As healthcare institutions around the country begin to reopen, many face a number of hurtles: fewer staff, resource shortages, and high patient caution. Add to this the complexities raised by the recent coronavirus, and the staggered lifting of restrictions around the U.S. and healthcare institutions are in for challenging times ahead.
“We survived these months and are reopen now, but a lot of practices maybe didn’t make it or are struggling,” said Todd Maltese, DO, co-partner of a neurology practice in Long Island that reopened May 18th, according to MedPage Today.
Maltese is correct. More than 1.4 million healthcare workers lost their jobs in April, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ May 8th report. As clinics and medical practices begin to reopen, many have fewer staff and are struggling to play a no-win game of catch-up to make up missed appointments and engage in the preventative medical practices patients around the country rely on.
Contact center technology, and specifically healthcare-minded AI and automation, might just provide an answer to at least a few of these looming concerns.
For medical practices looking to reopen, be sure to view the latest from the AMA, including their guide COVID-19: A physician practice guide to reopening.
Using The Contact Center To Protect Staff And Patients
The Bad: When patients attempt to contact a provider, they are often faced with a complex interactive voice response (IVR) system. Plus, PHI is protected by HIPAA, so only authorized parties can share the content of an EHR – and only to other authorized parties. The result is a tarnished patient experience. Calls are lengthy as they are routed through multiple agents. Costs increase as the average handle time (AHT) for each call increases.
The Good: There are better contact center solutions out there. Finding a way for contact center agents to improve patient service delivery and reduce the time needed to give patients’ answers is essential to providing an excellent patient experience.
“People need to understand that patients are still customers,” says Irene Vergules, a medical call center consultant.
It’s true. And since certainty is a rare commodity in the industry today, healthcare CEOs and CTOs need to find a firm foundation on which to build a strong enterprise. The contact center is the tool by which these leaders can create a positive patient experience by improving access to the provider and the practice. One of the most critical first steps in this relationship is in appointment scheduling.
The Solution: One such tool, EDCi’s EHRConnect, elevates the healthcare contact center experience. The costly and time-consuming nature of a regular CRM – which often requires agents to access multiple applications to access patient information – is eliminated with EHRConnect, which connects the contact center software to Epic.
How EDCi’s EHRConnect Makes The Leap
“EHRConnect is the information technology backbone for your EHR system. This cutting-edge technology will connect your contact center software with Epic, saving your agents time while improving the patient experience. CRM systems can be costly and require agents to go to multiple places to find the patient information they need. EHRConnect combines the contact center functionality and the patient history you need in one convenient location.”
Customer relationship management (CRM) systems are invaluable to many institutions. The provide the easy management of a business’ contacts, allowing the sharing of customer data and interactions.
Unfortunately, a CRM comes up short when it comes to healthcare. The layered complexities of HIPAA, PHI, and an EHR – not to mention the fact that patients require a different experience than a typical consumer – leaves the CRM experience wanting.
EDCi’s EHRConnect bypasses these complexities with a direct EPIC integration, improving the patient experience and streamlining contact center performance in one simple-to-use software application.
Leverage AI And Other Features For A Seamless, Simply Better Patient Experience
Patient scheduling is one of the most common, and most challenging, problems voice and contact center technologies have tried – for decades – to solve. Yet ask most anyone if they have ever had a hard time scheduling an appointment and the answer will surely be affirmative. EDCi’s EHRConnect technology uses artificial intelligence, speech analytics, intelligent routing, chatbots and patient portals to improve contact center effectiveness.
EHRConnect also uses screen pops to provide critical information to agents, saving 30 seconds or more per call. This also reduces the opportunity for errors and removes the need to ask patients to repeat information multiple times.
Agents use authentication to have the caller’s information at their fingertips before they even pick up the line. Agents are better prepared to handle the call and find a solution for the patient.
Think of the many reasons a patient may call a healthcare practice. Here are just a few:
- Billing Inquiries
- Ask a health question
- Speak to a nurse
- Seek clarification
- Provide payment
- Cancel/reschedule appointments
- Confirm appointment preparatory actions
EHRConnect offers self-service options, connecting patients to the right information as quickly as possible. In addition, the callback feature allows the system to generate a call to the first person on the waiting list in the event of an appointment cancellation or reschedule appointments automatically, improving scheduling and reducing wasted time by staff.
Healthcare institutions must not only pay attention to PHI compliance, but they also must adhere to PCI compliance standards. EHRConnect starts and stops call and screen recordings when patients provide credit card information.
