Healthcare Customer Engagement



4 Steps to Charting an Empathetic Experience

By Srikanth Lakshminarayanan

Imagine you are in the hospital after an emergency appendectomy, and you have a simple but urgent question about the payment of this just-delivered health service. Your physical and mental stress is a load made only heavier with that pending insurance coverage conversation. You are in no mood to struggle with an exasperating app or digital exchange, you want a straightforward reassuring dialogue—one delivered with good, old-fashioned empathy. 

From another perspective, the expectations are higher for your engagement team. The right customer service agent must deliver on several levels as an empathetic advocate who can listen, relate, and resolve the issue at hand. Simply put, with all the renewed digital efforts toward optimized customer experience (CX), healthcare customer service remains highly challenging.

The recent COVID-19 surge exposed CX teams to an all-new type of issue, one which no bot or digital channel had ever dealt with. What’s needed is a fresh approach to empathy-based engagement as part of the healthcare customer experience. 

Now is the time for healthcare to learn a few lessons from technology-retail elites like Apple, which is renowned for its low-tech empathy focus. Apple aims for Geniuses to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes and recognize the emotions their customers feel and change those, to make them feel better. The Apple manual advises the “Three F’s: feel, felt, and found.” This means connecting, relating from personal experience, and consoling with issue resolution. Healthcare would do well to borrow from this model and reduce friction points to result in more effortless, empathetic problem-solving.

Ultimately, there is still a solid foundation for every contact in healthcare to chart a basic blueprint for compassionate issue resolution. An optimized experience, delivered by an agent empowered to provide empathetic customer satisfaction, should comprise this flow.

Express Empathy

Empathy begins with active listening. From the first word spoken by the customer, the agent must focus 100 percent on the communication. This point in the conversation is critical as an opening to bond and win immediate customer trust. Agents shouldn’t make notes while listening. Unless they listen properly, they cannot react to the situation of the customer. 

Reduce any miscommunication with follow-up questions.

Acknowledge the Customer

Address the caller with a member or patient name and personalize the communication with a concierge touch to earn trust and loyalty. By using unified desktop and disparate systems, today’s agents can preemptively acknowledge the issue without spending time on a longer intake process. There are also opportunities to track prior visits to eliminate abrasion with unnecessary restating by the member or patient.

Express Compassion 

Show understanding. Remain calm. The adage is that you never truly know what a person is going through, but with healthcare, it’s even more critical. This is because one thing is clear with healthcare customer calls, and this is that a health issue affects the member or patient’s life. Empathy at this stage might mean a reassuring tone with, “I understand this is difficult. I’m here to help.” 

Do not interrupt the customer, instead show attentiveness.

Seek Resolution 

Demonstrate intent to resolve the issue, with the understanding that it won’t necessarily be the case, since not everything is within our control. At this stage, it’s key to let members and patients know that empathetic customer care means trying their best to help, with the understanding that some conditions or procedures may not be covered. Aim for authentic communication, with an added personalized touch, and “thank you” or expression of gratitude for patience.

Conclusion

Over the past fifteen years clients have evolved their metrics focus from a quality, first call resolution and call center customer satisfaction (CSAT) to net promoter score (NPS). One emphasis that has remained the same, however, is empathy, as the leading attribute in every single interaction that drives all these metrics. And while empathy is required for all customer service, in healthcare, even more so, the mission is to address the critical, personal impact related to health, finance, and often-raw emotions. 

Helping customers resolve their issues is a delicate balance of all three of these things. That’s what makes healthcare customer service as uniquely fulfilling as it is challenging.

 Srikanth “Sri” Lakshminarayanan is vice president, center of excellence for healthcare engagement services. Sri is a domain expert supporting the deployment, stabilization, and growth of capabilities in voice and related services in HGS’s healthcare programs.

Keona Health Remote Work Capabilities Thrive for Healthcare Contact Center

Keona Health Inc., a healthcare CRM and patient access platform announced that Assistance Services Group, a Sykes Company, experienced enormous spikes in volume for its 235 call center agents. Assistance Services Group operates a healthcare contact center covering 18 million patients in Canada.

