What is Access? The Patient Perspective (Part 1/3)

What is access? When you hear that term, what comes to mind?

Recently we were asked by one of our partners, “What is access to those working at RelateCare?”  This got us thinking.

 

Over the course of the next three blogs, we will be exploring access in healthcare from the perspectives of: the patient; the healthcare provider (physician; and the healthcare executive in the c-suite.  We’ll draw on our experience to share insights and tips on how you can ensure the right patient can obtain quality access to healthcare with the right provider at the right time within your organization.

 

RelateCare is focused on healthcare being patient centric, so we felt it was only natural to discuss the patient perspective first.

Access – The patient (consumer) perspective

The ultimate goal for a patient is to be able to gain access to the healthcare they need within the timeframe that works for them.  They want to be able make appointments at a time and on a platform that works for them and to be greeted by a user-friendly system or empathetic person who is able to quickly schedule an appointment with the right clinician for them.  Instead many encounter archaic systems that were designed for a paper-based world, and feel access to their provider is difficult, if not impossible.

It is not surprising then that patients are now shopping around – if accessing your organization is difficult, they will call your competitor. This is often called ‘leakage’ from a practice/organization, but it is simply a human response to a service that isn’t meeting expectations.

Questions to ask yourself:

Is your health system easy to navigate, readily available and embracing technology aimed at changing patient expectations?  Do you have an online scheduling module built into you EHR, patient portal access, nights and weekend nurse triage, or extended practices hours?

Tips to improve your patient access experience:

Let’s start with the ability to speak with someone in your provider’s office.  Across the nation many healthcare ambulatory practices are generally open from 8am until 5pm.  Many patients also work from 8am until 5pm, so where in those practices open hours can patients working fulltime speak with the practice, let alone be seen, outside of their workday?  How can they communicate to their provider that they need a refill on their medication if the phones in that ambulatory practice are only open when most of the world is also at work?

Patients want to be able to access their provider when they need them with a goal of first touch resolution.  If a patient’s preference is to speak to a person, rather than use an online scheduling tool, when they call the office they do not want to wait in a queue; they want to speak with a well-trained and empathetic human immediately to refill their prescription and have that prescription completed and sent to their pharmacy that same day.  They want to speak with a well-trained and empathetic human immediately to schedule an appointment with their provider on a day and at a time that is convenient to them and their busy life because their time is just as valuable as everyone else.  They want to speak with a well-trained and empathetic human (nurse) immediately when they have a health symptom that is causing them great concern.  First call resolution is the pathway to showing your patients that they are at the center of everything your organization does, daily.

You could have the best schedule templates in the world, but without looking at the hours your office or contact center is open you are likely already not meeting the expectations of your patients.  Explore options to expand your telephone access into the evenings on weekends.

Beyond expanding your hours of operations, training is the biggest component that feeds a patient’s experience around access.  You will need to review how patients’ gain access to you organization by secret shopping those who hold the keys to access; the front-line team members/agents.  If you are not secret shopping your offices to gauge the patient access experience, you should be.  Do it often and provide feedback to those who influence access by way of comprehensive training protocols that are inclusive of outside training assistance, if needed.

The establishment and introduction of scheduling logic that is intuitive and empowers the agent to book an appointment without an extra layer of permissions will only assist the agent, but more important will provide the patient with a sense of reassurance that all cogs in the wheel are moving in the same direction. Having a well thought out playbook for each newly hired agent will get you most of the way to a uniformed experience on the phone and on your way to establishing a “brand experience” that patients will come to expect when interacting with your organization.

In our next blog we will be focusing on the perspective of providers so that you can gauge where your culture of engagement stands for those who serve our patients with expert care.

Are you ready to start the journey to meeting the expectations of your patients and achieving network integrity?  If so, we are here to assist your team with a readiness assessment to gauge where you are in the journey to creating a best in class contact center that is patient centric.   We can also provide guidance on how best to ensure you have the proper number of full time equivalents  per day and a tool that can guide you to expanding your hours to increase access to your offices in the evenings and weekends.

Contact us to find out more: info@relatecare.com

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