COVID-19 has vastly increased the number of contact tracers globally while simultaneously spurring a host of compliance issues. Health systems suddenly find themselves having to hire and remotely manage thousands of new employees. How significant is the impact of this hiring explosion on call recording and compliance? In a word—monumental.
What is Contact Tracing?
Contact tracing is not a new practice. According to the CDC, contact tracing is part of a “multipronged approach” aimed at combating the COVID-19 pandemic. In past decades, contact tracers have worked to slow pandemics and the spread of viruses and diseases like HIV and tuberculosis. According to epidemiologist Dr. Emily Gurley, contact tracers try to “identify people who have been exposed to someone who is infectious” in an effort to facilitate protective actions for themselves and others. Contact tracers responding to the COVID-19 crisis reach out to people identified as those who have come into contact with an individual who has tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19. The scope of this growing response to the pandemic is staggering when held up against the number of infections.
Contact Tracers: A Rising Workforce
Currently, the US is experiencing an explosion in contact tracer hiring, but due to lockdown constraints, many of these hires are remote. Clearly, pandemic times have triggered an extraordinary response from world labor markets. Despite many call centers closing their doors, call agents have more work than ever before. It’s estimated that 100,000 new contact tracers will be hired across the United States to respond to COVID-19. Compliance managers and regional health administrators will have to manage thousands of new hires, many with only basic training. These agents will require quite a bit of training as they wade into the waters of HIPAA and GDPR from their home phones. Certainly, the potential for compliance issues and increased fines go up with each new hire. The potential pitfalls of not recording contact tracer calls are too significant to risk. Let’s have a look at the dangers, and then let’s talk about solutions.
COVID-19, Compliance, Remote Agents…Oh My
To begin with, contact tracers are mostly a remote-based workforce. While it’s possible that this might change over time, it’s also possible that these agents will stay right where they are. The work-from-home revolution went from being a dream situation to a necessary arrangement almost overnight. Many industry leaders feel that the remote workforce may stay remote now that we’ve seen the potential to maintain service continuity. However, training for the position of contact tracer varies from country to country and even state to state. Unfortunately, that means many agents with little understanding of call compliance will supply medical alerts to people over the phone.
HIPAA and GDPR Risks
What happens when a call tracer mistakenly hands over confidential information, like the name of the person diagnosed positive for COVID-19, something HIPAA and GDPR forbids them to do? This is a clear risk with rapid hiring and minimal training. There’s also the problem of people giving personal data to contact tracers over the phone, such as phone numbers, addresses, social security numbers, national insurance numbers, and so forth. All such sensitive data must be scrubbed from recordings and transcripts to meet various compliance laws.
Contact Tracers Collect Medical Data
Most, if not all, contact tracers are responsible for collecting symptom information from the people they call. This information goes into a database and may need to be sent to health departments in other territories. Compliance laws vary across counties and states, meaning your basic phone center practices in Ohio may not pass legal requirements when you send that recording to Florida. US States like California are hotbeds of consumer laws that directly impact phone recordings. When sending healthcare information across any border, state or country, it is imperative that contact tracers are following local and international regulations. On top of that, the security of transmitted data is at risk when the remote contact tracer is responsible for forwarding the information.
Recording Contact Tracer Calls
With so many moving parts to the contact tracer’s task, failing to record these calls is not an option. The simple act of recording the call can vastly increase the safety and soundness of your contact tracing operation. Securely recording your on-site and remote agents is the first step to meeting numerous compliances. Nevertheless, the method you select for recording your contact tracer calls can either make your life harder or solve almost every issue you might encounter.
Keep Your Contact Tracer Recordings In The Cloud
Remote agents are incredibly challenging to record with on-prem hardware, and the process is loaded with compliance obstacles. However, Cloud recording delivers compliance to the agent via the internet instead of hardware. The Atmos platform can accomplish mobile contact tracer recording without storing any critical data on the agent’s remote phone. Encryption makes call data sharing compliant and safe, even across state lines or international borders. Again, compliance laws vary globally, but encryption is a must regardless of your location.
Train Your Contact Tracers With Your Call Recordings
With people’s lives on the line, the job of the contact tracer is vitally important. And when your tracers have only minimal training, providing agents with a call script can reduce many agent errors before they ever have a chance to happen.
But how can you tell which agents are following the script and which agents are taking risks? Call analytics have revolutionized quality assurance practices, and if there was ever a place to use them, it’s in contact tracing. One of the best ways to train a call staff, on-site or remote, is with “show and tell”. To succeed in their task, agents need to hear an example of a correctly executed call. Cloud call recording puts your recordings at your fingertips so you can assemble the best and worst conversations. There’s no substitute for providing your agents with real-life insights from your recorded call data.
Automate Your Compliance QA
We use Atmos to automate QA, meaning Atmos can scan every new call for user-defined words and phrases. It can even identify a phrase when the words don’t fall in the same order. You’ll want to use analytics to rapidly assess which agents are failing to close calls compliantly. It could be they go off script or use inappropriate language. It could also be something more profound, like the agent’s tone with the people they call. Analyzing emotive content on the call highlights people who were not happy to talk to your contact tracer. Sometimes the issue may just be the nature of the call. On the other hand, maybe you have an agent that needs some training. The good news is that you will preemptively identify any calls with less than ideal outcomes. That beats learning about such an outcome from a complaint or worse—a subpoena.
PCI Redaction: Scrub That Data Clean
Contact tracers have to verify that they’re talking to the right person, and sometimes that means numbers. It could be an address, phone number, or in some instances, a social security number, or a national insurance number. PCI-DSS laws mandate that customer credit card information must be scrubbed from recordings, and that leads us to what’s similar about both situations: numbers. When CallCabinet designed Atmos’ automatic PCI redaction function, we didn’t just set it up to eliminate credit card numbers. It can also scrub phone, address, and personal identification numbers. This stops data thieves from exploiting stolen call recordings. Your contact tracers are working to help people minimize health risks during a crisis. Let’s minimize the data risks while they’re at it.
Call Recording is Part of the COVID-19 Solution
The call recordings we keep become vital to us as we advance through any crises. They can guide our current responses by clearly showing us success and failure. Call recordings show us the strengths and weaknesses of our current workforce. They become our first line of defense in any disputes. If you’re interested in Cloud call recording as a service, talk to us today.
Brian is a freelance technology writer and media editor based out of Central New Jersey. He’s logged 20 years of experience in the Telecom industry and side-hustles in the record industry. Brian started his career in technology at a company that made analog modems. He migrated to a marketing career in the call recording industry where he learned exactly how and why calls are monitored for quality assurance. These days Brian fuses his skills together to deliver his researched observations about telephony and compliance laws in polished articles and videos. He’s also composed the music for a long list of big Hollywood trailers. He does not miss the sound of analog modems but he is endlessly fascinated with phones.