Key Tips to Successfully Work from Home



Discover How to Effectively Work in a Home Office, Whether Long-Term or Short-Term

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

work at home- Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

I recently celebrated twenty years of working from home. For the first year I divided my time between my home office and a traditional office. I followed that with a couple more years that included travel. But for the last sixteen years I’ve worked exclusively from home. It’s an ideal arrangement, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. In fact, I doubt I could ever return to a job that required me to go into an office to work each day.

Here are some of the key considerations to make a work-at-home scenario a success.

Workspace

A key element to effectively work from home is to have a dedicated workspace you can call your own. For me, an unused bedroom became my office. When I’m in my home office, I work. When I leave, I stop. 

But not everyone has a spare room they can take over. If that’s the case, can you carve out a corner in another room? Can you make a room multifunctional, where it works as an office during office hours and serves as family space the rest of the time? Regardless, the goal is training yourself so that when you go to your office—whatever it may look like—you’re conditioned to work and not do anything else.

Distraction Free

Having a workspace without distractions is ideal, but it’s not always feasible. In that case, the goal is to reduce distractions is much as possible. Remove everything from your home office that you don’t need for work. This includes televisions, radios, and books. Delete games from your computer, as well as other programs that don’t facilitate work.

Many home workers buy a white noise machine, turn on a fan, or listen to instrumental music so they can tune out household activities that may occur as they’re trying to work. If you have an office door, close it. Post office hours in your work area. Then enforce them.

Expectations

Establish expectations with family and friends. When I began working at home, I told our young children that until 5 p.m. they were not to interrupt me for any reason unless they were sick or bleeding. That did the trick. Other family members were a bit harder to train, but the point is to insist that your family and friends respect your time in your home office as sacred and not assume you’re available for nonwork activities. This also means not answering your home phone or taking personal calls while you’re working.

Routine

Just as when you work in an office location and have a series of steps you do before work and after work, do the same for your home office. Though it’s quite feasible to do so, don’t work in your pajamas. It conditions you to not take work seriously or put forth your best effort.

Also, don’t eat meals or snacks in your office. Eat breakfast before you arrive, enjoy supper afterward, and leave your office for lunch. Doing so promotes focus, priority, and professionalism.

Tools

An effective office requires tools. First up is a fast and stable internet connection. I can’t think of a job you can do from home for long without internet access. Get the best that you can afford, and don’t let online access hinder your success when you work from home.

A slow or buggy computer is another detriment. Every second of delay or frustration at your computer provides time you’re not being productive. The seconds add up to minutes and minutes add up to hours. Again, get the best computer you can afford. Install all the same programs on your home computer as you have at the office. Don’t skimp.

Also look for tools that you may not use in your workplace office, such as Skype or Zoom so that you can connect with your coworkers as needed.

When done right, working at home can increase productivity, decrease stress, and improve your enjoyment of your work. Click To Tweet

Schedule

If you’re work-at-home situation is direct contact center work, then your scheduler will tell you when to work. Easy-peasy.

For everyone else, establish your own schedule, just as you would in a workplace setting. You start at a specific time, end at a specific time, and take time out for lunch and breaks. The rest of the time you should be in your office working.

The converse of this is outside of your work schedule you should not be in your office working. This takes us to the final consideration.

Balance

We often talk about work-life balance. Though always a critical consideration, balance looms as an even bigger concern when you work and live in the same place. This means segregating your work from the rest of your life, even though both happen at the same location. Some people prefer the word compartmentalize: to place work in one mental compartment and your home life in another.

Action Steps

If you suddenly find yourself working at home, put these tips into practice as soon as possible. Then you will experience a successful, enjoyable, and effective situation. 

If you’re planning to one day work at home, put these steps into place before you start. It will make all the difference.

When done right, working at home can increase productivity, decrease stress, and improve your enjoyment of your work. Though you might now be working at home as a temporary solution to a problem outside your control, you might find the results so beneficial that you want to turn working at home into a permanent scenario.

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.

1Call Offers Free Licensing to Customers and Advice in Response to COVID-19 Crisis


1Call-call center

1Call, a division of Amtelco, announced the offering of free licensing to their customers during COVID-19.

“1Call has recently expanded its mission statement, adding ‘It’s All About the Why,’ said Tom Curtin, president of Amtelco and their 1Call Healthcare Division. “This has been implemented company-wide to reaffirm the reasons why we do what we do through the original company motto created in 1976—to provide the most innovative solutions backed by the industry’s best customer support.”

