In the first of a series of articles taking a closer look at the range of consultancy and advisory solutions offered by RelateCare, we talked to our Director of Client Solutions and Consultancy Services, Rob Hanrahan about the strategic process of access centralization.
Rob and his team work with our partners to ensure high-quality service delivery and that RelateCare’s programs are adding value to the healthcare organizations that we serve. Rob has a wealth of experience developing and delivering consultancy and outsourced programs to multiple RelateCare client partners. Rob has played a pivotal role in many of RelateCare’s professional service contact center centralization and optimization engagements and has acted as a leading advisor to health systems who are looking to strategically improve patient access.
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What is Patient Access Centralization?
“Centralizing your patient access operations involves a comprehensive program of work whereby appointment scheduling, referral management, nurse triage, and patient access communication channels are co-ordinated under one operational function.
This is a strategic approach that healthcare systems of all sizes consider when they want to move towards a smoother, more streamlined experience for their patients.
Centralizing patient access operations can be challenging in the short-term, but the benefits over the long-term are substantial and clear. By bringing patient access ‘under one roof’ or indeed virtually or with multiple sites operating as one, it is possible to improve efficiency, reduce duplication of effort, improve the patient and provider experience and ultimately improve access.”
What kind of reasons are there to centralize patient contact centers?
“For many healthcare systems , natural growth and development over time creates a situation where their operations can be widespread across geographic locations. With each different location potentially having its own approach to patient access or appointment scheduling operations. Different offices may schedule appointments in different ways, for example. This can lead to an inconsistent patient experience and challenges at a system-level managing access.
A similar situation can occur when there is a merger of two or more healthcare systems, or even the acquisition of smaller groups of providers.
In each instance, if there is a desire to streamline processes and to improve patient access, centralization of patient contact is always a strong consideration.”
What are some of the obstacles to centralizing?
“It is not uncommon for patients and providers to face challenges around access. Centralization can help, but it does need commitment. This biggest obstacle I have found in the past is getting systems to stay the course. Just like medication, you have to complete all the stages of the process to see the full benefits of centralization. To create a centralized patient centric access center is not a six month project. Physically, yes, we have created a single hub in a short time frame.
But, to have a centralized, system wide, approach to access is an ongoing process that takes commitment and long-term vision. These are some biggest challenges to a successful centralization project. For example, organizations often request the latest consumer technology for their contact center but may not have considered the operational foundations needed for the long-term success of the investment. We help develop an understanding the end-to-end workflows and the impact on the teams in scope to support the deployment. Deciding on the ‘must haves’ versus ‘nice to haves’ is critical to ensure implementations of innovative technology get buy-in from leaders at all levels within organizations.”
So why do it ?
“The benefits in the long run are significant, from an efficiency, costs and most importantly provider and patient experience perspectives. Centralization also creates opportunities to upskill and engage staff, offers a more consistent patient experience and leverages economies of scale in the use of technology and telephony systems.
Centralization has proven for many organizations to be a transformative strategy that can successfully optimize and streamline patient access channels.”
If an organization was interested, what’s the first step?
“Every journey starts with a first step. We recommend the process of centralization starts with a Current State Assessment in order to get a full understanding where our clients are starting from.
This allows for us to develop out the road map with the client based on the specific and unique needs of the organization. This will allow the healthcare system to see the full scope for the work ahead. It really helps deliver on the strategy and the vision for the client when we complete the pre-work and discovery phase in advance.”
If you would like to find out more about how RelateCare can help you determine whether centralization is right for you, then please get in touch with us at email@example.com.