 “Covid-19 created a surge well over 600 percent our normal volumes. The combination of productivity, clinical safety, and the ability to work remotely were crucial elements needed to defeat the first COVID wave,” said Diane Legault, senior director of telehealth operations & client relations, Sykes Canada. Their use of Keona Health’s Health Desk solution helped them “deliver a responsive and reliable platform that would weather any type of surge, such as COVID-19.”

Keona’s Health Desk provides one seamless interface for handling any patient question including triaging patients with rules-based algorithms and AI-driven workflow. “Health Desk is a mission-critical resource and one that has to deliver robust reliability. We committed hundreds of hours to ensure that every one of our clients successfully navigated the first wave of COVID-19,” said Oakkar Oakkar, Keona Health CEO. “Keona focuses on improving patient access, cutting contact center redundancies, and providing real time intelligence to optimize care.”

Visit KeonaHealth.com to learn more.

TriageLogic Software and Services Play Critical Role in COVID Telehealth

As the COVID pandemic rapidly evolved, TriageLogic jumped into overdrive to help new and existing clients handle the coronavirus outbreak. They saw call volume skyrocket and knew that systems and software would need to be put into place for healthcare institutions to assist with the increased demand in a remote care environment.

TriageLogic software solutions, which use the gold-standard Schmitt-Thompson protocols, had COVID protocols included to provide the latest standard of care as CDC recommendations evolved. TriageLogic implemented the COVID protocols in their system and on their call center software client systems. They also quickly set-up additional hospitals with a nurse triage software platform to allow their nurses to work remotely and assist in the screening of COVID phone calls.

Using nurse triage protocols in conjunction with doctor e-visits improves coordination of care and allows doctors to safely delegate responsibility to their nurses. TriageLogic software has recommendations for nurses to transfer to doctor telehealth visits when applicable. The software also enables the nurses to text or email custom information sheets to patients when scheduling their e-visit, so the patients are informed about the process and how to connect with their doctor.

TriageLogic

To help doctors evaluate triage protocols for their practices, TriageLogic is offering a free 30-day trial for the office triage software.

TriageLogic Provides Remote Patient Monitoring Services

TriageLogic has been working with device companies to provide monitoring of dashboards and evaluation of patients with abnormal readings. They can provide coverage 24/7 or just after hours to supplement healthcare providers’ current remote patient monitoring programs.

TriageLogic staff observes these patient dashboards. When an alert comes in, the staff can contact the provider or send the message to TriageLogic nurses for further evaluation. The nurses will follow the practice’s instructions to triage the patients and get them the appropriate follow up. Remote patient monitoring improves health outcomes and increases revenue for practices.

While TriageLogic has grown and participated in plans to confront this major health event, they’ve taken a close look at their vision and where they see themselves in the future. Their use of protocols ensures that everyone, no matter their situation, gets the best care advice to address their medical symptoms. Holding onto this thought, they hope to continue providing top-notch care through COVID and beyond.

TriageLogic’s vision is simply this: “To provide a uniform, high-standard of care to everyone, everywhere.”

TriageLogic

Learn more about TriageLogic and remote patient monitoring.

August/September 2020 Issue of AnswerStat

Read the August issue of AnswerStat, the information hub for healthcare contact centers.



Feature Content:

Reducing Hospital Readmissions with Simple Post-Discharge, by 1Call
A discharge call center program helps hospitals avoid or reduce Medicare readmission rate penalties and helps patients improve their post-discharge care management and health . . . read more >>

Vital Signs: Tap Outsource Call Centers to Lighten the Load, by Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD
In our ever-changing world, outsourcing is a viable option that warrants careful consideration—especially now . . . read more >>

Vendor Spotlight on Pulsar360
In addition to providing powerful telecom solutions to healthcare call centers, Pulsar360 offers disaster recovery solutions and carrier-grade services . . .  read more >