1Call is offering free operator, supervisor, and call recording licenses to all customers to assist with the increased call volumes because of the COVID-19 virus. They are also advising their customers on how to leverage their existing 1Call solutions during this crisis. 

Examples include:

  • Implementing a work from home model using a concurrent licensing structure and free additional licensing offer
  • Creating new custom codes specific to COVID-19
  • Utilizing 1Call software’s inherent skills-based call routing tool to ensure specific calls go to the right operators
  • Producing new scripted workflows to help guide new operators through any scenario
  • Leveraging group messaging and mass notification capabilities, which references directory listings, on-call schedules, statuses, and preferred contact methods
  • Recording new automated greetings and pre-call announcements to guide callers to the appropriate departments
1Call, a division of Amtelco

1Call features a complete line of modular solutions specifically designed to streamline enterprise-wide healthcare communications, save an organization’s limited resources, and help them bring wellness to their patients and their bottom line. For more information visit 1Call.com and contact them at 800-225-6035 or info@1call.com.

Good Clinical Documentation and the Telephone Triage Nurse


TriageLogic

By Heather Jarvis

When it comes to documenting triage calls, there’s always a fine balance between effective communications and liability risk. Nurses want to—and need to—effectively communicate information and directions to patients and those who may see their notes after the call. However, triage nurses must also cover themselves when it comes to liability.

So, what elements make good call documentation? Here are three tips to make sure your calls are well documented.

There’s always a fine balance between effective communications and liability risk. Click To Tweet

1. Make Your Communication Clear

Read your notes out loud and ask yourself, would this make sense to anyone else who reads it? Have I used the appropriate words? Does it have a definitive beginning and end?

2. Make Your Communication Concise

Think about what your narrative will look like to others. This applies not only to the next caregiver but six months or a year later when your instructions may face review. Are your communications direct and to the point?

3. Make Your Communication Credible

Use appropriate terminology, punctuation, and abbreviations. Make sure that others would view your documentation as written by someone who is knowledgeable. Always stick to the facts. Avoid jargon or slang. If a patient says she has a tummy ache, put that information in quotes so it’s known these were the patient’s words. Nurse triage documentation is not the place for personal views.

Conclusion

It’s important to remember that a nurse is judged by a reasonable standard: what a reasonable nurse would have done under the same or similar circumstances. See the most recent guidelines and the benefits of protocols for both children and adult triage.

Every nurse wants to provide the best care, perfect care. But perfect care is not what the law requires. The law requires that a triage nurse provide reasonable care. Clear, concise, and credible documentation is always a best practice.

TriageLogic

Heather Jarvis is the communications and client engagement specialist at Triage Logic.

TriageLogic Offers Remote Patient Monitoring

TriageLogic announced it will apply its thirteen years of industry-leading phone triage experience in the emerging remote patient monitoring (RPM) market. As monitoring technologies continue to gain traction, the healthcare industry views RPM as a tool to help control the cost of care for those with chronic diseases such as congestive heart failure, COPD, asthma, and diabetes.

TriageLogic announced it will apply its thirteen years of industry-leading phone triage experience in the emerging remote patient monitoring (RPM) market. Click To Tweet

Monitoring devices collect large amounts of patient data—blood pressure, blood sugar, blood oxygen levels, heart rate, and more. Each device has its own data algorithm that flags abnormal conditions. Results from these devices are typically displayed on dashboards provided by the device company. A physician or their staff that’s monitoring multiple patients with multiple conditions would need to spend a significant amount of time reviewing every dashboard regularly. This is time taken away from face-to-face patient care.

“Digital health technology is sophisticated and has tremendous potential to help patients better manage their health,” said Ravi Raheja, M.D., TriageLogic medical director and CTO. “However, the amount of data that’s generated is vast. A medically trained professional must review the information and evaluate it in the context of the individual to determine the appropriate action. We have the history, experience, and trained nursing staff to review this data,” said Raheja.

TriageLogic is working with physicians and device companies to bridge the gap that exists between the mountains of data generated by health technology devices and the decisions that need to be made in support of better health.

All monitoring takes place behind the scenes and is seamless to patients. A patient simply uses their device as directed by their physician. TriageLogic’s registered nurses evaluate any alerts or deviations registered by the devices. The patient then receives a call from a TriageLogic nurse who will provide instructions for follow-up care. On January 1, 2020, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services approved reimbursement for some virtual care monitoring, opening the door for more patients to request RPM.

