Member’s assessment of behavioral healthcare after-hours messaging in 2022
The annual after-hours access studies performed by our vendor, North American Testing Organization* based in California, assesses adequate phone messaging for our members with perceived emergency or urgent situations after office hours. Unfortunately, Empire BlueCross BlueShield (Empire) still falls short of the expectation of having a live person or a directive in place for after-hours calls.
Well, the members are experiencing this lack of ability to reach instructions and have voiced their opinions in the member experience survey fielded annually for commercial and marketplace exchange via a behavioral health specific survey. An average of 29% of members have a need to contact their behavioral health practitioner after regular hours for urgent care. They are recalling, in the last 12 months, if they were able to reach the office for instructions, get a consultation they needed or get a timely call back?
This chart represents the office level accessibility when contacted by the survey vendor compared to the member satisfaction survey results of the member’s success getting their urgent needs meet after hours. As shown, the office level results are significantly below the expected 90% access to members with urgent symptoms.
Ironically, members express getting advice as soon as needed more often than the office assessment captures. Although a number of members sometimes, or never, reached the practitioner’s office for urgent instructions.
2022 Empire BlueCross BlueShield
BH practitioner after-hours access
Members access to BH after hours
To help both your patients’ and Empire’s ability to reach your practice, we ask that you verify or update your office information using the online Provider Maintenance Form and that you also review your after-hours messaging and connectivity for patients’ urgent accessibility.
- Have accessibility 24/7/365. Arrange to have your phone calls forwarded to a service or hospital, or have the appropriate messaging for the caller.
- Be sure to turn on a messaging mechanism when you leave the office.
- Be sure you are using the acceptable messaging for compliance with your contract.
Per the Provider Manual, have your messaging or answering service include appropriate instructions, specifically:
Compliant response for an emergency instructs the caller/patient to hang up and call 911 or go to the Emergency Room (ER) or live person connects the caller directly to the practitioner.
Compliant responses for urgent needs after hours:
- Live person or via a service, advises their practitioner or on call practitioner is available and connects.
- Live person or recording directs or directly connects caller/patient to Urgent Care, 24-hour crisis services, 911 or ER.
- May also, but not instead of directing, suggest caller/patient may contact their BH care practitioner (via cell phone, pager, text, email, voicemail, etc.) or request a call back for further urgent instructions.
- Mechanism connects the caller to their practitioner or the practitioner on call. (Must directly connect.)
- A live person or recording must express if there are prior arrangements with patients for after hour needs, to be compliant.
Non-compliant responses for urgent needs after hours:
- No provision for after hour accessibility.
- Live person or recording only directs the caller/patient to a mechanism for contacting their practitioner (via cell phone, pager, text, email, voicemail, etc.) or to get a call back for urgent questions or instructions.
These scenarios are non-compliant because there is no direct connection to their practitioner, thus not ensuring a timely callback. This prompt can be used in addition to, but not in place of instructions.
Is your practice compliant?
December 2022 Newsletter