Serve Patients Better and Produce Superior Outcomes
By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.
Some healthcare call centers only handle telephone calls by design and others do it because that’s what they’ve always done. But most have embraced a contact center mindset, where they’re handling more than telephone calls. This can include email, text messaging, and web chat. They may also incorporate social media monitoring and response.
There is also an opportunity with video. Integrating video communications into the call center has received much theoretical attention for a couple of decades, with proponents predicting it would be only a year or two out. We are, at last, moving from potential to possible.
Over the past two years many people have become more comfortable talking to a camera to communicate with someone far away. Though not everyone embraced this as an acceptable alternative to in-person meetings, they did, however, become more comfortable using it and less resistant to the technology.
This prepares people for the option of video chatting with their healthcare provider, nurse triage operation, or medical call center. These are exciting times for patients and their healthcare call centers.
All these options, however, will inevitably lead to patients using multiple communication channels to accomplish their task, depending on what’s available at the time or what will achieve their goal the fastest.
What could start as a telephone call could switch to video for face-to-face interaction. In the same way, a text message chain could migrate to the telephone or a social media post to email. The only limit to the sequences is our creativity.
Yet regardless of the scenario, one key issue remains paramount. Each channel must integrate with all the others, allowing information to effortlessly pass from one option to another. We must eliminate isolated silos of information that don’t communicate with each other. We need full multi-channel integration.
This usually falls to the platform vendor. If you use a singular system to handle all communication channels, you’re one step closer to making multi-channel integration a reality. Though harder, integration between disparate systems can also occur. It just requires more effort on the part of the respective vendors to pull off.
Here’s what you can do to move things forward to enjoy multi-channel integration.
Make sure your front-line employees know what they must do to allow for the smoothest information handoff as patients move from one channel to another. If your staff doesn’t do their part correctly, the decree of integration won’t matter.
Test Your System
Make a contact on one channel as a patient would. Then switch channels and see what happens. Is your text messaging exchange accessible by the telephone rep when you switch to voice? Or do you need to start over and re-state the same information?
Test this in each combination of channels possible, regardless of how unlikely it seems to you that anyone would ever make that switch. Know that someone will.
As you conduct your field test of switching channels, look for three things. Identify what works well, what somewhat works, and what doesn’t work at all. Celebrate the areas of success, seek ways to shore up the areas that have limitations, and note what doesn’t work at all.
Encourage Your Vendor
Armed with this information, approach your vendor, not in a confrontational manner, but with a positive, let’s-work-together attitude to move toward full multi-channel integration.
Multi-channel integration is what your patients expect. It’s what they deserve. Start now to move toward this outcome.
Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of AnswerStat. He’s a passionate wordsmith whose goal is to change the world one word at a time.