“Most physicians don’t have the time or resources to monitor dashboards for multiple devices,” said Raheja. “TriageLogic’s resources allow physicians to do what they’re best at—spend quality face-to-face time with those who truly need medical intervention. We work closely with each physician group to ensure we understand their preferences and custom care -plans for patients with chronic disease.”

TriageLogic

TriageLogic is a technology-based service provider of remote patient monitoring services and quality telehealth solutions, including comprehensive after-hours call center services and innovative online systems for use in institutional and private practice settings. TriageLogic provides patient call solutions for more than 9,000 physicians and helps manage the care of more than eighteen million individuals.

February/March 2020 Issue of AnswerStat

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



Feature Content:

AS February 2020

Contact Center Preventive Health Promotion, by Traci Haynes
Contact Centers can promote preventive health to help individuals reach their health and wellness goals and keep healthcare costs down…. read more >>

Vital Signs: What Kind of Healthcare Coverage Do You Provide to Your Staff? by Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD
A key aspect of enabling call center staff to best meet the healthcare needs of callers is to start by making sure you best meet the healthcare needs of your staff.… read more >>

Vendor Spotlight on LVM
Discover what LVM can do now and will be able to do later this year…. read more >>

How to Build an Actionable and Strategic Patient Experience Plan, by Gary Druckenmiller
Today’s consumers expect seamless, personalized interactions from all businesses—including their healthcare provider…. read more >>

E-Cigarettes and Vaping, by David Thompson, MD
Telephone triage nurses should be ready to answer questions from concerned callers about e-cigarettes and vaping…. read more >>

Ten years ago: Integrating Answering Service with Nurse Triage, by Charu G. Raheja
A partnership between a triage center and an answering service can help improve patient care and satisfaction, enhance nurse satisfaction, and decrease costs…. read more >>

Industry News

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

Vendor Spotlight on LVM


LVM Systems

LVM has served the healthcare call center industry for over thirty years. During that time, they have worked with many prestigious health systems, stand-alone hospitals, and other healthcare organizations. Throughout the years, they engaged their clients, learned what they wanted, and developed specific enhancements to address their needs. 

Today, their clients are asking them to develop solutions that place a high focus on integrated access to high quality, patient-centric care. Healthcare organizations, communities, and medical professionals face the challenging task of communicating patient care across all stakeholders while focused on the patient’s continuum of care.

LVM’s current healthcare call center system provides software solutions to support both clinical and marketing functions. Clinically, their software supports nurse triage, pediatric and adult guidelines, disease management, behavioral health, hospital/patient transfer, health information, and surveys.

On the marketing side, numerous clients utilize the physician referral, answering service, class registration, marketing outreach, web-based messaging, complaint management, and other components of the software. Some client hospitals use both the clinical and marketing capabilities.  

All these components exist within the same software, enabling clients to use them throughout their healthcare organizations. Clients utilizing LVM’s N-Centaurus software receive quality support upon which LVM has built their reputation. N-Centaurus remains a strong solution to meet numerous client needs. It will continue to do so for many years to come. 

Organizations looking for a fully integrated system that takes their current functionality and builds upon it, can look for LVM’s upcoming product release. Creating such a product has been their mission over the past three years, with the goal to produce an interoperable solution to meet the needs of LVM clients and their patients. LVM listened to the industry and their clients. Their new product reflects that effort. 

LVM rolls out its next-generation product that will take their clients’ organizations to the next level. Click To Tweet

Spring is the perfect time of year for new beginnings and refreshing new ideas. This spring will be especially notable for the industry as LVM rolls out their next-generation product. Although they can’t share the specifics quite yet (and spoil the product launch), know that this product will take their clients’ organizations to the next level. Users, however, need not worry. The functions and features they have come to depend on will still be there—just in a more integrated, system-wide way. 

Also, LVM has expanded the functionality of their existing software to increase its value. Clients will be able to relieve many of the stress points their patients experience when interacting with the client’s organization. No longer will patients feel lost in the myriad of touchpoints they must navigate to access an organization and receive services. No longer will they feel frustrated from not knowing simple things like where to park, where to register, or where to find the lab or radiology building. Simplified follow-up communications will enable patients to remember appointments, fill their prescriptions, and among other things, check their vitals.

