Tag Archives: operations management articles

How Hospital Contact Centers Help Organizations Achieve Their Frictionless Patient Experience Goals

1Call

By Nicole Limpert

Patient satisfaction is different from patient experience. While research from the NRC Health’s 2019 Healthcare Consumer Trends Report indicates that 85 percent of patients in the United States are satisfied with their care team, the data also indicates that patients encounter points of friction along their care journey that may result in them choosing a different healthcare provider in the future.

In today’s world, patients are also consumers. Healthcare contributes more than $1.2 trillion to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and is the fifth biggest industry in the United States. Healthcare systems strive to supply a frictionless patient experience to not only provide better care, but to also earn their patient’s loyalty for future healthcare needs.

A recent Kaufman Hall survey of 200 hospitals and healthcare executives found that 90 percent of respondents said improving patient experience is a high priority.

Start at the Beginning

Before a patient can appreciate all the innovative technologies and exceptional care their clinicians provide to them, they must navigate the early phases of a care encounter which can be confusing and overwhelming. Their beginning journey often starts with calling their provider or contacting them via web chat, to get answers to their questions.

These communications are often routed to an organization’s contact center and are the first basic steps of a patient’s journey. The interactions are important because they start to form a patient’s impression of the entire experience and of an institution.

Medical contact centers serve as a virtual lobby and communication hub of an organization and effectively become an extension of a hospital or clinic’s operations. It’s imperative that operators begin a patient’s journey with a frictionless experience and are consistently delivering that elevated level of patient-first service.

The NRC Health’s data supports this reasoning. In the database of patient comments, the routine parts of a patient’s experience, such as appointment-setting, wait times, and registration staff courtesy, dominated patient concerns.

An astounding 60 percent of patient comments were related to these everyday experiences when obtaining healthcare access.

Contact Center Scripting for Seamless Interactions

Healthcare contact centers are tasked with being front door of an organization. Every phone call or web chat interaction is an opportunity for the agent to uphold an organization’s patient-first values and offer a frictionless experience.

Scripting tools and protocols can help operators provide a unified experience across all care settings for patients, their home caregivers, and their professional care staff.

Scripting helps operators seamlessly guide patients through interactions by using programmed scripts that prompt agents to ask the right questions, give the right answers, and direct the patient to the right person or department.

Call flow scripting can automatically detect call flow and determine scripting options for operators based on an organization’s protocols. Scripts for appointments, physician referrals, prescription renewal, scheduling, research, crises and emergencies, facility directions, and much more, help to personalize each patient communication while aligning with an organization’s messaging goals.

Supporting Frictionless Patient Experiences with Technology

Healthcare organizations want to provide a frictionless patient experience while advancing the physical, mental, social, and even economic health of their communities. Some of them will have to overcome added barriers like care deserts and poor care access.

To ensure that every pathway is clear for a patient to connect with an organization, they must have the right foundational technology to create and provide a consistent, seamless, frictionless patient experience.

As technology grows, so does the consumerization of healthcare. Consumers now expect speed and convenience in healthcare. Digital devices have normalized videoconferencing, wearable health tech, telehealth, and online access to lab results.

Contact Center Software for a Frictionless Environment

A hospital’s contact center software can help with an organization’s innovation strategy to improve efficiency, patient experience, and help provide a frictionless environment.

Hospital Stay: After a patient has been admitted for a hospital stay, they may be moved from one room to another for tests, procedures, and during recovery. Call center software can assign a fixed phone number to each patient that will follow them for the duration of their stay.

Associating each patient with one phone number helps to streamline care communications and ease the stress of the patient’s family and friends who are trying to find their loved one after they are transferred to a different room.

Secure Messaging: Healthcare organizations can seamlessly integrate secure messaging apps with their call center software and different communication systems (such as nurse call, alarms, security, building maintenance, lab results, and housekeeping) to receive notifications faster.

Remote Patient Monitoring: Contact center software can help manage and respond to data collected via remote patient monitoring (RPM). For example, if a high-risk patient experiences an adverse change in vital signs, their wearable health monitor can send an alert to the healthcare’s contact center, triggering the software to connect to a member of the patient’s care team or dispatch paramedics to the patient’s location.

