If there’s one thing that’s consistent about healthcare, it’s that it’s constantly changing and shifting. As an example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, rapid shifts to telehealth, remote diagnostics and similar technology accelerated at an astounding rate. At the same time, expectations for superior patient care and member services are both in demand and rising, while the expectation remains that efficiency will improve and operating costs will fall. It’s a difficult environment to navigate in the best of times, given these often contrary expectations and concerns.
As people expect higher levels of convenience in their daily lives, including their healthcare, the question that remains is what should a high-performing and successful healthcare call center look like in action? There is a need for secure communications channels to reduce the chance of data and identity theft. Agents need to be both competent and compassionate so that they’re able to provide callers with quality comfort and expert guidance during the conversation. As technology continues to be pervasive, having multichannel communications makes it easier to engage with a range of platforms. At the same time, being able to monitor for key performance indicators, healthcare call center metrics and undertake continuous quality improvement processes that impact data-driven personalization, human interaction and proven technology help us connect to every patient.
How Are Healthcare Call Centers Different From Traditional Retail or Other B2C Call Centers?
Though call centers may all seem similar, there are specific drivers that set healthcare call centers apart from the rest. All call centers are focused on a few key metrics that don’t vary from industry to industry. Caller satisfaction ensures that the caller’s interaction with your center is of good quality and provides a positive impact on the caller. Department satisfaction can include issues such as the happiness and productivity of your healthcare call center agent staff, ensuring that you can avoid high turnover and provide efficient operations. It must have a solid return on investment and deliver solid savings to the organization it serves. But how are healthcare call centers different?
Key Healthcare Call Center Differentiators
Healthcare Center Agent Training
To start, call centers in healthcare require extensive training of each healthcare call center agent. There are a wide range of regulatory and privacy issues that must be adhered to, requiring a high level of education to ensure that these regulations are met. This can include discussing insurance practices and HIPAA when discussing healthcare call center best practices during training.
But simple training in healthcare regulations isn’t enough. Every healthcare call center agent needs to be able to make a personal connection with the patients that they’re in contact with. They need to present a caring demeanor while still acting as an advocate to help the patient make the right choice for their needs.
By making these approaches, your healthcare call center agents help improve your patient retention, which in turn impacts your practice’s return on investment. Because of the differences between every patient, being able to adapt to every call is an important quality, because it requires a unique approach to help each patient find the best wellness and care to fit their needs.
Attention to Compliance and Regulatory Mandates
Of course, with every healthcare call center agent, the regulatory issues must be pushed just as heavily as the caring and educational aspects of your healthcare call center agent training. HIPAA is, of course, the first regulatory standard that you may consider when you’re looking for healthcare call center solutions, but there are many more. These include:
- Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard or PCI-DSS. Though your healthcare call center agent may need to request the patient’s CVV2 number on the back of their debit or credit card, they’re not allowed to record that portion of the call. Being aware of this regulation and having an API in place to automatically pause recording during this time allows your agents to focus on the call rather than pausing and unpausing recording processes.
- Recording Consent. In most states, you’re required to have permission from both parties to make a recording of a phone call, not just one. That’s one of the reasons why call center software will automatically include a comment about the phone call being recorded as part of its routing system, making it much easier to allow your agents to focus on call as the automated system takes care of the issue.
- PCI-DSS Healthcare Call Center Agent Tracking. Another part of the regulations for PCI-DSS involves being able to track all agents through unique tracking numbers or a similar indicator to check their access to sensitive information. Given the switch to remote work with the COVID-19 pandemic, adding in two-factor authentication for your call center staff can help ensure that this requirement is met.
- Annual Training Updates. Though this isn’t required under any specific regulation, it’s a good idea to hold annual training to be able to keep each healthcare call center agent up-to-date with all of the changes in regulations. Specifically, you’ll want to make sure that your training is covering HIPAA, PCI-DSS and TCPA, as well as any other healthcare regulations that have changed in the past year. Stagger training to keep your healthcare call center operating effectively.
- Avoiding Threatening Patients. Not only is this a huge problem in terms of your healthcare call center metrics and patient satisfaction, but it’s also illegal under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, Section 806. This section states, “A debt collector may not engage in any conduct the natural consequence of which is to harass, oppress, or abuse any person in connection with the collection of a debt.” Your agents need to be trained to keep their cool and avoid using violent or abusive language when dealing with difficult patients.
- No Sharing of Patient Information. Though HIPAA may be misconstrued to only cover the patient’s medical information, the regulation also extends to a range of additional information your agents may not have considered. This information can include Social Security numbers, geographical identifiers, identifiable images of the patient, IP addresses, account numbers and similar details, so make sure your agents are aware of the other aspects of patient files that cannot be shared beyond simple healthcare information.
- Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). This act protects customers from receiving unwanted telephone calls, which must be followed by your agents. This includes not using auto-dialers to connect to cell phones without permission, that permission can be withdrawn at any point and contact in this manner must stop, compliance with the national do-not-call registry, agents must identify themselves and AI or pre-recorded calls are strictly prohibited.
Help for Administrative and Clinical Staff
Your healthcare call center solutions can include a wide range of services to ensure that your patients are getting service at one single call center rather than having to call multiple departments and spending extensive amounts of time on hold at each one. To start, many healthcare call centers will have the option of setting appointments. Healthcare call center software can provide you with plenty of options to help automate your healthcare organization’s workflow, making it much easier to keep things operating efficiently while lowering costs.
The call center can often handle the entire administrative transaction process. This frees up more time so that your clinical team can spend more time working with the patients at appointments and less time chasing records, test results, appointment scheduling, billing, payments and similar issues. Instead of focusing on these administrative issues and being concerned about ensuring all of these issues are handled, providers can focus on the patient and their needs, delivering a higher level of healthcare.
By delivering this higher level of care through centralized healthcare call center operations, you can ensure that patients can more easily handle all of their issues in a single location. This makes it easier to get patients into the office in a timely and efficient manner while making it easier for practitioners to engage with patients through the central EHR and enterprise-level healthcare call center solutions. Because the practitioners can focus their efforts on the patient, higher patient satisfaction ensures that the patient will return for care in the future.
Superb Patient Experience, Engagement and Satisfaction
Though it’s easy to focus on the patient as a patient rather than focusing on the business side that views these individuals as customers, that’s often a mistake. Our patients are our customers, whose patronage allows our practices and facilities to keep their doors open. For that reason, it’s important to create a healthcare call center culture that focuses strongly on customer service, which puts the patient at the center of the organization’s focus and ensures success in the future.
Despite the popularity of other options for outreach, omnichannel solution providers still see live healthcare call center agent access through the telephone as the most preferred channel for patients seeking help. This comes in above live chat, online knowledge, apps and email, partially due to the potential security risks to their personal health information that are perceived by consumers who have seen their information exposed in data breach after data breach.
Given the trends towards higher levels of personalization in online interactions, it’s probably no surprise that many consumers want to see that level of personalization in their healthcare interactions at a call center. This can include a wide range of information, such as knowing that it’s the patient’s left knee that is giving them trouble and that physical therapy isn’t keeping up, so surgery will be needed. This allows your call center agents to customize their recommendations to each patient’s needs.
Another aspect of patient care in the healthcare call center that can make a big difference is the follow-up call. When you have a unified healthcare call center that is cross-trained in multiple aspects of your organization, it’s easy to switch them to making follow-up calls, appointment reminders, surveys, pre-appointment admissions and patient care navigation when it’s quiet. This lets you ensure every patient has optimized outcomes from after-care initiatives, admissions that are not rushed during a late appointment check-in or similar issues.
Healthcare Call Center Metrics
With today’s digital transformation process, many healthcare organizations are recognizing the importance of healthcare call center metrics, a subset of overall big data analytics that allows the organization to more easily customize care for each patient. For most healthcare call center real-time reporting, this includes a range of possible metrics such as first-call resolution of issues, hold times, the total call time, availability of call center agents, handling of calls and abandonment rates. It can also include the call and service quality for individual agents.
Though there are many similarities compared to call centers in other industries, there are some nuances that are specific to healthcare call center metrics that must be taken into account. This can include some healthcare call center metrics that are difficult to place a singular metric on, due to the qualitative rather than quantitative approach that healthcare needs to take in order to keep its patients happy with their care and pleased to return in the future for additional care and treatment.
This can include factors such as placing goals to create emotional connections, build trust and creating solid relationships with the clients. It can be virtually impossible to put a numeric value on empathy in a particularly effective healthcare call center agent, but these factors will come out in patient satisfaction scores. Influencing patients to take the next step to improve their health is another aspect that can be difficult to measure, but will result in significantly improved patient outcomes.
Because of these issues, it’s vital to remember when looking at healthcare call center metrics that quantity isn’t the only metric, but that quality must also be taken into account. Success isn’t determined solely by hitting the right call time, agent availability or first-call resolution, but by the quality of the interaction between the patient and member. The success of this interaction must be at the core of every healthcare call center metric because without this success, every other aspect can be perfect and still cause the practice to fail.
