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Adapting Community Call Centers for Crisis Support

Public Health Emergency Preparedness

This resource was part of AHRQ's Public Health Emergency Preparedness program, which was discontinued on June 30, 2011, in a realignment of Federal efforts.

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A Model for Home-Based Care and Monitoring

This report describes a model to enable community health call centers to support home-management and shelter-in-place approaches in mass casualty or public health emergency events. Community health call centers include poison control centers, nurse advice lines, and other hotlines.

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To guide call centers in adapting for emergencies, a model called the Health Emergency Line for the Public (HELP) was developed that uses interactive response technology to provide public information and decision support related to health events in Colorado. The model was developed by Denver Health under Contract No. 290-00-0014-12 with the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

A blueprint for the HELP model is provided in this report along with four fully detailed interactive response applications for the model. The applications allow callers to use their touch-tone phones to automatically retrieve critical information during a public health emergency. The interactive response applications are:

  • A quarantine/isolation monitoring application. This application can automatically place calls to individuals in home quarantine during a disease outbreak such as a pandemic influenza to assess their health status. The application reports on those that don't answer so that followup can be conducted.
  • A point-of-dispensing locations application. This application can provide callers with locations for drug dispensing sites in their county based on the caller's ZIP Code.
  • A drug identification application that can support mass prophylaxis with antibiotic drugs. This application helps callers identify dispensed drugs, provides information on how to take them, and describes potential adverse reactions.
  • A library of frequently asked questions that can disseminate health department-approved, up-to-date, consistent, and accurate information to the public and health care providers. This application allows callers to navigate through a library of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to retrieve information relative to their concern.


Executive Summary
Chapter 1. Final Products
   1. National Planning Scenarios Analysis Matrix
   2. Potential Health Call Center Capabilities for Four National Planning Scenarios
   3. Suggested Elements for Public Health Information and Decision Support Hotlines: the Health Emergency Line for the Public (HELP) Model
   4. Interactive Response (IR) Applications
Chapter 2. Background
   Incorporating Health Call Centers Into Community Emergency Responses
   Addressing Public Concern
Chapter 3. Methodology
   Overall Objective
   Overall Strategy
   Target Audiences
   Challenges for Preparedness
   Community Emergency Response Challenges
   Planning for Public Information Needs
Chapter 4. Results
   1. Establish an advisory panel of subject matter experts to supplement our expertise and provide assistance and guidance
   2. Develop scenarios for mass health emergencies, including chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive (CBRNE) events, and decide which ones provide the best opportunity for home-management/shelter-in-place strategies
   3. Research existing models, protocols, and algorithms; develop and implement a scenario-based model using poison control centers, nurse call lines, and similar centers
   4. Develop a mechanism to test and evaluate the model with a local exercise
Chapter 5. Recommendations
   Integration With Current Programs and Initiatives
   Public Health Communications and Education
   Special Needs Populations
   Volunteer Use in Call Centers
   Public Information Partnerships
   Appendix 1. National Planning Scenarios Analysis Matrix
   Appendix 2. Potential Health Call Center Capabilities for Four National Planning Scenarios
   Appendix 3. Suggested Elements for Public Health Information and Decision Support Hotlines: the Health Emergency Line for the Public (HELP) Model
   Appendix 4. Developing an Interactive Response Tool: The HELP Model

AHRQ Publication No. 07-0048
Current as October 2007


The information on this page is archived and provided for reference purposes only.


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