Smart Paging: Care staff can use smart paging to instantly find another member of their team using the hospital call center’s directory to send them a message using that individual’s preferred contact method.

Workflows: The same communications integration engine software that incorporates personnel directories and on-call schedules used by a hospital call center, can also integrate with nurse call solutions, third-party devices (such as IP phones and mobile devices), and other applications to automate the handling and dispatching of messages and alerts to enhance workflows.

The Importance of Empathy in a Frictionless Environment

While technology is crucial, the most important ingredient in the secret sauce that results high-quality interactions and a frictionless environment is empathy. If an organization has understanding as one of its core principles, it can discover deeper truths about the experiences of their patients.

Cultivating a patient-first culture based on empathy takes time. It must be built, retained, and continuously improved upon. It should be foremost at all levels of an organization, and ideally, begin at the hiring process.

A frictionless environment is the natural result of this kind of foundational approach to improving the patient experience through empathy. This environment draws patients in, earns their trust, and keeps them coming back for future care.

Empathy in the Call Center

It is important that agents who work in a hospital call center understand the value their organization places on empathy, and how they play a key role in conveying that care to callers. Leadership can help build empathy in their contact centers by:

  • Including empathetic statements in scripting protocols.
  • Reviewing speech analytic reports to identify words and phrases that indicate an operator should use empathetic language or to trigger empathy statements in the script.
  • Training agents to carefully listen to callers and to not be afraid to ask callers to clarify any questions or requests they have.
  • Including empathetic role playing when training a new operator.
  • Using visual cues to remind agents that they are speaking to real people. A quote or image that is displayed on the screen or in the agent’s work area helps to humanize the caller.

Patient experience leadership should involve their contact centers when planning frictionless patient experience goals. The technology already being used in their call centers, along with well-trained, informed agents, can be used to help the entire enterprise achieve their patient-first goals.

1Call, a division of Amtelco

Nicole Limpert is the marketing content writer for 1Call. The 1Call Division of Amtelco is a leader in developing software solutions and applications designed for the specific needs of the healthcare call center marketplace. 1Call features a complete line of modular solutions specifically designed to streamline enterprise-wide communications, save an organization’s limited resources, and make them tremendously efficient, helping them bring wellness to their members and their bottom line.

Channel Specialization versus Multichannel Proficiency

Effectively Handle Communication Channels in a Medical Contact Center

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

In the last issue of AnswerStat we looked at the need for multichannel integration in your healthcare contact center to better serve patients and produce superior outcomes. We considered this from a systems standpoint. Now let’s look at multichannel from an agent and operational perspective, specifically channel specialization versus multichannel proficiency.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

Ideally you want every agent trained and fully proficient to handle communication on any channel option that comes in, be it voice, text, email, video, social media, and so forth. Some agents relish being proficient on all channels, while others prefer to specialize. A contact center needs both types of agents.

Channel Specialization

An agent that specializes in one channel, for instance telephone calls, will develop a higher level of effectiveness by focusing on that one channel. Through repetition they’ll gain an enhanced level of skill through their specialization.

This will enable them to move from one call to another with greater speed and increased efficacy. In short, they’ll get more done faster.

But they must also be cross trained on other channels. There are two reasons for this.

One is in the event of a telephone call that needs to switch channels, such as to move to video or email to better facilitate effective communication. In this instance you don’t want an agent with a telephone channel specialization handing the call off to a video or email specialist. Instead, you want the original agent to move with the patient or caller to the new channel.

The second reason you want agents cross trained is so they can switch to a different channel if there’s a need to do so. This could occur with an increased amount of traffic in a channel different from the one they specialize in. Without this cross training, you could end up with specialists in one channel sitting idle while specialists in another channel struggle to keep up.

Though you have agents that specialize in one channel and mostly work in that area, they must be ready and willing to jump to another channel when the situation requires it.

Multichannel Proficiency

Other agents would find channel specialization to be quite boring. They relish being proficient on many channels, even on every channel your healthcare contact center handles. They enjoy the variety that comes from interacting with patients on various channels.

These multi-channel agents can handle patient contacts on any channel as needed, whenever needed. This allows them to switch between real-time communication (telephone and video calls) depending on the traffic demands at any moment. Yet at the same time they are equally proficient at processing non-real-time communication (email, text, and social media) as required.