As LVM looks toward the next thirty years, they see tremendous opportunities to assist clients in greatly improving the health of the country. LVM looks forward to sharing this experience with their clients. Although there will be changes, some things—like the ability to customize LVM’s hospital call center solutions and their high level of quality support services—will never change. 

LVM Systems logo

Learn more about LVM.

Contact Center Preventive Health Promotion


LVM Systems

By Traci Haynes

Preventive health has gained momentum over the past few years as individuals seek to improve their overall health through exercise, nutrition, mindfulness, and better lifestyle choices. Preventive care not only helps individuals and communities stay healthier, but it also helps to avoid or delay the onset of disease and keep conditions or diseases already present from worsening or becoming debilitating, resulting in a more productive life and reduced healthcare costs. 

Preventative Health Stats

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), preventive services are the most basic form of healthcare recommended for all individuals. However, they estimate that Americans only use preventive services at about half the recommended rate. 

More than 900,000 Americans die each year prematurely from the five leading causes of death (heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory disease, stroke, and unintentional injuries). The National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion says that between 20 to 40 percent of these deaths could have been avoided by taking preventive steps.

Not only is chronic disease the leading cause of death and disability, but it is the primary cause of our nation’s annual healthcare costs. In fact, 90 percent of our nation’s 3.5 trillion dollars in annual healthcare expenditures are for people with chronic and mental health conditions. 

The CDC believes that preventing disease is the key to improving America’s overall health and keeping rising costs under control. Click To Tweet

Overall healthcare costs, including all private and public spending, are anticipated to rise by an average of 5.5 percent per year over the next decade, growing to six trillion dollars by 2027. Healthcare spending is projected to grow faster than the economy, increasing to 19.4 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP).

As you know, many of the top risk factors leading to chronic disease and premature death are preventable such as tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke, lack of physical activity, excessive alcohol use, and poor nutrition, including diets low in fruits and vegetables and high in sodium and saturated fats. 

Most health plans must cover a set of preventive services (such as immunizations, screening tests, etc.) at no cost to the individual. Why? Because it costs less for insurance companies to pay for preventive care than it does to pay for all the associated costs for disease management.

Helpful Websites

The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) makes recommendations for screenings, counseling services, and preventive medications based on a rigorous review of existing peer-reviewed evidence and is intended to help clinicians and individuals decide which preventive services are right for them. The recommendations are assigned a letter grade based on the strength of the evidence as well as the balance of benefits versus harms. The task force consists of sixteen volunteer members who are nationally recognized experts in prevention, evidence-based medicine, and primary care. Learn more about the USPSTF and view their list of recommendations.

Another excellent website is on healthfinder.gov, titled “myhealthfinder.” It includes a tool to find personalized preventive service recommendations for individuals simply by filling in age and gender. It also includes instructions for getting the tool for your organization’s or contact center’s website. 

The Call Center’s Role

What can the contact center do to help individuals learn about and receive preventive healthcare? Many things. The contact center can familiarize themselves with the recommendations for the population they serve and integrate the USPSTF recommendations, as appropriate, into their interactions. Here are four examples.

1. Chronic Cough: A 67-year old male caller who has smoked a pack a day for the past twenty-five years, calls complaining of a chronic cough lasting for weeks. After triaging the caller and providing the recommended disposition, the nurse should also advise the caller that an abdominal aortic aneurysm one-time screening is recommended for men ages 65 to 75 who have ever smoked and a lung cancer screening is recommended annually for adults 55 to 80 with a higher risk for lung cancer (heavy smokers or those who have quit in the past fifteen years). 

2. Low Back Pain: An adult caller complaining of low back pain and knee pain and who has a BMI of 37, should be advised regarding obesity screening and counseling recommended for all adults after being triaged.

3. Shortness of Breath: A 47-year old adult caller with shortness of breath and who has a high risk of cardiovascular disease and is not on a statin should be told about statin preventive medication recommended for adults 40 to 75 years of age with a high risk of cardiovascular disease after being triaged.

4. Flu Concerns: A caller, age 31 who is concerned about flu exposure, but has yet to be vaccinated should be advised that flu shots are recommended on an annual basis after being triaged. 

