Healthcare call centers: 3 high-impact best practices
Find out how you can better serve patients and providers with these healthcare call center best practices.
By Pete Christianson
Demand for telehealth and remote treatment continues to grow, even post-pandemic. The demand for healthcare communication platforms and medical call centers is also on the rise. In fact, the market for telehealth platforms is projected to reach $55.6 billion in 2025, up from $25.4 billion in 2020.
If you’re building healthcare call center software, you must provide a solution that (1) improves patient experience, (2) meets the changing needs of healthcare providers and (3) responds to market conditions in real-time.
By building your call center on these three foundational capabilities, you’ll deliver a medical communication platform that healthcare providers simply can’t live without.
Here’s what you need to get there.
If you work in today’s medical industry, you know that the demand for healthcare services is unpredictable. Healthcare is far more seasonal than most people realize, with providers typically experiencing spikes in activity during colder months, enrollment periods and tax season.
Until recently, however, healthcare enterprise software was hard-coded, with fixed functionality and minimal flexibility. Healthcare providers had no choice but to fund expensive maintenance and development costs in order to add new capabilities or expand globally.
Clearly these legacy solutions don’t support the kind of easy scalability required for providers to respond to fluctuating demand in a cost-effective way.
This is where cloud-based communications and API platforms can help revolutionize the healthcare industry. Unlike the rigid solutions of the past, communications APIs enable forward-thinking healthcare platforms and providers to progressively scale their communications to meet patient demand, while at the same time actually lowering their operational costs.
The bottom line? Your healthcare contact center platform needs the ability to provision voice connectivity instantly, without capacity restraints. Otherwise, it's simply not fit-for-purpose.
The healthcare industry is edging toward a change: emphasizing patient engagement as a central aspect of patient care. Automation is critical to simplifying and enhancing the patient experience. For a healthcare provider, automation also offers opportunities to gain operational efficiencies, maximize productivity and manage costs.
The trick is in understanding which processes to automate. Here are some ideal places to start:
Did you know that missed appointments cost the US healthcare system an incredible $150 billion each year? By automating appointment reminders with calls or messages, you can offer patients the opportunity to confirm, reschedule or cancel their appointment ahead of time, reducing no-shows and maximizing capacity utilization.
Medication non-adherence is a big problem in the healthcare industry—it results in approximately 125,000 preventable deaths every year. Not only does medication non-adherence threaten patient health, it contributes approximately $290 billion every year in added costs to the healthcare system—and that’s in the United States alone.
Automated reminders sent by SMS, voice or video calls can help patients stay on track—reducing emergency room visits and hospitalizations—simply by giving patients easy access to the right information at the right time.
Capturing Patient Feedback
Getting patient feedback can be difficult because there’s very little incentive for people to make the effort once they’ve received their treatment. The convenience of automated voice or SMS surveys significantly improves patient feedback response rates.
Sending feedback requests and allowing patients to submit feedback via SMS or voice responses is the most convenient feedback channel for most patients. Digital feedback responses have a massive usability advantage over paper feedback forms; since the feedback is already in a digital format, it can be easily uploaded to patient databases or tracking software for aggregation and analysis.
Medical call centers don’t just handle phone calls. In medical communications, there are several different contact points:
- Outbound call centers that call patients for research and other information delivery.
- Inbound call centers that take calls from customers.
- Health insurance call centers that deal exclusively with insurance processing and claims.
- Multi-channel contact centers that offer alternative communication channels such as text, video capabilities and chat.
Most of these are blended call centers that handle more than one duty; our call center software is much more competitive if it can be an all-in-one solution for both blended and dedicated call centers.
Taking an omnichannel approach means giving patients an integrated experience across multiple communication channels. This enables providers to deliver more personalized care, taking into account patient preferences for how and when they’re contacted. It also unlocks new opportunities to interact with patients via previously overlooked or underutilized channels—expanding accessibility, while at the same time maintaining HIPAA compliance.
So, what are some of the channels you should consider as essential to your omnichannel healthcare communications strategy?
SMS streamlines the patient experience
Many healthcare providers avoid using SMS to communicate with their customers due to concerns around HIPAA compliance. However, in reality there are many ways to build fully HIPAA compliant SMS communications.
Leveraging SMS for patient communications in telemedicine has huge benefits.
Over 80% of Americans use text messages for daily communication, and 99% of texts get opened, most within just three minutes. Not only is market penetration much higher for SMS than any other technology, but patients also want to engage via text. In fact, a recent study has shown that 91% of patients say they’d like to communicate via text their care team.
The use cases for healthcare SMS are diverse. Providers can send automated and interactive appointment reminders to patients, communicate after-care instructions, capture patient feedback, streamline prescription refills, improve the accessibility of healthcare education and even recruit subjects for clinical trials using SMS.
Video conferencing is the cornerstone of telemedicine
While telemedicine failed to gain much traction for many years, the coronavirus pandemic caused a surge in demand for healthcare services, coupled with the need to maintain social distancing. As a result, the telemedicine industry quickly became mainstream.
Even post-pandemic, patients and healthcare providers continue to use this channel at scale—it looks like telemedicine is here to stay. Video conferencing is a critical element of its success. It not only provides the opportunity for visual assessment, it’s also more personal than a voice call or chat and more convenient than an in-person appointment.
Additionlly, telemedicine enables providers to extend the geographical reach of the care they provide, providing access to medical specialists even in remote and rural areas.
It’s important to note that omnichannel communication means more than just voice, video and text. By augmenting your communications with value-added features such as intelligent call routing, interactive IVR menus, conversational AI and chatbots, you can better meet the fast-changing needs of both patients and providers.
To truly deliver omnichannel experiences, you'll also need to build processes to allow patients, caregivers, administrators or agents to switch seamlessly between channels without loss of context.