This means they can effectively work in the channel where they’re most needed.

Specialists and Generalists

While channel specialization is good for some agents and multichannel proficiency is ideal for others, this mix of channel focus is also essential for your contact center. Just like with healthcare, a contact center needs both specialists and generalists.

The specialists can concentrate on one channel, reaching a level of effectiveness that a generalist could never achieve. Yet a generalist is effective at quickly and easily migrating from one channel to another.

Though every agent in your contact center should be cross trained to handle any channel, determine which area is the best for each agent, channel specialization or multichannel proficiency. You need both.

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.   Read more of his articles at PeterDeHaanPublishing.com.

Multi-Channel Integration

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.

Educate Staff

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.

Identify Weaknesses

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.

Conclusion

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.

Seven Tips to Minimize Risk and Improve the Patient Experience


Pulsar360: strategic partners with the TAS industry

By Bronson Tang

According to Statista, the percentage of businesses worldwide using a call center in the Americas is 66 percent. However, according to the Global Contact Center satisfaction index, the level of caller satisfaction dropped five points from 2010 to 2018. Medical call centers are now looking for ways to improve patient experience, while minimizing risk. The goal of a call center typically includes:

  • Increase patient satisfaction
  • Reduce readmission
  • Improve patient safety
  • Reduce missed appointments
  • Increase patient retention
  • Increase patient referrals
  • Resolve complaints and disputes
  • Increase patient lifetime value

In general, the medical call center should be tailored to increasing the satisfaction of the individual patient and not just the efficiency of the call. In addition to patient satisfaction, there is an overall feeling that many call centers focus too much on efficiency when they need to focus on effectiveness.

Here are seven ways you can minimize risk in a medical call center.

1. Call Center Etiquette Matters: The need for proper etiquette is essential. This includes how calls are answered, how the patient is treated during the call, and how well issues and questions are addressed.

2. Hire the Right People: Hiring experienced call center agents is critical to the success of any medical call center, as this will significantly reduce the likelihood for agent turnover as well as the costs incurred in training. When you hire the right people, the agent will be able to achieve first call resolution, resolve disputes quickly and effectively, assure quality and security on every call, and reduce wait times.

3. Use the Right Technology: The technology that both your agents and patients use is important. From an agent perspective, having the right technology includes agent desktops, call monitoring, queue callback, intelligent dialers, and CRM integration with screen pops. From the patient perspective, having the right technology includes various ways the patient can easily interact such as emails, SMSs, video chats, tweets, and Facebook posts.

4. Measure Success with Call Center Metrics: Measuring quantitative performance such as call quality, first call resolution, patient satisfaction, average speed of answer, abandonment rate, and wait time are some of the ways medical call centers can have a visible eye on the success of their operation.

5. Reward and Motivate Agents: How agents deal with patients is in direct proportion to how well they are dealt with in their own company. Rewarding and motivating agents can go a long way toward producing a pleasant experience for the caller. This also includes empowering agents so they feel confident in their ability to do the job.

6. Ensure Agents Adhere to Regulations: Every organization has their own regulations, and medical call centers are no different. It’s vitally important that agents are well informed and follow the rules outlined by the call center. The medical call center needs to put in place proper measures to ensure those expectations have been communicated and understood by the agents. Proper training is the key.

7. Evaluate Agents: A method for evaluating agents is important to any medical call center, as it keeps the organization up to date with what is actually going on with each employee. Depending on the organization, having daily meetings with agents can help reduce potential risks that can take place on live calls.

Conclusion: The medical call center is a crucial component within healthcare to improve the patient experience, while reducing risks. Ultimately the decision is yours as to how you go about minimizing risks in your call center. The key is creating a positive experience for the patient.

Pulsar360: strategic partners with the TAS industry

Bronson Tang is the marketing manager at Pulsar360, Inc. He has ten years of experience in digital marketing and has worked in the Telecommunications sector for four years. He’s the author of the book, The Tao of Business.

Four Steps to Minimize Risk in a Healthcare Call Center


By Janet Livingston

Running a call center is challenging, but mastering one in the healthcare industry carries an added set of concerns. People’s health and even their lives are at stake. Make a mistake and effect someone’s future, even their life. Although it’s impossible to eliminate all risks, a few simple steps can greatly minimize it.

