Published: February 07, 2018 | Comments
Business-savvy healthcare leaders recognize that patient satisfaction impacts the financial health of hospitals and health systems. For this reason, hospitals across the U.S. are going to great lengths to ensure that employees (clinical and otherwise) foster positive patient experiences. Doctors, nurses, administrative staff and other hospital employees who interact with patients are expected to deliver exceptional service at every touch point. Hospital contact center agents are no exception, which is why empowering and equipping them to provide superior experiences is so important. This is also what is driving many hospitals to modernize their contact center.
Regardless of the current state of a contact center’s operations, nearly every facility can make improvements that will enable agents to engage with patients more proactively, increase efficiency and optimize patient experiences. Organizations that want to leverage their contact center to maximize patient satisfaction should begin by implementing the following modern-day hospital contact center must-haves.
A Single Front Door
It may seem obvious, but having a single point of entry for all patients is critical for every modern contact center. Unfortunately, many hospitals and health systems are not routing all incoming calls through a centralized phone system. This feature should be a priority for several reasons. For starters, it is less confusing for patients. The responsibility for navigating a hospital’s complex phone system should not rest on their shoulders. Instead, hospitals should prioritize making it simple for patients to contact them. It is not uncommon for a large hospital or health system to have hundreds of toll-free phone numbers. When there are multiple entry points for patients, and callers connect to the wrong department, it can be difficult for staff to find where to transfer patients and to do so quickly. Patients may get bounced around, end up in the wrong place and spend much more time than necessary on the phone. Not only is this frustrating to patients, but it is also a headache for staff. Overall, hospitals have more control over each caller’s experience when calls route through one main gateway. Organizations should strive for a contact center that greets every patient with a consistently branded user experience regardless of the phone number they dialed when initiating their call.
Intelligent Predictive Interactive Voice Response
Businesses and organizations across virtually every industry use Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems. But there is a difference between simply having IVR technology, and using it well. That difference can either lead to patient satisfaction or frustration. Hospitals need an intelligent system that is not difficult for patients to navigate and is smart enough to predict patients’ needs. When a patient calls a hospital, they should be able to state the reason for their call and trust the IVR system to route them to the appropriate location without any issues. Better yet, the IVR should integrate into the hospital’s Electronic Health Records (EHR) system and authenticate the patient to identify reasons why they might be calling. For example, an intelligent IVR system can recognize that the caller has an outpatient procedure scheduled for the following week and verify that the individual might have questions related to that procedure. Rather than being a source of frustration, IVR systems should be a solution for making communications more efficient and patient-centered. Using patient data to create a personalized experience for patients that call into the contact center allows hospitals to demonstrate they know and care about patients.
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Automatic Data Pass with Transfers
Having to answer the same questions multiple times, or restate information after being transferred, is annoying to patients. Aside from causing frustration, redundancy during calls keeps patients and agents on the phone longer. When an IVR or an agent captures essential patient data, a hospital’s contact center technology needs to be able to transfer that information to the agent or clinical team member who receives the call. For example, when a patient is transferred to an agent from an IVR, information that was verified by the IVR, such as the patient’s name, phone, number, address, reason for calling, and other details should populate on an agent’s screen. This ability to consistently show the patient, throughout multiple conversations in the same call, that they are known and receiving personalized interaction, reduces duplicate efforts and makes for a better patient experience.
Some of these must-have contact center features are standard in industries outside of healthcare. However, with the exception of larger hospitals and health systems, these functionalities are not necessarily common in healthcare settings. Bringing updated technology to more hospital contact centers and modernizing communication is a big part of improving patient experiences.
For hospitals, paying attention to patient satisfaction is more important than ever before. The financial impact of patient experiences has increased due to the convergence of consumerization and value-based payment programs. Patient feedback suggests that patients’ experiences impact consumer healthcare trends and how they feel about the care they receive. According to findings from a West survey:
- 94 percent of patients believe it is important to feel satisfied with their healthcare provider.
- 91 percent of patients say they are likely to investigate other options if they are not completely satisfied with their current healthcare provider.
- 94 percent of providers report that they have noticed patients are shopping around more today than in the past for healthcare services.
These figures show that poor care is a deal breaker for healthcare consumers. For the majority of adults in the U.S., being satisfied with the healthcare they receive from a provider or facility is so crucial that most would look for alternative options and seek treatment elsewhere if the level of care they received did not meet their expectations. And consumer demand is not the only pressure, as evolving payment models are now tying patient satisfaction to reimbursements.
For multiple reasons, hospitals and health systems need to evaluate how they can drive patient satisfaction with efforts across their organization. As they do this, most are likely to find that there are opportunities to make improvements within their contact center. The organizations that take advantage of these opportunities and work to modernize their contact center, so they can proactively and efficiently engage with callers, can create better healthcare experiences for their patients.