A Guide to Healthcare Call Centers: Why They are Critically Important to Patients and Providers

Call centers have become pervasive in many industries across the nation and the world. Business process outsourcing providers, financial services businesses, consulting services, and many other B2C and B2B businesses leverage call centers to support their various customers. There are now over 28,000 telemarketing and call center businesses in the U.S. and the industry continues to expand.

Why such widespread growth? There are many reasons companies choose to outsource their call center functions:

  • Proactive outreach
  • Advanced technology and infrastructure savings
  • Frees up internal resources
  • Accountability to service
  • Ability to drive growth
  • Consistent performance
  • Centralized call management
  • Resource management

All these advantages are essential when it comes to healthcare. Call management is critical to support patient needs at a system’s unified front door – scheduling, centralized management of critical information, care questions, critical outbound communications, and prescription refills among many others. Almost three quarters of respondents to a recent survey said the number of healthcare services to be managed is increasing. As the demands for patient engagement grow, more providers are choosing to partner with a healthcare call center. A recent survey revealed that 62 percent of hospitals have a call center strategy in place while physicians practices are moving in that direction as well.

What is a healthcare call center?

McKesson defines a healthcare call center as a resource “that helps ensure that every patient is set on a positive path” as they deal with a greater number of options and needs. Although technology and automation have transformed many aspects of the healthcare industry, patients still prefer human interaction when it comes to managing their care.

Healthcare call centers provide that human touch, providing inbound and outbound communication similar to retail call centers, but focused entirely on patients’ engagement with their healthcare providers. The healthcare call center manages appointments and provides patients with information about illnesses, healthcare resources, services offered, and information critical to a patient’s care plan.

Healthcare call centers are very different from traditional retail or other B2C call centers which focus on handling as many calls as possible in the shortest amount of time. Metrics of a traditional call center include cost per call and average handle time. Yes, they focus on supporting customer needs, but the goal is to get callers on and off the phone as quickly as possible.

Healthcare call centers and improved patient engagement

Healthcare call centers, on the other hand, are more concerned with engagement – focusing on key touch points that define the patient experience with a provider. These include:

Access

The patient experience starts with finding and connecting with the right care provider to schedule an appointment. An effective healthcare call center ensures a superior first-impression to enable this connection and minimize patient inconvenience.

Communication

Patients want to feel connected and comfortable with their provider. A caring healthcare call center can strengthen that connection with consistent and clear communication. Actively engaging and communicating with patients throughout their continued care will help clarify what they need to do to best care for themselves. Consistent, caring communication provides critical options to patients as they navigate their healthcare journey and can help build critical trust between the care provider and the patient.

Caring

One of the most important functions of a healthcare call center is to demonstrate to patients that the provider cares about their needs. Healthcare is made up of opportunities to create meaningful moments. A healthcare call center can help providers achieve their desire to meet every patient need – physical and emotional. Caring agents in a healthcare call center strive to make a difference in the lives of those with whom they interact. Taking the time to listen, explain, and address a patient’s concerns can help ease the patient’s mind and let him or her know they are being heard.

Patient satisfaction and healthcare call centers

According to a recent survey, 96 percent of patient complaints are related to customer service. That sobering statistic highlights how important a healthcare call center can be when it comes to patient satisfaction.

The interaction with a healthcare call center is the first step in the patient journey and is critical in setting the stage for a long-term positive relationship. Taking the time required on a call to understand the patients’ issues or concerns, routing them to the right department if a transfer is required, and treating them with respect will go a long way toward establishing a satisfying patient experience.

An important way to engender patient satisfaction is to make sure the healthcare call center has the capability to connect with patients in the way they prefer. While many patients are fine with communicating with their providers via telephone, many others – especially younger patients – would rather communicate through digital channels – email, text messaging, and live chat. Your healthcare call center must have the technology to be able to leverage these channels.

Partnering with a healthcare call center that can deliver effective, caring service to patients is more important than ever to providers. One study says nearly nine of 10 people in the U.S. will switch providers if they are not completely satisfied. More importantly, three quarters of U.S. patients say that if they are dissatisfied, they will put off scheduling appointment to visit their providers. The same study revealed that 39 percent of patients say better communication improves satisfaction and one in four said regular check-ins between appointments would enhance their healthcare experience.

Management guru Tom Peters has been credited with the saying that “what gets measured, gets done.” This can be particularly important in the healthcare care industry when it comes to tracking patient satisfaction indicators.  Understanding how your patients are feeling about your practice is the first step toward taking appropriate corrective actions in areas that require it.

The Envera Health’s healthcare call center advantage

Envera Health is a healthcare call center that partners with hospitals and health systems to help transform the patient experience and simplify the care delivery process. Our complete continuum of patient engagement solutions and unique CRM-driven engagement call center improves operational efficiency and enables steady growth for thousands of healthcare providers across the nation.

Envera can help get you on the road to greater patient satisfaction by improving communication between you and your patients. Envera Health has a suite of offerings that helps you connect with your patients, improve your engagement, and drive patient satisfaction and retention.

Unlike traditional healthcare call centers, Envera Health’s Engagement Center utilizes valuable insights provided through deep analytics to drive continuous improvement and growth for your organization. Additionally, our custom CRM built off of Salesforce allows our talented team to satisfy multiple patient needs per call to provide a superior patient experience.

A healthcare call center can be an integral component in your patient engagement strategy. It’s important to select a call center that is singularly focused on access and engagement and not one who has its attention diverted by revenue cycle or clinical call/triage tasks. Concentrating on ensuring that your patients gain that important first good impression and that they can rely on you to provide the right care at the right time on their terms is critical to driving the growth of your practice. Partnering with the right healthcare call center is one of the most important choices you can make to get on the road to achieving those goals.

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