Hire the Right Skill Set

Determine what credentials you want staff in each position to carry. Then hire to meet those requirements. Don’t skimp or settle for someone less than ideal. With so much at stake you don’t want to have an underqualified employee attempt to handle too big of a responsibility. This starts with hiring the right people for each position.

Provide HIPAA Training

Everyone in healthcare knows you must provide HIPAA training on a regular basis to all employees. However, finding time to do this may present a challenge. Every day in the call center is a busy one. This makes it easy to push off nonurgent tasks to tomorrow, to next week, and to next month. When it comes to HIPAA training, don’t delay. Make it a priority, and then do it. Provide HIPAA education as part of new employee onboarding. Then, provide HIPAA instruction for every employee each year.

Insist that Staff Don’t Exceed Their Capabilities

Many medical call centers have a mix of staff, some with medical training and others without it. Though those without a healthcare background will quickly pick up medical jargon, processes, and even some protocols, make sure they don’t attempt to provide a level of service they aren’t trained to do. Nurses should provide nurse triage, while non-nurses shouldn’t offer any degree of medical advice. It’s that simple. This is one time to keep everyone in their place.

Have a Good Errors and Omissions Insurance Policy

Having a good errors and omissions (E & O) policy is important for outsource call centers and especially essential for healthcare related operations. However, don’t view this as an excuse to take shortcuts. Instead strive to run your call center so that you’ll never need to file a claim. Consider E & O insurance as a backup in case the unthinkable happens.

Conclusion

Though there’s a lot that can go wrong in a healthcare call center, there’s no reason to let it cause you to lose sleep. Follow these four tips to help ensure your operation functions as it should and provides high-quality service that your stakeholders expect.

Janet Livingston is the CEO of Call Center Sales Pro, a premier consultancy and service provider for healthcare call centers and medical answering services. Contact Janet at contactus@ccsp.us or call 800-901-7706.

Three Tactics for Transforming a Call Center into a Care Center



By Gina Tabone

Healthcare strategists must lead the campaign to transform call center agents into caregivers and move from a call center mentality to a care center functioning as the doorway to an organization. Medical call centers have evolved over the past decade from a call center, to a contact center, to the current title of centralized access center. The goal for the patient is a seamless connection to a call center agent equipped to resolve any need presented within the confines of the first call.

Agent positions are often entry level, which they historically abandon once they are eligible to bid on a higher paying, more prestigious role within the organization. What a shame that front-line call center employees do not realize the immense value they play in the continuum of care and the potential they have to impact an exceptional patient experience.

Change, as usual, must happen. Here are three easy-to-implement tactics to begin transforming the mindset of call center agents from telephone operator to a caregiver that is acknowledged as a vital contributor in the continuum of care.

1) Communication

Healthcare chatter and verbiage flood nightly news reports, political rhetoric, and patient newsletters. It is hard enough for industry leaders to comprehend what is being said and expected, let alone the people on the front line doing the work.

There is nothing more motivating than realizing that the work one does is meaningful and makes a difference. This is most true in the delivery of healthcare. No matter what the role, everyone interacting with a patient can contribute to a positive experience. Here’s how:

  • The messages must be clearly stated from the top-level leadership involved in the call center transformation. Be honest and frank. Leadership is supportive but must be mindful of the ever-present business impact of every department.
  • “You are very important to our organizations and your contribution to the organization are unique and essential.”
  • Think of the call center as the front door to the organization. You are the ones answering the knock at the door.
  • You have the power to either communicate: “Hello, welcome, we are expecting you,” or slam the door in their face by being robotic, irritated, and impatient.

2) Collaboration

Caregivers working in a centralized communication center do not actually have a panel or group of patients specifically assigned to them. Rather, they are there to provide a plethora of services to the patients from a variety of locations, specialties, practices, providers, or payers. The role they play augments the meaningful care provided in an office or clinic setting. Efforts must focus on viewing the call center caregivers as a vital component of the outpatient team.