Remote Patient Monitoring: A Worthwhile Investment, by Dr. Ravi Raheja
See how remote patient monitoring helps lower costs, deliver continuous quality care, and alleviate doctor workloads . . . read more >>

Ten years ago: The Importance of the Contact Center in Mission-Critical Hospital Communications, by Gerard Shallo
A hospital’s call center is the first level of contact with the outside population and potential customer base. Don’t underestimate the critical communication role they play . . . read more >>

Industry News

1Call’s Call Center Link App Available in Epic App Orchard
TriageLogic Announces Free 30-Day Trial of Telephone Triage Software
Keona Health Adds Two Industry Veterans

Marketplace Directory: AnswerStat Directory of leading Healthcare Contact Center vendors:

Ameridial healthcare solutions
Call 4 Health
Startel
AccessNurse, A TeamHealth Company
American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing (AAACN)Pulsar360

About AnswerStat
AnswerStat is the information hub for healthcare contact center news and resources, published specifically for hospital and medical contact centers and distributed free to qualified readers, decision -makers, and influencers at hospitals and healthcare contact centers worldwide.

Contact us for more information.

Keona Health Adds Two Industry Veterans

Keona Health, the innovative developer of Health Desk, an AI-driven healthcare CRM, and patient access platform, announced that Gina Tabone, VP strategic partnerships, and Darin Southard, chief commercial officer, have joined its leadership team.

Oakkar Oakkar, Keona’s CEO, commented, “Gina’s background is a perfect fit with Keona’s goal to provide every patient the accurate and personalized care they deserve, anytime and anywhere. I couldn’t be more thrilled to welcome her to the team.”

Southard said, “the reason I chose to join Keona is the company’s innovative platform that helps healthcare organizations solve some of its biggest challenges: triaging and getting patients scheduled at the appropriate level of care, whether it’s a telehealth or in-person appointment. COVID 19 has certainly changed the way healthcare services are scheduled and delivered, and the Keona Health Desk platform integrates with the health system’s EMR to streamline that process.”

Keona Health partners with many health systems, group practices, and outsourced contact centers to provide convenient access to its Health Desk platform to optimize the patient engagement workflows handled by agents/nurses and self-service options by patients on the web.

Remote Patient Monitoring: A Worthwhile Investment


TriageLogic

By Dr. Ravi Raheja

Remote patient monitoring is part of a new era of medical technology. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, remote services and technology have been extremely valuable to patients, doctors, and healthcare organizations. Remote patient care typically means helping patients over the phone. Remote patient monitoring (RPM) takes care one step further and helps doctors collect and evaluate data from patients who use an electronic medical device.

As we move forward, the value of remote patient monitoring will continue to evolve for healthcare. Click To Tweet

RPM is starting to gain traction by the medical field because it improves patient care. Many of these devices can capture data not observed by the patient. As a result, providers can monitor important vitals and intervene before a patient even presents a concerning symptom. This cuts down on both morbidity and mortality while saving costs and decreasing Emergency Room (ED) visits. A recent article in the Center for Technology and Aging asserts that the healthcare industry “could reduce its costs by nearly 200 billion dollars during the next twenty-five years if remote monitoring tools were used routinely in cases of congestive heart failure, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and chronic wounds or skin ulcers.”

There are many questions for providers and hospitals to ask themselves as innovative technology continues to become available. Technology is an investment, and changes to existing systems require effort. Is remote patient monitoring worth it, and will it soon be the standard of care for chronically ill patients? What are some requirements to consider while setting up an RPM program?

Which Patients Benefit Most from RPM?

According to the CDC, six in ten Americans have a chronic condition such as heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes. Four in ten have two or more chronic conditions. These chronic patients help make up more than eighty five percent of the 3.5 trillion dollars in healthcare costs across the nation annually and are responsible for eighty percent of all hospital admissions. It costs 3.5 times more money to treat chronically ill patients than those without these conditions, and they make up many of the leading causes of death in Americans.

