3 Steps to Improve the Patient Experience Through Contact Centers



By Donna Martin

Hospitals and health systems are competing ever more fiercely to gain and retain patient business, and first impressions are critical. This is why a modern patient contact center is essential both for differentiating your organization from the competition and preventing revenue leakage.

As we head into 2021, the healthcare industry will face continued financial distress and uncertainty. To remain competitive, it will be crucial to understand how your organization uses vital contact points to ensure patients have a seamless experience from start to finish. 

Assess Your Patients’ Needs

Just like you, your health system’s patients are consumers who shop at Amazon, go to Starbucks, and purchase airline tickets. As a result, they’ve grown accustomed to expect a concierge level of ultra-personalized customer service. The retail industry has decades of experience providing this level of service. Retail companies tap technology to make constant improvements to help differentiate their brand through predicting and delivering on the needs of their customers. This, in turn, helps retain and grow their customer base. 

The healthcare industry is just starting to catch on to this level of customer service, with providers being incentivized or penalized to implement value-based care throughout the patient experience. 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 through both personalization and self-service. Click To Tweet

Step 1: Create a Foundation

From your patient’s perspective, even small hospitals are difficult to navigate via telephone. Partial or full automation of inbound phone calls from patients can allow providers to create a “single front door” for patients. This will create a unified patient experience and cut down on a needless chain of call transfers. 

Adding automated patient identification and authentication not only personalizes the interaction and ascertains the primary reason for the patient’s call, but also leads to complete resolution for a host of common inquiries like 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 contact, as well as gather communication preferences where possible. 

Every new element of data collected builds on previous elements and paints a holistic portrait of your patient. This helps create the foundation for predictive intent and provide an effortless patient experience. In addition, as you develop a performance baseline, you can conduct patient experience surveys to use actionable data to make agile, targeted improvements.

Step 2: Be Proactive and Dynamic

One goal of value-based care is keeping patients in your health system, but out of the hospital. Why not apply a similar goal to patient engagement? By applying dynamic decision-making to the data collection efforts established in Step 1, you can begin to develop proactive patient engagement strategies that may reduce the need for patients to call. 

For example, with the right automated inbound solution, your organization can identify patients calling from a mobile device and then take that opportunity to drive them to alternative, lower cost channels, such as SMS, text, and patient portals. The combination of these elements will further the productivity of your access center, drive costs down within your business, and maximize the patient experience. In addition, this level of dynamic data collection and usage can also provide you with a steady stream of valuable patient data to continue to enhance and optimize your solution.

Step 3: Integrate Patient Preferences

Last, using components of Steps 1 and 2, layer in patient communication preferences and cross-channel patient interaction data. In this scenario, you could see that a patient accesses 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 without the patient having to make a single menu selection—again, an effortless and loyalty building patient experience. 

Conclusion

With all these steps offered in a cloud-based, self-service environment, your organization 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. Implementing these three steps 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—striving for that perfect balance between automation and a live, human-touch interaction.

Donna Martin is senior vice president at HGS Healthcare.