  • They are the first point of contact for new patients. They can convey compassion and trust in the initial interaction as a precursor of what to expect in a face-to-face visit with a clinician.
  • First point of contact caregivers set the tone for what to expect from the organization. Hopefully they demonstrate a flawless, coordinated experience with a knowledgeable person who has the skills and resources to satisfy their current need.
  • It is valuable for call center employees to spend a day with the clinic team and for the clinic staff to spend a day shadowing the call center caregiver. Bonds forge, and there is an appreciation for the work each group performs.

3) Circulate

Call center leadership is not a stationary job. Every level of management is most effective when present and visible to those working on the phones. The environment is dynamic and requires constant supervision and direction.

  • Seeing team leads, managers, and higher ups walking around and interacting with staff builds confidence and is a sign that they are available when needs arise.
  • Wireless headsets allow for designated support staff to move about, mingle with agents, and overhear calls that may benefit from a higher level of intervention. It is a defensive method for avoiding a potential problem, or even worse, a discontented patient.
  • Call center leaders who take live calls for a portion of their work week can lead by example.
  • Circulating staff are there to advocate for the best possible patient experience, while at the same time nurturing and engaging the caregivers.

There is a need to develop a platform of soft skills training that teaches call center caregivers how to convey interest, concern, and competency to callers. The tactics discussed in this essay are fantastic ways begin the transformation of a call center team.

Gina Tabone, MSN, RNC-TNP, is the vice president of strategic clinical solutions at TeamHealth Medical Call Center. Prior to joining TeamHealth, she served as the administrator of Cleveland Clinic’s Nurse on Call 24/7 nurse triage program.

How to Make Your Telemedicine Services Successful


TriageLogic

By Dr. Ravi Rajeha

A new study has found hospitals, specialty clinics, and other healthcare organizations are no longer leery of telemedicine and are in fact expanding to provide quality services and generate revenue. With this growth and success, there are many telemedicine options available for each organization. It is important to be aware of the factors providers must consider for telemedicine to be successful for their patients, practice, or organization.

Telemedicine Adoption: According to the 2017 Foley Telemedicine and Digital Health Survey, more than three-quarters of those surveyed are either currently using or plan to provide telemedicine services to their patients. These results are impressive when compared to their survey just three years ago where 87 percent of respondents did not expect most of their patients to be using telemedicine services by 2017. This survey is comprised of more than 100 senior executives at hospitals, specialty clinics, ancillary services, and related organizations.

Telemedicine ROI: The Foley survey illustrates that telemedicine provides a great opportunity for practices and medical organizations to see a financial return. Over 70 percent of respondents realized cost savings or ROI from their telemedicine services. Nearly a third saw a savings of more than 20 percent.

Although many companies are seeing a positive ROI, it is important to choose the right telemedicine service to be successful. There are a variety of options and selecting the right telemedicine service or software will determine the level of success.

Features to Consider: When looking for a telemedicine service provider, factor these items into your deliberations:

  • Integrated: The telemedicine software should be able to integrate seamlessly with current workflows. To ensure work is not being doubled by adding a new technology to the mix, the telemedicine software needs to be cohesive and allow data to be easily transferred.
  • Support: As with any technology, issues may arise. A successful telemedicine service should have training and support available to troubleshoot any concerns.
  • Adaptive: The only thing that is constant is change, and the medical field is the best example of this. The healthcare industry is always evolving and transforming. Whether it is regulation, new discoveries or inventions, or patient expectations, the only way to be successful is to adapt, and the telemedicine service and software should do the same. Look for a company that listens to their clients and makes upgrades to what they need.
  • Measure Success: The best way to determine the ROI of a telemedicine service is to establish a way to measure its success. Choose a platform that includes different portals for clients to look at data and analyze it.

The telemedicine field has exploded in recent years and doesn’t seem to be stopping. These are only a few factors to consider when implementing or expanding telemedicine services. It is important to do the research to find which solution will be best for your organization.

TriageLogic

Dr. Ravi Raheja, is the medical director at TriageLogic, which is a leader in telehealth technology and services. The company’s goal is to improve access to healthcare and reduce cost by developing technology for providers and patients, backed by high quality nurses and doctors. Today, the TriageLogic group serves over 9,000 physicians and covers over 18 million lives nationwide. Visit www.triagelogic.com and www.continuwell.com  for more information.