Other Opportunities: Additional uses include, if an individual is holding for the next available nurse, the automated attendant could promote preventive health recommendations or services. Preventive health could be on the organization’s website with a phone number for the contact center. Alternatively, callers could be provided the link for each individual’s gender/age preventive health recommendations in an email or text. The possibilities are endless. 

Conclusion

Being able to encourage preventive care screenings, immunizations, etc., and where to receive them may prevent further issues over time. It is our responsibility to guide individuals to quit smoking, eat healthy, get regular physical activity, avoid drinking too much alcohol, get enough sleep, make healthy choices, and get screened.

The CDC believes that preventing disease is the key to improving America’s overall health and keeping rising costs under control. We, as clinicians, must continue to drive the necessity for preventive health and help individuals reach their health and wellness goals.

LVM Systems logo

Traci Haynes, MSN, RN, BA, CEN, CCCTM is director, clinical services at LVM Systems.

What Kind of Healthcare Coverage Do You Provide to Your Staff?



Take Steps to Meet the Healthcare Needs of Your Healthcare Call Center Staff

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

I enjoy going to the zoo with family. We go several times each year. A special bonus are those opportunities to interact with the zookeepers and learn more about the animals under their care. During a recent visit we had the privilege of an extended discussion with one of the caretakers after she tended to the zoo’s three lions.

She shared insider information about their feeding, their training, and their healthcare. After covering the extensive medical care these three amazing creatures receive—the testing, monitoring, medication, and access to specialists—she grew momentarily somber. “They receive much better healthcare than I do.” We sadly nodded that we understood. Then she perked up and resumed telling us about these animals that she so clearly loves.

I wonder if a similar thing happens in our healthcare call centers. Do employees hang up from a phone call and shake their heads in dismay, muttering “That caller receives far better healthcare than I do.”? I hope not, but I fear it’s true far more often than it’s not.

It may be understandable for this to happen occasionally, but it’s inexcusable if it happens often. This needs to change. Take steps to better meet the healthcare needs of healthcare call center staff.

A key aspect of enabling call-center staff to best meet the healthcare needs of callers is to start by making sure you best meet the healthcare needs of your staff. Click To Tweet

To expect workers in healthcare call centers to serve patients and callers with excellence, they must first have a good perspective for them to work from. This includes providing healthcare workers with adequate healthcare coverage and services.

Falling short of doing so handicaps them from performing their jobs with distinction and serving callers with appropriate empathy. It would be like making restaurant staff work on an empty stomach but expecting it to not impact their patrons’ experience.

Call centers invest money on ongoing agent training, coaching, and quality assurance programs. Make sure to also invest in call center staff’s healthcare. This will help ensure that they better connect with the people they talk to on the phone, without negativity and resentment showing through.

A key aspect of enabling call-center staff to best meet the healthcare needs of callers is to start by making sure you best meet the healthcare needs of your staff. If you find yourself needing to make changes, you may not be able to fix everything all at one time. But you can move in that direction. Start today.

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.

The Goal of the Telephone Triage Process



By Rose Moon, RN, BSN

Telephone triage processes are proven to improve access to care professionals, lower patient anxiety, save on ER costs, and prevent unnecessary health complications. The primary goal of the telephone triage process is to deliver safe, quality-oriented telephone triage partnered with outstanding customer service. The health, safety, and wellbeing of the patient is at the forefront of every telephone encounter. 

The purpose of the telephone triage process is to assess the patient’s current signs and symptoms, concurrently evaluating their past medical history and current medications. It performs the patient assessment in accordance with protocols which guide the nurse to determine the proper triage disposition to direct care to the safest, most cost-effective solution available at that time. 

Triage nurses don’t always have to be right; we just can’t afford to be wrong. Click To Tweet

To accomplish the goals of the telephone triage process, an organization needs to recruit, hire, train, and retain experienced telephone triage nurses. Two valued components that will result in quality patient outcomes are providing comprehensive, detailed orientation, as well as equipping the nursing staff with needed tools: gold-standard telephone triage protocols. 

However, the final determining factor of quality phone triage lies in the training of nurses to utilize the protocol tool properly. Anyone can read a protocol. It is the knowledgeable triage nurse who applies the following attributes of enhanced assessment skills, superior judgment, prior nursing experience, and exceptional decision-making abilities to the protocol tool that results in safe, quality outcomes and cost-effective patient care. 

