and provides confirmation back to the CCC that the consultation has been accepted. The dispatcher is available throughout the consult in case any issues arise.
Our supervisors typically come up through the ranks, and have worked as coordinators and dispatchers in all of our service lines. They provide oversight, quality assurance, and problem-solving, and can easily fill in for employees on break or if the consult volume spikes. Our supervisors have their pulse on the entire room; they are continually monitoring the coordinators, dispatchers, queues, and activities, ensuring the highest level of service and quality.
Supervisors divide each shift into service line teams: telePsychiatry, teleNeurology, teleICU, and teleHospitalist. Each shift starts with a huddle to communicate volumes, queue statuses, and any technical issues so that there is a smooth transition. This huddle allows everyone to focus on his or her activity, provide exceptional patient care, and improves productivity.
“We run a virtual hospital; our agents wear scrubs to reinforce the importance of our mission and to help establish a connection with the onsite hospital staff and patients that we are an extension of the care team. We were the first private acute care telemedicine provider to earn The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval and were re-certified this year,” says Spradley.
Why did you start working at SOC?
I have worked in the healthcare space for a majority of my career with more than 20 years in pharmaceuticals at GSK and six years with Optum/United Health Group. I have always focused on new, innovative products and services that were not part of the mainstream healthcare environment. So, when this opportunity in telemedicine came up, it was a perfect fit.
What are you passionate about when you aren’t overseeing the Consult Coordination Center for SOC?
I enjoy experiencing different cultures; travel is a strong passion of mine. Experiencing the many unique cultures and ways of living keeps one humble and open-minded of our differences. Plus, I love food! Trying new cuisines and learning to cook new styles is always fun, entertaining, and educational.