Why are Contact Center Outsourcing Partnerships Gaining Momentum?

Transforming customer engagement through optimizing contact center operations has long been considered a way to gain a competitive advantage across many sectors including banking, telecommunications, and retail. One popular tactic has been to partner with business process outsourcing organizations to leverage their expertise to enhance efficiencies and improve the customer experience.  This approach has enabled organizations to focus on internal core competencies while their partners focus on highly impactful programs of change.

The healthcare sector has traditionally been reticent to avail of this approach. Instead, healthcare organizations traditionally preferred to keep control of many elements of their service chain, including patient communication and back-office activities such as referral management and appointment scheduling. The concept of moving business administrative services from traditional brick and mortar locations has become a relatively new phenomenon over the past decade. The movement has been expedited because of:

  • healthcare systems adopting a new mentality with a focus on consumerism and improving the bottom-line.
  • the requirement to innovate and adapt to meet the ever-changing needs of their consumers.

Trends in consumer purchasing behavior has adapted the way healthcare business leaders need to approach their delivery models related to patient engagement. Long wait times, poor customer service and ‘high effort’ experiences are causing patients to vote with their feet and choose patient-centric models of care. For health systems across the world, it’s time to act quickly!

As we know, the ability to move quickly and be seen as agile is not a common trait associated with healthcare in times gone by.

The following blog aims to outline several key factors why contact center outsourcing partnerships are gaining momentum and growing in prominence across the industry.

“Increase Efficiencies & Reduce the Cost of Care”

How many times have we heard at healthcare conferences and in blogs that “it is time to Increase Efficiencies & Reduce the Cost of Care”?

This goal is certainly not considered lip service at many health system boardroom meetings.  Organizations who have outsourced administrative functions in other industries beyond healthcare, often do so with a desire to benefit from cost savings through labor arbitrage and economies of scale.  Within healthcare, it is thought that there must be a perfect axis and alignment between cost and quality when it comes to transformational programs of work. Organizations who decide to outsource revenue cycle administrative activity for purely cost saving reasons may have a rude awakening. Contemporary research suggests that the tactic is a way to enhance your overall business by availing of domain knowledge, expertise, and technology of an outsourced business.

Over time, many outsourcing solutions organizations who have prioritized healthcare as their core-business vertical have developed a unique competitive skill-set that has a higher barrier to entry than before. This skill-set offers a competitive advantage ranging from the personnel required to succeed, the knowledge on how to run an operation within the unique parameters of healthcare and the technology requirements that require significant capital expenditure.

In Thomas Koulopoulos’s book “Reimagining Healthcare: How the Smartsourcing Revolution Will Drive the Future of Healthcare and Refocus It on What Matters Most, the Patient”, the concept of smartsourcing is coined as a partnership model whereby value is delivered through the leveraging of resources, knowledge, technology, and that both parties have something to gain and indeed lose within a long-term relationship. This appears to be a worthwhile and highly impactful business model disruption.

Out-of-the-box thinking

Non-traditional healthcare leaders are beginning to come to the fore within health systems alongside their clinical partners. These new age leaders have new unique perspectives and are bringing common practices from other sectors with goals to introduce practices that have worked in other sectors.

Contemporary literature outlines the evolving demands of patients. Preferences towards low cost, high value and around the clock services has commanded a degree of out of the box thinking by healthcare brands. Unlike generations before, brand-switching has become more common in a healthcare setting and customer service is seen as an important differentiator. Former potential resistance that may have come because of different accents and cultures has become almost nullified as we live in a globalized economy and business partners have become accustomed to spending time learning and understanding their partners business cultures. Ongoing fears regarding cyber security and data compliance will continue to remain top of mind, however any organization worth partnering with will have invested in data security and compliance controls.

Emerging Technologies

The advent of new emerging technologies has also expedited the capabilities of an outsourced provider to deliver high quality competitive service offerings with an ability to invest quicker and focus on core competencies in comparison to internal health system-based departments. Enabling technologies, predominantly electronic health records and customer relationship management tools in healthcare settings has opened opportunities to manage are remotely rather than needing dedicated secretaries in an office setting to correspond with patients. As technical infrastructures and work practices have evolved the research suggest that this has unleashed opportunities that businesses could establish a physical presence to perform work miles away from their core facility and even sometimes managed by a partner firm.

COVID-19 Impact:

This movement towards outsourcing contact center duties strategy has also been further advanced and impacted by the international COVID-19 Pandemic in 2020.  Unlike before, whereby organizational business leaders have received push-back and lack of buy-in from key stakeholders due to a fear of reducing their span of control from physically outside their offices. This became a less important as organizations swiftly adapted work-from-home models with a goal to abide to shelter in place and social distancing guidelines. Among health systems that have begun outsourcing, 73 percent are likely to continue doing so post-COVID.

Relatecare’s Perspective:

At RelateCare, we have been long proponents of ensuring our partners identify a roadmap for improvement that meets the needs of their own situation. For over a decade, RelateCare has worked in the space and has built a bank of knowledge that adds continuous value to our portfolio of partners. Before launching into a large transformational program of change I would encourage healthcare leaders to meet our team of subject matter experts to discuss their options and identify areas of opportunities that will yield the greatest benefits.

About the Author:

Valerie O’Brien is Director of Business Development with RelateCare and is responsible for connecting RelateCare’s suite of value-adding contact center consulting and outsourcing solutions with healthcare organizations across the globe. Valerie achieved a first-class honors degree in International Business from the Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) and was awarded the prestigious WIT School of Business Student of the Year accolade in 2015. Valerie has recently completed a Master’s in Business Administration (global) in Entrepreneurship and Global Consultancy practices from the University of Aberdeen achieving a Distinction Grade. Valerie completed her thesis focusing her research on “Outsourcing Healthcare Administrative Functions as a Competitive Business Strategy”. RelateCare has also completed study with the National Association of Healthcare Access Management.