Performing hands-on patient assessment allows the healthcare provider to visualize cyanosis, smell foul drainage, palpate an abdomen, and use a stethoscope to assess patients’ lung sounds. Telephone triage nurses don’t have such luxuries to assess patient needs. They’re limited to their ability to query and listen intently to the caller to obtain the necessary details of the patient’s medical symptoms and then direct medical care accordingly.

Successful triage nurses live by the following golden rules of the telephone triage process:

  • Every call is life threatening until proven otherwise.
  • Complete an ABCD assessment with every telephone encounter: Airway, Breathing, Circulation, Deficit (Neuro).
  • Assessing patients over the phone is high risk; therefore, take the callers word as truth. 
  • Follow your sixth sense: protocols are decision support tools; nursing judgment determines outcomes.
  • Know your patients’ medical history and current medications.
  • Assess your callers as well as your patients. Be a patient advocate.
  • Never provide a dosage of a medication without a complete patient assessment. 
  • Always confirm labeled dosage of a medication as well as the means in which the caretaker plans to administer the drug.
  • Always assess the caller’s level of comfort with the established plan of care before ending the call:
  • “Are you comfortable with these recommendations?”
  • “Now tell me what you plan to do next.”
  • If it isn’t documented, it didn’t happen. Use defensive documentation. Paint a picture.
  • Regardless of the reason for the call, always obtain a rectal temperature on an infant under the age of three months.
  • Document the exact mechanism of injury.
  • Be alert for red flags. Any time a caller uses or implies one of the following phrases be sure to clarify the underlying meaning. Carefully analyze your disposition and recommendation for follow-up care:
  • Grunting or moaning
  • Lethargic or listless
  • Sleeping more than usual 
  • Just doesn’t look right, act right, or is fussy
  • Sleeps through a rectal temperature
  • High pitched cry or unusual, funny cry
  • History of sickle cell or immune deficiency 
  • Frequent caller
  • Caller that expresses anxiousness or numerous questions after discussing a plan of care
  • Patient symptoms of headache, dizziness, disorientation, nausea, fatigue, or irritability; flu versus carbon dioxide exposure
  • At the conclusion of the patient telephone encounter, instruct callers to call back or seek medical evaluation if current symptoms become worse or additional signs and symptoms of concern develop.

Triage nurses don’t always have to be right; we just can’t afford to be wrong. Always err on the side of caution.

Learn more about telephone nurse triage and how to implement successful triage nurse centers by downloading the free e-book: Telephone Nurse Triage Handbook

How to Build an Actionable and Strategic Patient Experience Plan



By Gary Druckenmiller

In recent years, hospitals have become increasingly familiar with the merits of providing a superior experience to patients and consumers. Studies show that organizations with successful patient experience strategies see up to a 5 percent increase in new patients, a 15 percent increase in patient retention, and an 18 percent decrease in out-of-network referrals.

It’s no wonder why 81 percent of executives consider patient experience a top priority. And yet, many health systems haven’t created an actionable strategy that genuinely improves the experience across all touchpoints along the patient journey. In particular, they fail to acknowledge the importance of marketing communications and outreach in these strategies.

Even if patients are part of a vast health system, they expect experiences tailored to them as individuals throughout the care continuum. This is why health systems need the right technology in place to craft data-driven patient experience plans—messaging that directly addresses a patient’s needs both inside and outside the health system’s four walls.

By improving the patient experience with personalized communications and data-driven outreach, health systems enjoy increased loyalty and satisfaction, higher ROI, and improved margins. Here are a few strategies that health systems can employ to build an actionable, strategic patient experience plan:

Integrate the Right Technology

To design an effective patient experience strategy, health systems must first ensure that the right marketing technology is in place to reach patients at the right times, over the right channels. 

Consider the following four solutions: 

1. Healthcare CRM: A healthcare-specific customer relationship management platform (HCRM) is an absolute necessity for a successful patient experience plan. A HCRM is the centralized hub for all precision marketing. With an HCRM, healthcare marketers collect and compile data in a centralized location, monitoring important information such as recent communications, changes to demographic information, and clinical details and propensities. This information is key to crafting the hyper-personalized experiences that today’s patients expect.

In practice, a healthcare marketer may use the HCRM to understand the various touch points along the patient journey, including understanding which resources were engaged with before that first appointment was scheduled. An analysis as simple as this reveals valuable information as to which messages, channels, and tactics resonate with which demographic—and which are less effective. The longer a patient stays within the health system, the more data is integrated into their CRM profile, setting the stage for improved targeting and a better overall experience, along with the ability to apply those learnings to other consumers in the same cohort or segment. 