Healthcare Call Center Outsourcing
When it’s time to set up a healthcare call center, there are many potential issues that can make it seem like an impossible dream. If your organization is having a hard time setting up your healthcare call center, whether due to the temporary nature of the need, lack of space, desire to extend hours or similar issues, healthcare call center outsourcing companies can make a big difference while allowing you to continue focusing on the heart of your healthcare business: your patients and their families.
Most healthcare organizations that decide to work with healthcare call center outsourcing companies do so because the outsourced call center company provides relief to any number of pain points the organization may be facing otherwise. Though these pain points tend to vary from organization to organization, there are several pain points that are common to many of them, which we’ll address below. In the meantime, consider the pain points that your organization is facing and how outsourcing can help address these issues.
Having Trouble Answering Calls and Meeting Service Levels?
You hire your medical staff because of their medical expertise, empathy and ability to create exceptional patient outcomes. You don’t hire them for their ability to juggle a range of administrative needs in your organization. This can include being able to answer calls in a timely manner while meeting expected service levels for patients and their families. Instead of drawing their attention away from patient care, why not use healthcare call center outsourcing companies to ensure that calls are being answered and patient needs outside of the office are being met and exceeded to ensure better outcomes and happier patients. The patient experience extends far beyond the office visit.
Have a New Plan or Product That Will Require a Special or Dedicated Team?
Your healthcare organization has a new birth center, cancer treatment option or disease program that will greatly boost patient outcomes, but your existing call center is already swamped with existing issues. How do you get the word out to help encourage patients to take advantage of these new offerings or services? One option is to hire healthcare call center outsourcing companies to ensure that patients calling in to ask about the service have plenty of call center staff to answer their questions about the new offering, an operation that can switch to outreach during quiet times to maximize the return on your investment in your new offering.
No Building Space to Add Call Center Representatives?
One big issue a lot of older facilities tend to run into is simply not having sufficient room to add call center representatives to their existing operation, despite an expanding patient base. By working with healthcare call center outsourcing companies, you can make great strides to improve reporting efficiency, lower patient frustration over long hold times, ensure superior handling of each patient’s needs and otherwise make sure that your patients can reach the people they need to pay bills, schedule appointments, check-in ahead of appointments and get the information they need to make smart, informed healthcare decisions.
Desire to Have Additional Hours or Weekend Options for Members, Customers and Patients?
Our world no longer works only 8-5 Monday through Friday, which can create some serious issues for your patients and their families when they need to talk to someone outside of office hours. When you use healthcare call center outsourcing companies, you can extend your hours significantly, making it much easier for people to call at their own convenience, whether that’s at 6 PM or late on a Saturday night when your patient with severe fibroids calls in to make her decision between hormonal treatment, a myomectomy and a hysterectomy. By having people on hand when your patients are ready to make the call, you can improve outcomes and ensure that they’re getting the right answers instead of the Google ones.
Conclusion: Getting Started with Healthcare Call Center Solutions
With digital transformation sweeping across the healthcare industry, it’s easy to batten down the hatches and try to ride out the storm, but that will leave your organization behind in terms of patient engagement, care and outcomes. Instead of doubling down on your existing technology, consider how you can transform and revolutionize your patient outcomes and journeys by expanding the ability for each healthcare call center agent to create empathic, patient-focused interactions that improve your facility’s popularity, reviews and revenues. But which solution will work best for your patients and their families? Which ones will allow your practitioners to gain the best possible patient outcomes?
By putting the patient at the center of every interaction and touchpoint on their health journey, you can ensure that they will come back and that they’ll recommend your practice, facility or organization to their friends and family when they ask for recommendations. This focus makes it easier to get the right outcomes for each patient’s needs, from the retiree who needs an extensive surgical, recovery and physical therapy support plan to the mother of three who needs the fastest possible recovery time to get back into the hectic pace of daily life. Without the healthcare call center solutions that you need to track this type of information from initial contact to final follow-up, how will your organization keep up with these issues effectively? When you need quality healthcare call center solutions that put your institution, practice or organization at the center of its focus, you’ll want to contact Aceyus. We’ve spent years helping healthcare organizations find the right solutions for their needs, from call center dashboard options that make it easier to navigate and SaaS call center solutions that minimize your up-front investment to call center real-time reporting and omnichannel solution providers that allow you to focus on healthcare call center best practices. Are you ready to get started in your discovery of what your healthcare call center can evolve into in order to boost patient support and improve outcomes? Please feel free to contact us today to request a demo of our outstanding healthcare call center solutions grounded in best practices that will take your healthcare organization to the next level.