L&D Best Practices: Strategies for Success (April 2021)

A look at 2021 Training Top 100er Johns Hopkins Medicine’s Quality Partner Coaching Program.

Training magazine taps 2021 Training Top 100 winners and Top 10 Hall of Famers to provide their learning and development best practices in each issue. Here, we look at Johns Hopkins Medicine’s Quality Partner Coaching Program.

Johns Hopkins Medicine’s Quality Partner Coaching Program

The Johns Hopkins Medicine Quality Partner Coaching Program trains Patient Access call center agents how to master the perfect call. Quality Partners (called QPs and also known as Quality Assurance staff) are used to coach agents in monthly coaching sessions to reinforce their training and provide one-on-one staff support.

Program Details

Pre-pandemic, Quality Partners met in person with agents monthly to deliver feedback on their calls. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began and all staff moved to remote work, monthly feedback sessions now are done virtually using Microsoft Teams. QPs then are able to shadow agents while they take a call, share snippets of audio for feedback, and coach agents for improvement.

Evaluation of patient calls is broken up into two parts: quality monitoring and a technical audit. When QP are trained in monitoring calls, they use our own Call Monitoring tool that evaluates the call on five criteria:

  • Greeting (“Hello! Thank you for calling [our organization]!”)
  • Bridge (required HIPAA verification, using empathy effectively with the caller)
  • Call Resolution (asking probing questions and verifying information)
  • Summary and Closing (summarizing the call details and thanking the person for calling)
  • Professionalism and Call Control (using proper hold and transfer procedures, active listening skills, and a professional tone throughout the call)

The monitoring tool was created in-house by a workgroup consisting of Patient Access call center agents and department managers; Johns Hopkins’ director of Talent Development, Training, and Quality Assurance; Quality Partners; and Training staff.

Quality Partners are assigned to different agents per department and use the quality tool to monitor five random calls per agent each month. Agents then meet with QPs monthly to discuss their scores. During that session, they both review a call and create goals, and agents are identified for remedial training if needed in a specific area.

The other part of call evaluation is the technical audit. The Quality team identified that call quality was not enough to judge call accuracy—they needed to see how the agents were inputting information into the organization’s Epic records system. The team searched for an external solution, but nothing satisfied their exact needs. With the help of a Hopkins system architect, the Patient Access Quality team created the TRACE (Training Resource: Audits & Customer Service Evaluation) audit tool. This tool uses video capture to sync up with the call audio to show the QPs how accurately agents input the information into the system while talking on the phone.

The Quality Partner Coaching Program uses a coaching approach with agents: The Quality Partners were designed to replace the more traditional (and often considered punitive) Quality Assurance staff role. Monthly meetings with call center staff are called “coachings,” and QPs work with agents to review their quality monitoring scores and TRACE audit scores, set goals, and facilitate behavior change. QPs understand that these meetings can cause apprehension—no one likes to receive challenging feedback—so they are trained to coach agents with empathy, support, and open dialogue. If an agent needs additional support or a training refresher, they are assigned one of a number of interventions, including job aids, small group meetings focused on a specific skill (such as hold and transfer), or a side-by-side with a member of the training staff.


Kirkpatrick Level 3 (Behavior Change):

Coaching Sessions: The monthly coaching sessions themselves are a method of behavior change—agents get feedback and scores from QPs on their calls. They can track progress from month to month and see positive change based on the variety of suggested interventions (job aids, small groups, games via Kahoot, side-by-sides and observation with a trainer or QP, etc.). These interventions help them implement the skills they learned in training. QPs also get feedback from managers during separate monthly meetings when discussing agent progress.

Auditing Tools: The quality monitoring tool enables call consistency and allows QPs to identify positive behaviors such as active listening, positive tone, and empathy. The TRACE audit captures an agent’s process and errors in Epic’s electronic medical records system. Both tools give QPs hard data to use in their monthly meetings with agents, allowing agents to track their progress and improve their scores.

Kirkpatrick Level 4 (Business Results):

The average quality score in 2019-2020 for all departments was 89.3 percent, with all departments scoring at least 80 percent. In the first two months of fiscal year 2020-2021, 100 percent of departments had 80 percent or better quality monitoring scores, exceeding expectations. Out of 11,000 calls in FY2019-2020, only 155 (1.4 percent) were HIPAA autofails (where an agent gets a zero score on a call if they fail to ask the required HIPAA verification questions).

Overall, the Quality Partner Coaching Program has been an overwhelming success since its inception. Johns Hopkins Medicine takes seriously the “Partner” part of the Quality Partner title—its goal is for QPs to be connectors in Patient Access, facilitating better relationships between agents and their Quality Partners, their managers, the training material, and ultimately the patients they serve. The program also is reinforced long term as QPs often meet with the same agents month after month, and sometimes year after year, creating lasting relationships and strengthening the coaching culture in Patient Access.


Edited by Lorri Freifeld
Lorri Freifeld is the editor/publisher of Training magazine, owned by Lakewood Media Group. She writes on a number of topics, including talent management, training technology, and leadership development. She spearheads two awards programs: the Training APEX Awards and Emerging Training Leaders. A writer/editor for the last 30 years, she has held editing positions at a variety of publications and holds a Master’s degree in journalism from New York University.