Patient experience recently became the centerpiece of many health systems’ strategic growth initiatives. Click To Tweet

2. Marketing Automation: A marketing automation platform orchestrates the execution of personalized engagement plans. It allows healthcare marketing teams to send messages at the ideal time following specific customer interactions or touchpoints—for example, sending an email invitation to a diabetes management seminar the day after a user downloads an e-book about Type I Diabetes on the health system’s website. It’s simply not feasible to deploy this type of patient nurturing campaign at a large scale without marketing automation software, especially since the data within a HCRM only grows more complex over time.

3. Patient Engagement Center: First impressions are everything—and often hospital call centers are the first interactions with consumers. To meet consumer expectations, call center representatives need to not only be personable, efficient, and conscientious, but they need to be proactive, demonstrating that the health system knows the caller, why they are calling, and can provide the best care. With that comes the need to prioritize first call resolution, as opposed to forcing the consumer to call back multiple times to ask follow-up questions.

To deliver proactive and world-class customer experiences, call center representatives need access to a dashboard containing all relevant caller information and proactive alerts about the caller. For existing patients, this includes details from the patient profile contained within the HCRM as well as clinical and demographic data sourced from the EHR. Other tools that provide insight into consumer data and marketing engagement history (even if the caller is not a registered patient) are also worth investing in.

4. Business Insights: With a business insights solution, healthcare marketers unlock the most valuable opportunities—such as a specific demographic, geographic market, or service line—on which to focus their initial patient experience campaigns. By examining a service line or geographic area with cross-sectional data, health systems begin to understand the basic needs and desires of this set of consumers. They can then shape lists of target consumers that fit the ideal persona, supporting informed, hyper-segmented engagement campaigns with messaging that speaks to those needs and characteristics.

With the right technology, a health system ensures messages deployed across consumer touchpoints meet each patient’s needs. Using historical data to inform outreach, marketers improve patient experience while creating a seamless, convenient approach to care.

Create Personalized Patient Experiences

Personalization is one of the most effective ways to improve patient experiences. One of the easiest ways for healthcare marketers to leverage personalization is by simply asking patients and consumers what they prefer. For example, they can indicate their preferred method of contact (such as phone, email, or text message) and set a time of day that works best to receive communication from their provider. Short online or emailed surveys are another great way for marketers to gather information about patient preferences and personalize campaigns accordingly.

Keep in mind, however, personalizing patient interactions helps build trust, but it’s important not to go too far. For example, if a consumer has passively searched online for oncology services, the call center representative should not mention their browsing history during a call. 

Use Precision Marketing to Deploy Consistent Messaging

These principles apply to acquisition and retention. Once a patient has already converted to a health system, precision marketing campaigns continue to be effective in encouraging ongoing engagement with unique content. These campaigns leverage HCRM-connected workflows that strategically guide communications, track engagements with marketing materials, and monitor a patient’s journey from, for instance, pre-screening to specialist consultation to surgical procedure.

This strategy includes integrating decision points that influence the patient’s journey based on their actions, or lack thereof. If a patient registers for an upcoming cardiology seminar, they should be included in cardiology-related emailing lists. These workflows don’t just allow the most relevant messages to be sent, they record these non-clinical engagements, and support patients in their healthcare journey.

Final Thoughts

Today’s consumers expect seamless, personalized interactions from all businesses with whom they interact—and this includes their healthcare provider. Unsurprisingly, patient experience recently became the centerpiece of many health systems’ strategic growth initiatives. Healthcare marketers play a critical role in crafting a great healthcare experience, so it’s important they employ the right tactics to ensure positive interactions throughout the patient journey.

They must tap advanced marketing technology to organize and analyze information from all aspects of the organization, both inside and outside the health system. With a comprehensive view of patient needs and demographics and a deep understanding of the experiences that they value most, health systems will enjoy improved ROI, sustainable growth, and a sharp competitive edge.

Gary Druckenmiller, Jr. is vice president of customer success at Evariant. With almost twenty-five years of digital makeover efforts behind him, he functions as a lead business strategist, a digital marketing thought leader, and a C-level executive sponsor for all Evariant enterprise clients, primarily focused on advising health system leadership of opportunistic methods to find, guide, and keep patients for life.

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