RPM is especially effective for these types of patients. Continuous management of chronic conditions is burdensome in traditional office or clinic settings. Patients bring in notebooks or phone apps filled with notes, self-assessments, and symptoms. The onus is on the patient, and the reliability of that data falls into the hands of individuals, which can result in inconsistent or partially inaccurate information. RPM takes this burden from patients and relies on accurate, consistent technology. It also allows providers to measure additional important vitals and to receive the information daily.

Chronic health patients have been on the rise. We need solutions to help treat these patients in an effective and economical way. RPM addresses these needs.

How RPM Helps Manage Chronic Care Costs

A study published by the National institute of Health in 2016 by doctors Usha Sambamoorthi, Xi Tan, and Arijita Deb states that “The presence of MCC [multiple chronic conditions] has profound healthcare utilization and cost implications for public and private insurance payers, individuals, and families.”

These conditions require detailed, comprehensive care that can prove challenging. RPM allows for nurses and doctors to have access to health information of a patient in real time, and makes it possible for clinicians to issue health orders that can curb unnecessary emergency department visits by reacting to changes seen from a patient’s monitoring device.

It also gives doctors more access to their patients and creates opportunity for early education in patient behavior and an overview of patient participation in their treatment plan. Doctors can get a look into a patient’s activity and use nurses for check-ins to encourage the patient to comply with health orders. It gives doctors the power to give quality care outside of clinical settings and increases health outcomes. RPM gives doctors the information they need on a timely basis, which allows for swift intervention for high-risk patients.

Benefits to Providers

One concern for doctors when implementing RPM is the possibility of an increased workload, with doctors having to monitor patients regularly even when the patient is not receiving direct care. Doctor burnout is common, and its alleviation has its own value. An Ernst and Young’s 2018 survey on digital health showed that almost sixty five percent of physicians believe that “technology that captures consumer-generated data will reduce the burden on doctors and nurses specifically.”

However, there are solutions for providers to cut down on their work while providing better patient care through RPM. First, most monitoring devices have their technology programmed to inform the provider when there are anomalies or potential patient problems. Second, doctors can also use an outside remote nurse service to monitor the data coming from the devices. An efficient RPM company who provides this service can improve patient care while decreasing the workload on the physicians.

Industry Willingness to Implement RPM

According to a Spyglass Consulting Group report in 2019, at least 88 percent of healthcare organizations have an interest in investing in some form of remote patient monitoring technology to pivot to value-based care. Eighty-nine percent of practices surveyed in Spyglass’s report say that they are actively drafting strategies to get patients to take an active, continuous role in managing their chronic health issues. RPM as a prong to this strategy gives a continuous link between patient and doctor, and it supports these kinds of initiatives.

Health insurance companies have shown an interest as well. In 2019 the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services proposed several amendments designed to increase remote patient monitoring programs by improving reimbursements. Some of these amendments include reimbursements for RPM setup and patient education, which is a big incentive to providers who are thinking of implementing this technology. Revisions to who may monitor these devices have also occurred. This allows registered nurses (RNs) or medical assistants to do the bulk of the monitoring, freeing up physicians and nurse practitioners.

Conclusion

Remote patient monitoring offers a way for practices, hospitals, and health insurance companies to lower their costs, deliver continuous quality care, and alleviate doctor workloads. As we move forward, the value of remote patient monitoring will continue to evolve for healthcare organizations and implemented into care plans for the chronically ill.

TriageLogic

Dr. Ravi Raheja is the medical director at TriageLogic, a leader in telehealth technology and services. If you have any questions on how to implement remote monitoring for your patients, contact TriageLogic at info@triagelogic.com.

TriageLogic Announces Free 30-Day Trial of Telephone Triage Software

TriageLogic® announces a free thirty-day trial of their telephone triage software, MyTriageChecklistTM, for medical organizations. This software is web-based, and it includes triage protocols developed by Dr. Schmitt and Dr. Thompson for pediatric and adult patients respectively. The software ensures that nurses triage patients safely and document the call when speaking to them on the phone.

