We recently attended Healthcare Call Center’s Annual Conference in Pittsburgh, and had the opportunity to discuss with business leaders and industry heads some of the biggest challenges and opportunities in the healthcare call center world. This year’s event hosted the largest number of physician practice call centers in attendance since the conference’s inception 30 years ago, and it’s no wonder. With call centers playing a critical role in the healthcare ecosystem, more executives are realizing that these centers are on the front line and critical to the patient experience.
Discussions from the event confirmed many things we have previously discussed while revealing several other trends to keep our eyes on. We particularly enjoyed the presentation from Daniel Fell, President and CEO of NDP Agency, which outlined findings gathered from the 2018 Healthcare Call Center Survey. Listed below are a few of the findings, and what we believe to be the must-know trends affecting call centers today:
- The number of call centers is shrinking. As hospitals and health systems continue to merge, so do their call centers, and this trend shows no signs of slowing down. Moreover, many health systems are consolidating their call centers as they centralize services.
- Services options are increasing. Today’s call centers continue to expand the services they provide with many of the groups we’ve talked to noting this trend. Despite this growth in service options, it’s important to note that Nurse Triage, is still commonly handled separately.
- Microcenters are the next trend. While most health systems have more than two call centers – some up to seven – microcenters are starting to emerge. These include smaller, more specialized call centers for different parts of an organization. A good example is a stroke center with individuals dedicated to helping patients and their families recover after a stroke.
- Referral management is key. Physician referral is a key service already facilitated by 80 percent of call centers, yet there is still an opportunity to provide additional services related to post-discharge care coordination.
- Call centers care about omni-channel communications. Digital technology is continuing to play a growing role in how patients interact with their healthcare providers. Recognizing the opportunities that websites, mobile apps, and/or texting offer call centers to better connect with patients, many are incorporating these technologies into their daily operations, enabling an easier, more comprehensive dialogue with patients.
- Patient Engagement. It can be cumbersome to schedule a follow up appointment following a health event, leaving many patients frustrated, and in some cases, back in the hospital. An improved call center is vital for patient engagement, as it helps to facilitate important transitions in care following a health event. Healthcare organizations not only see a reduction in readmissions, but an improvement in care outcomes and patient satisfaction.
- Your brand is key. Every interaction, whether it be with a patient, customer, or physician, adds or subtracts from a hospital or health system’s brand. With call centers and their representatives often being on the front lines of patient interaction, they are no doubt acting as a face of that brand. Thankfully, there has been a sea-change in call center technology over the last few years allowing representatives to provide a better experience for patients, which reflects well on the brand.
We’ll be keeping a close eye on how these trends evolve over time, and are already looking forward to seeing what next year’s event brings.
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