Hospital Call Centers


1Call, a division of Amtelco

The Vital Ingredient in Clinical Communication

By Kevin Mahoney

 A robust and effective communication system is essential in any hospital, as it forms the backbone of the provision of exceptional patient care. The adaptation and growth of evidence-based medicine have led to growth in multidisciplinary approaches in patient care and increase in research among healthcare professionals.

Multidisciplinary approaches and evidence-based practice, therefore, have necessitated constant and efficient communication among health professionals, especially at the hospital level. The sensitivity of patient care and the fast growth of technology, both clinical and non-clinical, further necessitate a need for balance and maximizing of the right forms of technology for effective clinical communication.

The hospital call center serves as a vital platform in the cog of hospital communications. Often it serves as the patient’s first contact with the hospital. In general, the call center is tasked with providing patients and staff with information pertaining to emergencies, appointments, health monitoring, and the provision of specialist information. It is also a source of patient data and interdepartmental communication. This hospital call center platform, therefore, is multifaceted in its communication functionality. The facets of communications that are related to the hospital call center are patient-to-hospital communications, internal communications, and hospital-to-patient communications.

Patient to Hospital Communications: Call centers at healthcare facilities allow the communication of the patient with the hospital and provide treatment access and patient support. The hospital call center has evolved to be a key primary contact area in the healthcare system.

Treatment access begins with proper scheduling services that taps clinical assessment and triage. This is done to allow the patient to access the right specialized care specific to the individual. For instance, it considers previous admissions, patients’ insurance information, and urgent and emergent situations and classifies patient procedures as either inpatient or outpatient. 

Patient support goes far beyond initial contact and the initial care received at the hospital. The medical call center has evolved to incorporate preventive and rehabilitative features into the platform. Moreover, call centers now use disease management programs to increase awareness of certain preventable diseases. Furthermore, they help the patient schedule appointments and remind them of screening programs.

The medical call center also helps patients access hotlines suited to their ailments, such as giving patients information about suicide prevention resources. Consequently, these platforms have improved communication features by integrating holistic curative, preventive, and rehabilitative features. This patient communication is an essential part of providing health services by a hospital.

Internal Communications: Additionally, the hospital call center supports clinical communication within the hospital staff. This is evident in environments where there is a centralized web directory. In such instances, the call center acts as the medium for vital information within the hospital. This essential information includes work schedules, contact information, and information about the employees on call. It is a critical component of providing well-coordinated care within the hospital system.

Furthermore, such call centers are tailored to communicate emergency codes and deliver critical messages to clinicians. These critical messages are essential, as they allow patient access to clinicians and contact among clinicians themselves.

A hospital call system, therefore, must be well-coordinated, time sensitive, reliable, and suited to the hospital devices available to the healthcare professionals. Hospital call centers and systems are further being improved upon to allow the tracking and escalation of messages provided to clinicians. This is essential in urgent and emergent service delivery in hospital environments.

Medicine is adopting a multidisciplinary approach to allow more holistic care and treatment to the patient. This requires constant and effective communication among medical professionals. Therefore, the hospital call center is essential, as it acts as a referral point among specialists and a resource for specialists to get access to a client base from the hospital.

Hospital to Patient Communications: Last, call centers allow the communication of the hospital and the patient who is the primary customer of the healthcare facility. The hospital marketing department benefits from the communications between the patient and the call center. The hospital call center is a point of increased patient satisfaction and improved marketing information. Patient satisfaction must be the most important goal and a practice ingrained within the organizational culture.

The hospital, therefore, should aim at optimizing the call experience for the patient. This can be done by cutting down the call waiting time, coordinating points of services, and improving patient registration and billing.

The internet has made it easy to widely disseminate information. A patient can communicate his experiences to a potential customer base. Patient experience, therefore, in the internet age, is an essential form of hospital advertisement. Improving patient experience builds upon the hospital brand and helps set it aside from the competition.

Optimizing patient experience goes beyond a single interaction to anticipate the needs of a patient and tailor services to meet those needs. The increasing need for data within the information age, therefore, cannot be understated. Data from call centers helps the marketing department find effective ways of communicating with the patient.

