The Healthcare Contact Center: Increase Patient Satisfaction and Minimize Risk
Updated: May 22, 2019
By Licia Wolf
Hospitals and other medical facilities strive to achieve high patient satisfaction and minimize risks. Although patients’ welfare is their priority, administrators must balance care costs with their budget. Notwithstanding, poor patient satisfaction can lead to decreased hospital revenue. Causes for this decrease are multi-faceted and can be the result of poor reputation generated by unhappy patients’ online and broadcasted reviews, higher re-admission rates and costs, as well as reduced financial “pay for performance” incentives issued by both public (Medicare, Medicaid) and private insurers. One way to boost patient satisfaction is to optimize performance in the facility’s contact center. By implementing appropriate techniques and training, interactions between agents/nurses and patients can make a notable difference in minimizing the risk of poor patient satisfaction.
The Functions of Contact Centers
Generally, there are two purposes for contact centers in hospitals.
Contact Center Agent - Scheduling appointments, appointment reminders, directing traffic, screening patients, escalating calls to telephone triage nurse or physician
Telephone Triage Nurse – These are primarily licensed nurses that help patients determine what type of care they need over the phone, and direct them to the resources they need, if any. They also determine whether the patient needs to see a physician at all.
Each type of call taker should be specifically trained for their role. For example, contact center agents cannot assess the medical condition of a patient, and triage nurses are not responsible for scheduling appointments. Both may, however, escalate the patient to contact their physician.
Improving Patient Experience
In the past, call centers have focused more on call efficiency and less on call effectiveness. With today’s goals for better patient satisfaction, contact centers are turning their attention more to call effectiveness and ensuring that patients are assisted in a professional and timely way. Here are a few strategies that minimize risks and create a positive experience for the patient.
Plan – Create a strategy for your contact center. Set goals, and plan how to implement them. According to a recent Spok survey, over 60% of healthcare contact centers have some kind of strategy in place. In over 50% of those with a strategy, policies are enforced by the IT team, indicating that improving information exchange is paramount to the success of the plan.
Etiquette – The correct call etiquette of agents and nurses is almost as important as their actions. Appropriate treatment, voice tone, and resolution to questions and issues of patients creates positive caller sentiment.
Hire People with the Right Skills – Hiring experienced contact center agents will help minimize training time and turnover, but make sure you allow time for training for your specific facility and system as well as HIPAA education.
Assess Agent Quality – It is essential to measure the performance of individual agents as well as that of the contact center overall. Using recording and monitoring software such as HigherGround allows supervisors to record and monitor calls and other telecommunications, play back selected interactions for review, and generate reports for various KPIs of selected groups or divisions. KPIs include parameters such as first call resolution, average time to answer, abandonment rate, wait time, and tone of speech (speech analytics). If improvement is needed, targeted training with coaching can be employed.
Motivate and Reward Agents – Incentivize agents with recognition for good performance and other types of rewards. Agents that need to improve can be coached by their supervisors or their peers. Peer coaching has shown to be an effective motivator for both the coach and the student.
Regulation Adherence – With ever-changing regulations, HIPAA training on a regular basis is good policy. To ensure compliancy, record telecommunications that can be easily be retrieved for review and audits.
Professional Liability Insurance (PLI) (errors and omissions) – Make sure the organization holds suitable PLI. This will help to offset any complaints that escalate.
Use the Right Technology - The Spok survey shows that many call centers are using new technology to centralize and improve communications. This functions to improve internal communications such as the ability of agents or telephone triage nurses to share critical messages directly with physicians, nurses, or technicians on their smartphones. Expediting internal communications means better patient care (especially in time-sensitive cases), and satisfaction.
Many factors are involved in minimizing risk and improving patient experience in the contact center. Implementing a strategy that considers the role of both contact center agents and telephone triage nurses is a good first step, and then applying various facets discussed above will get you on the road to running a high-quality contact center and keeping patients happy.
HigherGround provides call recording and data capture for healthcare contact centers and other applications.
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About the Author - Licia Wolf is the Marketing and Communications Manager at HigherGround. She holds a Ph.D., and a professional background in electronics, internet marketing, and print/imaging technology. Click here for more information on the rest of the HigherGround team.
HigherGround, Inc. provides best-in-class, reliable data capture and interaction storage solutions that enable clients to easily retrieve critical information. Our interaction recording and incident reconstruction solutions transform data into actionable intelligence, allowing optimization of operations, enhanced performance, and cost reduction.