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Tips to improve healthcare call center efficiency

Insight Article - January 26, 2022

Patient Engagement

Practice Efficiency

Policies & Procedures

Jeff Mock
Healthcare practice call centers don’t get the respect they deserve because their contribution to the practice is misunderstood. As the first impression of every patient, call centers play a major role in patient satisfaction, and overlooking a call center often can result in poor first impressions and reduced efficiency.
 
Consider these tips to keep your patients happy and your center running at peak performance.
 

Reduce turnover

The stability of your call center team has a major impact on your center’s efficiency. To reduce turnover and avoid inefficiencies:
  • Find ways to offer career advancement from your call center. Ensure your top-performing agents have advancement opportunities (becoming a lead, a manager or a front desk agent) to encourage better performance.
  • Create clear guidelines regarding attendance, quality, and expectations and communicate these upfront to new hires. 
  • Train, train, and then train again. Agents who know what to do and how to do it consistently greatly affect efficiency.
  • Standardize how you deal with reactive complaints. Complaint resolution should always be handled by a supervisor, because the coaching relationship is better for dealing with such problems. Based on this relationship, supervisors can discuss the problem and explain better ways to address call difficulties without degrading the agent.
  • Put in place clear protocols for challenging calls, including abusive callers. Offer agents a standard way to deal with such callers, including when and how to end the call.

Get callers where they need to go from the get-go

Robust phone menus typically precede any interaction with the call center and are meant to help direct the right caller to the right place. The most common begin with the prompt, “Press 1 if you are calling from a practice.” Press 2 if you are a patient.” As you look at larger practices and health systems, the menu format can be unwieldy, and runs the risk of VIP callers being sent to the incorrect department or patient calls turning into something like:
 
“Hello. How can I help you?”
“I need to schedule an MRI…”

“Oh, you have called the wrong number. Let me transfer you…”
“Hello, this is Dr. Smith’s office. How may I help you?”

“I need to schedule an MRI…”

“Oh, they’ve sent you to the wrong place. Let me transfer you…”
“Wait…what??”
 
Isn’t this something that needs to improve?
 
Here’s how to improve the efficiency of how your center handles the wide variety of calls they answer daily.
  •  Build a database of VIP callers and designate the call handling workflow for those callers.
  • Add a call recognition system to route those calls quickly and effectively.
  • Incorporate AI voice menus so patients can simply say what they need and are then routed to the right place.
  • Provide alternate options for callers to connect with the call center using secure texting, chat or online calendars.
 
A good starting point is to build a service catalog. Who are all the possible people who could be calling?  Next, define what the call center agent is empowered to do for each of those callers. Often, this information isn’t captured in a single place making it difficult to review or refine.
 

Expand agent capabilities

Does your practice have agents who specialize in scheduling advanced procedures such as CTs and ultrasounds? Advanced technology can empower all your agents to handle specialty scheduling requests by providing a customized, guided workflow based on the patient’s request.
 

Watch this data point

Efficiency is most often measured in call data. But is the data you’re analyzing giving you a complete picture? One metric that often gets lost in phone systems is after-call work time (ACWT). After scheduling, your agent has 10 other steps to complete before being ready for the next call.
 
Failing to consider the after-call period in your metrics can present a skewed image of your true handle time, which necessarily includes talk time plus after-call time. This is especially important in healthcare, where calls can easily run four to five minutes to document everything required for each patient interaction — and some callers are simply going to take longer to explain what they need.  
 

If your walls could talk

Did you know that motivational posters in a call center can increase productivity by as much as 33%?1 While that may surprise you, consider how you react to a barren space versus one that is pleasantly decorated. Wall posters can communicate what your practice values and truly cares about. Images of patients and providers remind agents of the connection to the human patient that providing care is all about. By visually emphasizing your core values, agents feel a responsibility to make sure they are doing the right things because they are representing your practice.

Note:

  1. Latham GP, Piccolo RF. “The Effect of Context-Specific Versus Nonspecific Subconscious Goal on Employee Performance.” Human Resource Management. July-August 2012, Vol. 51, No. 4, 535-548. doi:10.1002/hrm.21486.

About the Author

Jeff Mock
Jeff Mock
CEO PatientSync Cincinnati, Ohio
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