Each hospital call center must have a means of feedback. This helps identify and document potential issues the client had with the system. There is currently an adaptation of use of proprietary tools such as live metric dashboards and quality assurance and tracking tools. Therefore, most hospitals are collecting data to learn the needs of the patient and tailor their customer care services accordingly. For instance, most call centers now use customized call scripts; this ensures the provider maximizes care support and efficiency.

Optimizing the customer experience has led to call centers evolving as new and exciting forms of hospital income generation. The consequences of effective customer service are based on optimizing the patient experience, which leads to an increase in hospital revenue.

Final Thoughts: Clinical communication is a hugely faceted subject with far reaching consequences that go beyond hospital walls. Hospital call centers play a significant role in any hospital’s clinical communications. This role is expected to continue growing in the coming years as modern technology makes it easier and faster to communicate.

By optimizing communications, a hospital call center can improve patient health outcomes, fill an essential healthcare gap, and serve to improve overall patient care. It is, therefore, imperative that hospitals find effective ways of maximizing call centers, not just as a channel of communication, but also as a huge income-generating department.

1Call, a division of Amtelco

Kevin Mahoney is a hospital and healthcare-related account advocate and sales engineer at Amtelco, a manufacturer and supplier of call center solutions. Contact him at kmahoney@amtelco.com.

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Change is the Only Constant



By Gina Tabone MSN, RNC

In the year 535 BC, Greek philosopher Heraclitus declared, “The only thing that is constant is change.” For many of us working in the healthcare industry, we wholeheartedly agree that these timeless words continue to ring true, year after year. The word change evokes a different response from each of us, but what exactly is change? How is change manifesting itself in today’s healthcare environment, and how can we, as leaders, incorporate the implications of change into our organizational cultures?

Webster’s Merriam Dictionary defines change as: 1. To become different; 2. To make (something or someone) different; 3. To become something else. Change is a modification to the process of doing something. In many cases, the modification is made in hopes of creating a better outcome. Often, the expectation of positive change is put on us without tangible evidence to support a better outcome.

Today’s healthcare leaders rely on innovators and thought leaders who “think outside of the box.” Their role is to introduce variations (that is, changes) to current practices that will ultimately improve patient outcomes, engage their workforce, and contribute to the goals of the organization. Identifying and implementing these variations are vital if we hope to improve outcomes.

For example, without changes within the healthcare industry, there would never have been advancements in immunizations, birth control, and organ transplantation. No change typically means no growth, and no growth is not a sustainable option for any organization.

There are many examples of changes occurring in today’s healthcare environment. The stimuli for most of the modifications are the requisites of the Affordable Healthcare Act. A list must include: healthcare for all, coordination of care, fee for value of care, and accountability for outcomes. Programs such as post-discharge call backs, 24/7 access to clinical care, integrated communication via electronic medical records, and robust patient satisfaction efforts are all outcomes affected by changes that have evolved in an effort to comply with the new regulations. The collateral benefit is quality, efficiency, and exceptional care.

Mention the word change to employees and the reaction is predictable. We have all observed rolling eyes, defensive comments, irritation, anxiety, and resistance. Change represents the unknown, which can be intimidating. Those in charge of healthcare organizations need a long-term change management strategy for their organization and the people affected by it, a strategy that encompasses all aspects of the change, from conception through completion.

A leader who is sincere, humble, and willing to admit to a level of personal angst when going through changes will have more success with overall buy-in efforts from all levels of an organization. Reminders of past organizational achievements often convince employees to give the change a chance. It will hopefully strike a positive chord with front line staff as well, reminding them that they have dealt with change before with positive results. Directly involving those most impacted by the changes is a great way to gain support and alleviate concerns. It is crucial to communicate the fact that the changes occurring are designed to improve patient quality, become more efficient, and enhance both the patient and provider experience.

Change is here to stay; we can count on that. Many of us may not be as open to change, but we can do our best to understand what initiated it and, more importantly, how our role in the process has the potential to influence the accomplishment of organizational goals.

In the famous words of Heraclitus, “The only thing that is constant is change.”

Gina Tabone MSN, RNC is the vice president strategic clinical solutions at TeamHeath Medical Call Center.

