About the Healthcare Contact Center Industry
Healthcare is a fast-growing industry for which there is much demand and great potential. As a key element in the provision of quality medical care, healthcare contact centers fill an important role in helping enhance care and hold down costs.
Healthcare contact centers also aid in communication between patients and their healthcare practitioners, as well as facilitate effective communication between care providers. As there becomes greater emphasis on the quality of healthcare, there will be a corresponding need of healthcare providers to turn to healthcare contact centers to more effectively and efficiently serve the healthcare needs of patients and their families.
As rapid changes occur in communication technology, healthcare contact centers are performing an increasingly broader array of services to callers and patients. In addition to receiving and placing telephone calls, healthcare call centers are becoming healthcare contact centers, also handling electronic communications, such as email and text chat.
One key service provided by many healthcare contact centers is telephone nurse triage. Telephone triage is quickly becoming a common expectation. Although nurses have been giving advice over the phone as long as there have been phones, advanced computer-aided systems allow this service to be cost-effectively integrated into contact centers.
Telephone triage, however, is more than just answering health questions. On each call, a telephone triage nurse must assess a patient’s health concerns without the benefit of an in-person examination and face-to-face interaction. To do so, nurses must rely on their communication skills, medical knowledge and training, and proven healthcare protocols.
A second key healthcare contact center service is that of the medical telephone answering service. Medical answering services answer and process phone calls for doctors, patients, and hospitals. They often do this outside of regular business hours, but they can also handle calls during the day, answering overflow calls at times of low staffing or on a regular basis. Calls are screened and processed according to the specific requirements of each healthcare provider. Information, such as office hours, new patient policy, after hours prescription protocol, office location and directions, and other routine information can be given to callers. Answering services can take and hold routine messages for the staff, while urgent patient needs can be dispatched to on-call personnel. A growing trend is integrating medical answering services with telephone nurse triage call centers, providing a full service contact center solution.
Many contact centers also provide physician referral services. They can make doctor recommendations based on location, specialty, insurance participation, Medicare and Medicaid acceptance, or any other distinguishing characteristic. Information about those physicians best matching callers’ criteria can be given over the phone or sent to the callers. Also, caller data can be obtained and passed on to the referred physicians.
Another contact center service is class and event registration; common options include, tracking attendees, sending confirmations and reminders, computing available seating, and generating various event and management reports. Other common services that are often provided by healthcare call centers are appointment setting and reminder services and post-discharge calling.
An increasingly important role of healthcare contact centers is assisting doctors, clinics, and hospitals with the management of their patients with chronic diseases or ongoing medical conditions, ranging from asthma to diabetes to tobacco cessation to obesity. Healthcare contact centers can greatly assist in the provision of effective disease management services.
For more information, see our list of major vendors of contact center software and services, as well as our directories of leading healthcare contact centers. (By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD.)