From Episodes to Continuity of Care: a Study of a Call Center for Supporting Independent Living

Abstract

Call centers are a central coordination hub for remote health services and telemedicine. Recently, also telecare providers use call centers to support the remote care of seniors living independently. Although we know that the quality of the interaction between caregiver and senior care recipient is important, there is a gap in our knowledge as to how ICT solutions can support this interaction through a call center model. In this paper, we describe a case study of a modern call center designed to provide services for independent living, primarily for seniors. The case study gives us new insight into how service providers envision ICT support for independent living in the future. We discuss our findings from interviews, observations and design workshops in light of relevant literature about independent living and call centers. We conclude with a set of directions for future ICT for call centers to support independent living of seniors. These tools should: 1) support continuity of care instead of episodes of care, 2) support caregiving activities in addition to medical triage activities, 3) support “technical caregiving” i.e. remote use, testing and maintenance of technology at home, and 4) support call center operators in leading ad hoc and emergent coordination in distributed teams.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    In this article we use the term senior to denote older adults who are the recipients of the services provided by the studied call center. This is a term used by the seniors themselves, e.g. in the titles of local senior associations such as “SeniorNett” and “SeniorIKT”. We use the term elderly care to denote the type of services provided by the studied call center.

  2. 2.

    The other mode of operation is “outbound”, used mainly to market and sell products to new customers, but also as a means to pro-actively maintaining an existing customer relationship.

  3. 3.

    Typically in terms of calls per day, length of call, customer satisfaction barometers.

  4. 4.

    In their study of day-to-day co-creation of care, Procter et al. (2014) propose a “Facebook for elderly care” as one technological approach.

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Acknowledgements

This research is funded by the EU FP7 projects FARSEEING (Grant Agreement No. 288940) and OPTET (Grant Agreement No. 317631), and by the Norwegian Research Council project ADAPT (Grant Agreement No. 317631). We thank the participants from the municipality, and Nils Brede Moe, Erlend Stav and Yngve Dahl from SINTEF for help with conducting workshops and interviews. We thank our anonymous reviewers and the editor of the CSCW Journal for constructive comments to the earlier versions of this article.

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Correspondence to Babak A. Farshchian.

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Farshchian, B.A., Vilarinho, T. & Mikalsen, M. From Episodes to Continuity of Care: a Study of a Call Center for Supporting Independent Living. Comput Supported Coop Work 26, 309–343 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10606-017-9262-4

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Keywords

  • Call center
  • Independent living
  • Aging in place
  • Assistive technology
  • Quality of client provider interaction
  • Personalization
  • Caregiving
  • Emergent coordination in distributed teams
  • Remote technology maintenance
  • Continuous care