How Contact Centers Impact Patient Experience



By Donna Martin

Hospitals and healthcare organizations are competing more fiercely to gain and retain patients’ business. And first impressions are critical. That’s why a modernized patient contact center is critical both for differentiating your organization from the competition and for preventing revenue leakage.

How is your organization leveraging this critical contact point? What success are you having getting patients through your front door and retaining them as loyal consumers?

Assessing Your Patients’ Needs: Just like you, your health system’s patients are consumers who shop at Amazon, purchase airline tickets, and stay at hotels. They’ve grown accustomed to a concierge-level of customer service, and this has altered their perceptions of what a high-quality healthcare experience should look like.

The retail world has decades of experience providing this level of service and has leveraged modern technology to make constant improvements to help differentiate their brand, as well as retain and grow their customer base. The healthcare industry is just starting to catch on—not just because it makes good business sense, but also because they are now being incentivized to implement value-based care throughout the patient experience and and penalized if they fall short.

Let’s explore how to measurably improve patient experiences and engagement in ways that are realistic and based on the unique requirements of healthcare delivery.The goal of contact centers should be to make the patient experience as easy as possible. Click To Tweet

Phase 1: Establish the Foundation: From your patients’ perspective, even small hospitals can be difficult to navigate via telephone. Partial or full automation of inbound phone calls from patients allow providers to create a “single front door” for patients. This creates a unified patient experience and reduces needless call transfers. Adding automated patient identification and authentication not only personalizes the interaction and ascertains the primary reason for the patient’s call, but it also leads to complete resolution for a host of common inquiries such as appointment confirmations, directions, hours, and payments without ever needing to engage an agent.

With this streamlined foundation in place, providers can begin to continuously and consistently track patient interactions to build intelligence for future interactions as well as gather communication preferences where possible. Every new element of data collected builds on previous elements, fostering a holistic portrait of patients. This creates the foundation for predictive intent and provides a better patient experience. In addition, as you develop a performance baseline, you can leverage patient experience surveys to use actionable data to make targeted improvements.

Phase 2: Build on Your Success: One goal of value-based care is keeping patients in your health system but out of the hospital. Why not pursue a similar goal with patient engagement? By applying dynamic decision-making to the data collection efforts established in phase 1, you can begin to develop proactive patient engagement strategies to reduce the need for patients to call you.

For example, with the right automated inbound solution, you identify patients calling from a mobile device and then take that opportunity to drive them to alternative, lower cost channels, such as text communications and patient portals. These elements will further the productivity of your access center, drive cost from your business, and maximize the patient experience. This will also provide you with a steady stream of valuable patient data to continue to enhance and optimize your solution.

Phase 3: Patient Preferences: This segment includes all components of phases 1 and 2, layering in patient communication preferences and cross-channel patient interaction data. In this scenario, you could see that a patient accessed the patient portal to find a specialist and is now calling into the access center for help. An intelligent self-service solution recognizes the patient, confirms they are looking for a specialist, and sends the patient directly to the appropriate scheduling agent. This happens without the patient having to make a single menu selection. Again, this provides an effortless and loyalty-building patient experience.

Finally, with all three phases offered in a cloud-based, self-service environment, you will achieve maximum scalability, reliability, and flexibility for agents who work in either a brick-and-mortar setting or through a business process outsourcing partner. This ensures your access center will always be available to support patients and providers.

The goal of contact centers should be to make the patient experience as easy as possible through both personalization and self-service. The intent is to strive for that perfect balance between automation and live, human-touch interaction.

Your health system has invested considerable time, energy, and money to provide value across the continuum of care. Why squander it over a bad first impression? By taking practical steps toward patient-centric engagement, providers can create a high-quality, intuitive, and effortless consumer experience that has elements of a world-class retail service, while meeting the unique needs of the healthcare setting.

Donna Martin is senior vice president, Global Health Services, at Hinduja Global Solutions (HGS).