Healthcare call centers are now more relevant than ever. They are a pivotal tool in meeting the triple aim objectives of improving the experience of care, reducing costs, and managing the health of a population. Call centers are moving from a siloed support function to a critical role as a communication hub at the center of the healthcare continuum of care. As a result, the contact center is moving to become the nerve center, which is at the heart of this new healthcare structure.
EchoAccess technology delivers tools to streamline access to care, help physicians acquire more patients, reduce costs and save time, improve patient experiences at the first point of contact, and document the contact center as an investment.
The following are twenty-seven specific opportunities for call centers to support population health management using EchoAccess tools.
Streamline Access to Care
1) Deploy evidence-based clinical triage using Cleveland Clinic clinical guideline protocols: Clinical triage manages utilization by directing callers to clinically appropriate, cost-effective care. Direct those truly at risk to immediate emergency care. The inappropriate use of high acuity clinical services is avoided with referrals to primary care or homecare. The benefits are improved access, better patient care, reduced ED utilization, and cost savings. Research shows that nurse-operated telephone triage programs provide patients with prompt medical advice and reduce ED utilization.
2) Make post-discharge calls to reduce preventable readmissions: Follow-up appointments with a patient’s primary care physician can be made prior to discharge. Outbound calls to recently discharged patients can clarify follow-up care instructions, make certain prescriptions have been filled, discuss dosage amounts and timing, and confirm scheduled physician appointments with family members or caregivers to increase kept appointment rates. Organizations making post-discharge follow-up calls achieve a significant reduction in preventable readmissions.
3) Identify and eliminate roadblocks in transitions of care: Understand the roadblocks to care from the patient’s perspective. Know where the barriers are and what action to take.
4) Provide one-call preregistration for urgent care: Document patient preregistration information and schedule automatic emails to urgent care patients in advance of the next day’s patient visits: “Welcome, Mr. Smith, we’ve been expecting you!”
5) Reduce call-processing time: EchoAccess includes an intuitive call-processing interface and rapid access call handling controls for fewer clicks and faster processing, saving 51 seconds per call, reducing the number of FTEs.
6) Document kept appointments: Generate a report for each practice, summarizing the total number of patients referred and their overall kept appointment rate. Increasing the number of discharged patients who keep their follow-up appointment is central to reducing avoidable readmissions. This can raise the kept appointment rate from 45% to 84%.
Help Aligned Physicians Acquire More Patients
7) Interview participating physicians using the EchoAccess survey tool: Ask physicians how you can help them be more successful and what things the contact center can do to better support their practice.
8) Provide navigation support: Schedule follow-up primary care appointments prior to discharge, coordinate subsequent referrals to specialists, facilitate enrollment in appropriate classes, and reduce out-of-network patient migration.
9) Refer unattached ER patients to in-network PCPs: Schedule new appointments to in-network primary care physicians.
10) Facilitate physician consults for referring physicians with one-call access to specialists: Offer one-call regional physician access to specialists for referrals and transfers. These are frequently high margin cases. Make referrals your secret weapon.
11) Become the communication conduit for reference pricing referrals to participating physicians: Research and understand reference pricing for each reference pricing plan supported by the hospitals and providers in your network. Document which hospitals participate in reference pricing for various clinical services.
Reduce Costs and Save Time
12) Consolidate first point-of-contact services such as scheduling, transfers, physician referral, class registration, physician-to-physician referral, nurse triage, and switchboard. One access center communication hub can serve multiple locations.
13) Integrate call center with Website: Use EchoAccesswithEchoAccessNet to increase transaction volume without a corresponding increase in FTEs. Both telephone and Web transactions can be managed and reported using the same database.
14) Eliminate duplicative provider data: We can no longer afford multiple (in one case over sixty) sources of physician information. Data exchange and HL7 interoperability capabilities are a requisite part of the future. Integrate provider data from multiple sources into a single source of truth.
15) Increase productivity and reduce cost per transaction using EchoAccess tools: Automate letters, faxes, and emails and reduce staff time for printing, collating, and mailing.
16) Enable providers to easily and quickly update their information online, including office addresses, contact information, new providers, and insurance information.
17) Reduce the time required for software implementation and ongoing technical support: EchoAccesscloudclients experience implementation that is 23.6% faster with 50% less time with client support.
18) Maximize your system uptime: The EchoAccess cloud solution consistently exceeds 99.5% uptime.
Improve Patient Experiences at the First Point of Contact
19) Deliver personalized navigation services: Deploy personalized service experiences tailored for specific needs, such as joint replacement, post-discharge follow-up, nurse triage, fast-pass urgent care preregistration, and resource coaching for the uninsured.
20) Provide a mobile provider directory: Find out about a physician at any time, right from a mobile phone. Inquiries are automatically entered into the contact center’s outbound call queue.
21) Improve care experiences at the first point of contact: Outline and save themes for ideal agent opening and closing; flag caller-specific opportunities for cross sell referrals.
22) Deploy a mobile physician liaison solution: Enjoy right-now access to physician profiles, directions to each practice with visual routing and estimated travel times, document gifts and expenses, and record meeting notes and commitments so physician priorities do not fall through the cracks.
23) Text appointment reminders for physician referrals and classes: Remind patients prior to physician appointments or educational events. Providing reminders adds value to patients and caregivers, as well as improving kept appointments.
24) Document the value of repeat utilization: Documentthe value of loyalty as measured by repeat utilization for new, dormant, returning, and existing patients. Make certain your contact center is appreciated as an investment. Investments are funded; expenses are cut.
25) Detail non-compensated community benefit using theEchoAccessreporter to help sustain tax-exempt status.
26) Document increased utilization of priority clinical services: Track the number of admissions, outpatient visits, and physician visits for key specialties or areas.
27) Document results in an executive report card: Partner with the finance department to tailor specific metrics. Assure an appropriate balance of volume-based metrics and value-based measures, including the number of primary care appointments for participating PCPs, medical home PCPs, and ACO PCPs; the kept appointment rate; patient satisfaction at the first point of contact; and readmissions avoided. Provide an executive report card of strategic indicators and a report of operations indicators for the contact center team, including call abandonment rates and average speed of answer.
Summary: Healthcare call centers are now more valuable than ever. They serve leading organizations as central communication hubs. With EchoAccess, your contact center can be an essential resource for population health management.
Echo, A HealthStream Company has a twenty-eight year record of client results with contact center software solutions serving healthcare organizations throughout North America. EchoAccess is a fully Web-enabled contact center solution. For more information, contact Rick Stier at email@example.com or 800-733-8737 x7265.
[From the December 2013/January 2014 issue of AnswerStat magazine]