For the first time, TriageLogic is giving organizations thirty free days to use the software and experience its benefits, which include saving time, ensuring appropriate patient care advice and documentation, and increasing patient and nurse satisfaction. The software allows doctors to know their patients are receiving the most appropriate disposition every time they call. TriageLogic also includes free training by its experienced call center nurse manager, Rose Moon, RN.

Once organizations sign up for a free trial, they have instant access to the software. It’s created to be user-friendly, and TriageLogic provides additional resources to make it easy for nurses to learn the software and tips on how to select the right protocols. This includes free live training, as well as courses on telephone nurse triage in the free learning center.

TriageLogic

MyTriageChecklist is an easy to use, secure, effective solution that can help your practice adapt to major health events, such as COVID-19. Sign up for their free thirty-day trial or contact them for more information.

Vendor Spotlight on Pulsar360


Pulsar360: strategic partners with the TAS industry

Pulsar360, Inc. is a Colorado-based company, with origins dating back to 2001. It’s one of the oldest VoIP service companies in the United States and Canada and an early proponent of cloud technology for the communications industry. Today, as an established unified-communication-as-a-service (UCaaS) provider, Pulsar360 delivers a comprehensive set of offerings including:

  • a cloud-based enterprise class IP PBX,
  • premise-based IP PBX,
  • session initiation protocol (SIP) trunking,
  • business continuity disaster recovery solutions,
  • T.38 faxing that meets HIPAA, GLBA, and other industry compliance regulations, and
  • carrier services.

Unparalleled Experience and Expertise

Pulsar360’s top-notch leadership team has years of experience serving the telecommunication needs of business customers, as well as building and managing enterprises of significant scale in the telecommunications industry. They understand that long-term customer relationships are earned, and customers will not be acquired and retained based on price and technology alone.

They require their team and their authorized partners to spend the appropriate time upfront to validate the integrity of the customers’ network. This is followed by a consultative sales process to develop customized solutions for their clients, as opposed to selling a packaged solution.

Once awarded the business, an in-depth implementation process is used to guarantee that design and features meet the customer’s requirements and expectations. The resulting smooth transition to the new services, responsive communication, and resolution of issues are paramount in establishing these long-term relationships.

As an employee-owned company, everyone has a personal stake in customer satisfaction and the company’s success. One testament to their customer satisfaction is that an outside industry consultancy (Franklin Court Partners) reported that Pulsar360 has the lowest attrition rate in the industry. They’re continually focused on providing an excellent customer experience, as well as expanding and enhancing their suite of service offerings.

99.99 Percent Reliability

Pulsar360 is one of a handful of providers with facilities and networks in both the United States and Canada. They have been perfecting their platform and network for over seventeen years. Their operating platforms are some of the most advanced in North America.

They currently operate four data centers (three in the US and one in Canada), each with redundant infrastructure for all their service offerings. In addition, they have a presence in five additional geographically dispersed data centers.

Pulsar360 provides services to hundreds of call centers and telephone answering service customers. Understanding the special requirements of this industry, they have made a significant investment in their network infrastructure and solutions.

National Network Redundancy

Each Pulsar360 datacenter has connectivity to several national networks. If there is a problem with quality or service issues with one network, calls route to another. With tier II access, Pulsar360 can re-route customer traffic away from regional carrier issues.

Trunk Redundancy

They provision each SIP trunk to two of their geographically dispersed data centers. If there is a data center issue, carrier issue at the data center, or other problem, the other data center takes over for all trunks and DIDs associated with those trunks.

Trunk Bursting

Pulsar360 provides 20 percent burstable trunking to call center and answering service clients at no additional charge. This can be adjusted even higher on the fly for seasonal needs.

Toll-Free Number Redundancy

All toll-free numbers are provisioned with two national carriers. In the event of a major failure at one carrier, all the customer’s toll-free numbers are directed to the secondary carrier.

Customer Administration Portal

This feature provides instant activation of DIDs and toll-free numbers, administrative management for all services and features, and multiple reports.

Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Solutions

Pulsar360 provides several automatic failover alternatives, from simple automatic failover to secondary and tertiary internet connections, to automatic failover to a hot stand-by cloud business continuity and disaster recovery system.

