Current State Assessment: Unlocking the healthcare contact center

The healthcare contact center, while often going unnoticed, is in many ways the key to the patient access experience.

It is the first touchpoint, the ‘front door’, the opportunity to give a first impression, which we know can be long-lasting. It is where a patient can have either a positive or negative experience which sets the tone for the journey and relationship to follow. This is not to mention the practical impacts on health outcomes that come from getting a patient the right appointment in a timely manner.

Hospitals and healthcare systems must begin to look at the healthcare contact center in this way: as an essential aspect of the healthcare system that can be transformed from a problem into a value-adding experience for patients.

Understanding

Any attempt to do so must begin with an understanding of the current state. That is, to measure and evaluate the performance of the healthcare contact center against best practice in the industry. Leveraging outside support from those with the expertise and experience of the healthcare contact center has proved a successful route to this kind of understanding and improvement.

RelateCare specialize in this advisory and consultancy service. Unlike many other big consultancy firms, RelateCare are 100% committed and dedicated to the healthcare space. This uniquely positions RelateCare to understand the intricacies and nuances of running a contact center in the healthcare space and to assist organizations in implementing a contact center best practice mindset and foundation from the outset.

Unlike other industries, the healthcare contact center has unique challenges: use of Electronic Health Records, difficult medical terminology, and worried and vulnerable patients.

Key Challenges

Problems can arise in many areas, from staff and training, to utilization of technology. It is also common for healthcare leaders to grow frustrated with the challenges of coping with fluctuating demand for health.

Ebbs and flows in volumes are to be expected but if not managed properly can lead to waste and inefficiencies. If current infrastructure, processes and practices are not optimized to cater for additional volumes or the inclusion of additional clinics into the contact center environment, patients and employee will become frustrated. This may lead to avoidable employee attrition as well as patient churn.

There are three key elements to understanding the current state of the contact center, and to ensure the smooth and efficient operation of any future state: People, Process and Technology.

People

The first step is to ensure that your employees are operating productively and efficiently in the right kind of environment. RelateCare review training and engagement programs that organizations have in place to support employees in working efficiently and productively, while maintaining a sense of purpose for the bigger goals of the organization.

In many instances, employees have never received the right skills to effectively deal with challenging phone calls, or managers have not been trained how to lead their people. In RelateCare’s experience, implementing and optimizing training programs that bridge skillset gaps often lead to profound positive changes. These changes, coupled with the introduction of a holistic and robust quality assurance program lead to a cycle of continuous excellence an improvement.

In addition to general training and engagement, effective staff planning and ensuring you have the right number of staff scheduled at the right time is essential to an effective contact center operation. It is commonly known that healthcare contact centers tend to experience volumes spikes on Mondays, days after holidays and during Flu-Season. Additional factors such as weather events can lead to staffing challenges.

In many instances, organizations have deployed the same shift patterns for all employees and even in some scenarios close their phone lines to facilitate lunchtime. When word gets out that the phone lines are struggling the common cry “we need to hire more people” is often heard. RelateCare typically challenge this assumption during a current state assessment. By compiling historical data,

RelateCare perform a staffing analysis to determine the numbers of Full Time Equivalents (FTEs) a contact center requires to meet service levels but also the number of support staff required to succeed.  Typically, organizations are surprised to hear that they may not meet as many extra people as they thought.

Process

The healthcare contact center includes many complex and multi-faceted processes. For example, appointment scheduling is a challenging process: Patient Service Representatives must guide vulnerable patients to the right appointment, based on their symptoms and history, while also ensuring the physician template is optimized for efficiency and to avoid burnout.

RelateCare have experience in creating and optimizing this complex process, in order to ensure Patient Service Representatives, have the knowledge and tools necessary to guide patients to the right appointment, while also ensuring physician templates are optimized.

Operationally, contact centers are extremely data rich. Unfortunately, many organizations do not capitalize on the information at their disposal because they do not have effective reporting processes in place. In RelateCare’s experience, it often comes as a shock for organizations to learn that they are ‘operating in the dark’ when it comes to management insights. They often realize that the key performance indicator standards that were put in place have been there for over a decade and were established with very little rhyme or reason. They are unaware of key metrics that should drive their business such as lag days to appointment slot and appointment conversion rates.

It is our role in consulting engagement to shed some lights on the data and what process ought to be in place to utilize key data points to drive decision making and maximize performance.

Technology

Organizations are often keen to invest in new shiny technologies with a goal to solve common problems. Unfortunately, time and again there are reports of healthcare organizations who invest heavily in  these technology systems for their healthcare contact center often find it difficult to adapt and leverage the system to get the most out of it.

There must be a detailed consultation with existing technology systems to test whether they are fit for purpose and are being used to their potential. Additionally, deep consideration should also be applied to the purchase and procurement of other systems. In RelateCare’s experience, some organizations are in the midst of procuring new technology only to realize the one they have has the features and functionality required.

Not only that, it is necessary always with technology to have one eye on the future. The shift towards consumerism is here and it is necessary for any system to be capable of meeting those demands with a major focus on omnichannel and self-service interactions. Additionally, robotic process automation, speech and desktop analytics is evolving the way contact center are effectively managed. It is important to realize that enabling contact center technologies that impact overall business objectives are not always consumer facing.

The healthcare contact center is an opportunity, to create a meaningful relationship with patients, to improve loyalty, retention and the overall customer experience. It is essential for healthcare leaders to take a good look at their current state of operations before launching into drastic changes.

RelateCare can help.

For more information contact info@relatecare.com

 

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