Behavioral Analytics



Empower Medical Contact Center Agents to Improve Patient Care

By Joshua Feast

Working in a contact center can be difficult under any circumstances. Medical contact centers in particular require a high level of emotional engagement. Patient calls can often be stressful and emotionally trying experiences. An agent’s ability to display empathy, create rapport, and successfully build an emotional connection with a patient is critical in driving resolution and ensuring long-term satisfaction for both agents and patients.

Contact center agents have a tough job. They take medical leave at a rate three times greater than that of employees in other fields (Integrated Benefits Institute). They encounter, on average, ten hostile callers per day (Dr. Guy Winch/Psychology Today). The repetition, stress, and job difficulty takes its toll; the average career span for a contact center worker is just three years.

Agents who successfully develop rapport with patients not only provide better care, they are better able to cope with the emotional labor their job requires, which results in higher job satisfaction. Positive energy is contagious. An agent who develops an emotional connection with a patient on one call feels better about his or her work and carries a sense of optimism into the next call.

Extract Actionable Insights from Subconscious Behavior: Behavioral analytics solutions provide agents with the real-time guidance they need to develop positive emotional connections with patients. These solutions provide insight into agent and patient speaking behavior. They comprehensively measure patient experience and provide deeper awareness into the emotional connection between patient and agent. According to research pioneered by Dr. Alex “Sandy” Pentland at MIT, humans communicate in large part by using “honest signals.” Honest signals are a kind of involuntary language involving vocal expressions, among other gestures, which communicate what’s on our mind more honestly and powerfully than the spoken word can.

Behavioral analytics solutions perform vocal analysis – focusing on pitch, tone, silence, and turn taking – to pick up on these honest signals. They convert speech into signal data, process that data in real time through behavioral models and present guidance to agents as well as a summary of agent performance to contact center managers. For the first time, contact center leaders have the analytics they need to measure and improve emotional connections with patients. Through these novel analytics, medical contact centers can discover whether agents are displaying the conversational skills that ultimately lead to more satisfied patients and more engaged agents.

Behavioral analytics solutions are already affecting healthcare delivery. The US Department of Veterans Affairs, for example, is leveraging behavioral analytics in an attempt to better detect when veterans are at risk for suicide. Mass General Hospital (through MoodNetwork.org) is using this technology to better identify behavioral patterns that can help patients manage depression or bipolar disorder.

Behavioral Analytics Facilitate Continuous Care for Patients: Behavioral analytics solutions empower phone agents to communicate more effectively with patients. This ensures more productive conversations and better call outcomes. The solutions can also be put directly in the hands of patients via a mobile application, making them more aware of their own condition and helping them to seek medical support proactively.

The mobile application can sense patterns in patient behavior to detect potential medical need: Are patients remaining socially connected? Are they active? Are they experiencing large variations in mood? If a patient in need calls in for support, the agent has more context regarding the patient’s medical state and can use that information to take the best actions for the patient’s health.

Behavioral analytics has the potential to help transition care from expensive, episodic, reactive support to continuous proactive care. They provide contextual information for agents and clinicians, ensuring a more comprehensive assessment of health and a better understanding of treatment success.

Emotional Connections Drive Healthy Outcomes: Working in medical contact centers presents a unique challenge. Agents must build rapport with patients who are often making complex inquiries in a fragile emotional state. Behavioral analytics solutions extract insights from voice analysis and digital trace data and convert those insights into real-time, actionable guidance.

Ultimately, behavioral analytics enable agents to build trust with patients, making the experience more positive for both parties. Agents, fueled by successful patient interactions, build confidence, reduce stress, and derive more satisfaction from their jobs. Patients become more engaged in their own care, leading them to live happier, healthier lives. The power of behavioral analytics can transform the medical contact center into an environment rich with empathy, rapport, and positive emotional connections for both agents and patients.

Joshua Feast is CEO and co-founder of Cogito Corp. His focuses are on enabling Cogito’s customers to achieve the next level of enterprise responsiveness and on expanding Cogito’s contribution to the field of human behavior understanding. He has over a decade of delivery to human services, government, and financial services organizations. Joshua holds an MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management, where he was the Platinum-Triangle Fulbright Scholar in Entrepreneurship, and a Bachelor of Technology from Massey University in New Zealand.