If the customer’s premise or cloud system goes down, calls automatically failover and are delivered directly to operator desktops via softphones. Calling party ID and customer name or account number are delivered to the operator. It also includes a cloud-based IVR with multiple call queues, skills-based routing, and more when in failover mode. These options are flexible and customizable based on the customer’s unique requirements.

Quality of Service

With Pulsar’s SD-WAN offering they can provide quality of service (QoS) over the internet to their data centers. This—coupled with their 24/7 internet quality of service monitoring and issue alerting that includes scheduled VoIP quality tests with archived test results—insures they deliver the reliability to meet and exceed their customer’s expectations.

Carrier Partnerships

Pulsar360 has wholesale arrangements with numerous global carriers and competitive local exchange carriers. In addition to offering competitive rates and to alleviate finger pointing, the network services can be in Pulsar360’s name. They will receive issue notification by their circuit monitoring and will interact directly with carriers. They also interact directly with the customer’s system provider on issues. This provides one point of responsibility for their customers.

Pulsar360: strategic partners with the TAS industry

Over the years Pulsar360 has received numerous awards and recognitions. They recently received the 2020 Internet Telephony “Product of the Year Award” and the “Hosted VoIP Excellence Award” before that. They were also named a “Top 10 Cloud Communications Company” by Cloud Technology Insights.

Tap Outsource Call Centers to Lighten the Load

Consider Outsourcing to Better Manage Call Traffic and Increase Availability

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

As your healthcare call center grapples to deal with more calls than perhaps ever before, you seek ways to maintain the service level you provide to callers. Ideas include using automation, increasing employee schedules, and hiring more staff.

A fourth option is to outsource calls to another call center—an outsource call center—that specializes in taking calls for other healthcare organizations. Before you dismiss this as a bad idea, consider four common types of outsourcing scenarios.

Outsource Certain Call Types

Analyze the types of calls you answer and the appropriateness of your existing staff to take them. As an example, assume you handle triage calls, appointment schedules, call transfers, and medical answering service. Note the number of calls and the amount of time you spend in each category. Now document how many agents can take each of these call types and the number of hours they work each week. See how well your staffing aligns with your call types.

Next identify the biggest gaps. By way of example, let’s assume you discover triage nurses taking routine messages for doctors. This is a huge mismatch. What if you send routine calls to your outsourcing partner, thereby freeing your nurses to do what they do best and what’s most important?

Of course, the opposite scenario is too many triage calls and not enough nurses. You can outsource those too, but it might be to a different outsourcing partner, one that specializes in telephone nurse triage.

Outsource Overflow

Another scenario that’s ideal for outsourcing is at unexpected times when call traffic exceeds the schedule you carefully devised to meet the projected call volume. Instead of having calls pileup in queue, reroute them to your outsourcing call center partner.

Outsource Specific Times

Third, look for daily or weekly patterns to see how well staffing matches up with traffic. You may discover—or confirm—that your third shift staff doesn’t have enough work to keep comfortably busy. Outsource those third shift calls to your outsource partner. Then move your third shift employees to second.

Of course, depending on the type of work your operation handles, you could have the opposite scenario where not much happens during regular business hours, with all the action happening evenings and weekends. Then outsource first shift weekdays and reallocate those personnel to evenings.

Outsource Specific Days

Assume you have difficulty scheduling enough agents to handle your Sunday traffic. You can save yourself the hassle by sending those calls to your outsourcing call center partner and shut down your call center on Sundays. Then you can reschedule your few Sunday employees to other days of the week.

Conclusion

Many call center managers summarily dismiss outsourcing, either because they see it as a loss of control or because they perceive a lack of quality. Yet today’s leading healthcare call center outsourcers provide a high quality of service, often matching or even exceeding their client companies. Just vet them with care and make your decision based on outcomes, not price.

When you consider the benefits of being able to reallocate your staff to where they’re most needed and to better serve your patients and callers, outsourcing is a viable option that warrants careful consideration.

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.

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