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Patient Notification Toolkit

Section 3: Establishing Communication Resources

Depending on the size of the notification, e.g., a thousand patients or more, it may be necessary to establish a call center to respond to questions and concerns from the community. A call center can manage the flow of information to and from a large number of callers, enabling health department staff to focus on conducting the investigation. Even with a small notification, local resources can quickly become overwhelmed. Regardless of the size of the notification, patients often want to speak with a knowledgeable resource after receiving the letter. This section contains resources that will help you determine the need for and establish a means to handle public inquiries.

  • Setting Up a Call Center
    • Call Center Considerations
    • External Resources for Contact Center "Communities of Practice"
  • Example Q/A Resources
    • Hepatitis C Outbreak, Nevada, 2008
      • The Issue – Safe Injection Practices
      • Worried Well
      • CDC’s Role
  • Frequently Asked Questions Used by the Nevada Call Center, 2008
    • http://www.southernnevadahealthdistrict.org/hepc-investigation/faq.php
    • Most Frequently Utilized FAQs
      • Which clinic are we talking about? (17% of callers)
      • Where can I get tested? (12% of callers)
      • When were the known cases exposed? (5% of callers)
      • Can you tell me if I’m on the list and should I receive a letter? (5% of callers)
      • I am uninsured. When can I get tested? (5% of callers)

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Setting up a Call Center

The purpose of a call center is to rapidly handle a surge of inquiries by telephone and/or email. The call center must efficiently handle a large number of calls or emails from the general public as well as healthcare professionals, and should have all necessary information related to the notification. Call centers should also be able to provide special services such as English-to-Spanish translation, TTY for the hearing impaired, and support beyond normal business hours. With large notifications, it may be necessary to contract with a large independent call center such as a regional poison control center.

The following is a list of general considerations for setting up a call center.

Call Center Considerations

  • Be ready to respond to questions from the general public as well as healthcare professionals.
  • Develop pre-cleared, accurate material specific to your event that is:
    • Question and answer format
    • Specific to your patient notification and investigation
    • Easily read and understood
    • Available in multiple languages
  • Choose a call manager whose job will be to quickly integrate new information into call center responses.  Call center personnel must have access to updated information as quickly as possible.
  • Tailor special accommodations to your population, e.g., for hearing impaired or non-English speaking communities.
  • Assign and train personnel to answer calls and direct people as needed. These personnel should know where to send callers who have additional questions that cannot be answered by the phone operators.
  • Decide between the use of an existing number or a “new” toll-free number designated for your response.
  • Consider the time of day – patients will call after 5p.m. and on weekends. Even for a small notification, it may be necessary to staff phone lines after normal business hours, at least for the first week (e.g., 5p.m. to 8p.m.).
  • Make sure your call center is expandable – be prepared to increase the number of call lines and respondents to handle a larger volume of calls on short notice, e.g.,  immediately after a media release of new information.
  • Provide monitoring and statistics in order to measure standards of performance.
  • Assess the need for an outside source to handle overflow and surge calls (e.g., health department, CDC)
  • Consider accepting email inquiries – Some patients may prefer this form of communication.

External Resources for Contact Center "Communities of Practice"

Follow these links to performance measures, practices and approaches used to guide and improve contact center service to citizens.

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