Access Should Focus On Patient Need
One mistake practices make is to focus on the provider’s availability. Identifying what patients are looking for in terms of availability should guide the schedule you maintain. Does your practice cater to families? To emergencies? To twice-a-year appointments? These different segments require different kinds of access, and your schedule needs to be mindful of this.
Manually assessing these trends is a time-consuming, error-fraught process. Healthcare technology like EHRConnect is making inroads in creating tools to help process the data and shift the practice to meet the needs of patients. Tools like patient portals, direct messaging, mobile tech, and wearables can all be effective in optimizing this process, meaning better appointment scheduling and a more comprehensive patient experience.
Assess Current Access Trends
Have you ever tried to access your own practice? It is often an eye-opening experience for providers to attempt to dial their own practices. This is the first step in an assessment of the current access standards of the practice. Here are five different areas you or a managed services team can assess to determine a roadmap for the future:
- Leadership and Organization
- Operations and Processes
- Systems and Technology
- Workforce Management and Staffing
- Performance and People
If you need help with an assessment, Mindsight provides expert advice by identifying where you are and developing a roadmap for where you want to go. Download our Contact Center Roadmap eBook for free below and contact us today to schedule an assessment.
Better Appointment Scheduling Starts With Contact Center Technologies
In healthcare organizations, the contact center is the best tool for implementing better appointment scheduling. Improvements in contact center technology that focus on an omnichannel approach to communication means different technologies can help create a more efficient schedule, patient self-scheduling processes, confirmation communications, and more.
There are many ways to implement technological processes that make scheduling a breeze. Scheduling “from noon”, forwards and backwards, is one way tech can help condense appointments and make the best use of providers’ and staffs’ time. Open mid-morning slots tend to gum the works and make it difficult for providers to schedule meetings and other administrative duties. Scheduling tools that work with a contact center agent’s interface help create more efficient schedules, enabling the practice to save time and resources.
The majority of patients prefer to schedule their own appointments. It’s easier, more efficient, and cuts down on call center costs, which is important considering the average call to schedule an appointment takes over 8 minutes! 26% of patient self-scheduled appointments are also same-day or next-day, filling in open slots and increasing the value of your enterprise. Utilizing an online scheduling tool as part of your omnichannel contact center approach means better appointment scheduling and a better patient experience.
Telemedicine and Prioritized Scheduling
It’s no secret that different patients have different needs. Depending on the practice, many patient concerns can even be handled in a brief phone call or chat message. Telehealth is big for a reason. This is an enormous part of the patient experience and meeting patients where they are. Determining a strategy that prioritizes effectively has big rewards for your organization.
This has become a staple of healthcare scheduling technology. Better appointment scheduling relies on communication. This isn’t just for an initial confirmation, but a follow-up reminder email or text. Patient health is best served by regular examinations that meet medical guidelines; help your patients be their healthiest by using appointment scheduling technology that means they will be there at the designated time.
Medical practices have been slow to adopt waiting lists, but this is an essential tool for better appointment scheduling. The key is for patients to call your contact center, filling last minute slots when cancellations happen. Some patient scheduling platforms help you create a waiting list that reaches out to patients when a last-minute cancellation occurs. This saves valuable time resources and creates more efficient scheduling.
Sometimes called “Recare and Recall”, automated follow-up is one tool that healthcare leaders can implement that helps drive consistency in scheduling. This both encourages your regular patients to continue their healthcare regiment, and it can also reengage patients who have missed appointments. Either way, anything that brings patients in for their appointments improves patient outcomes, which in turn drives the patient experience.
The contact center is the heart of an optimized healthcare practice. By focusing on how the contact center can help create better appointment scheduling processes, you can drive patients to better outcomes, prioritize their experience with your practice, and help maintain both the health of your organization and the health of the patients you serve.
As your practice – and medical offices around the globe begin to reopen – consider how you can leverage AI and other healthcare contact center technology to improve the patient experience and their health outcomes.
Contact us today to discuss ways to improve the customer experience in the contact center today.
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*Originally published June 13, 2018, this post has since been updated to address the lifting of restrictions in response to the Covid-19 crisis with a more robust technology solution that incorporates AI for the contact center.
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About The Authors
John Irey is a Principal Consultant at Mindsight, an IT Services and Consulting firm located in the Chicago area. With nearly 20 years of experience in information technology, John has helped businesses of every size optimize the technology powering the contact center. He has extensive experience with contact center technologies and seeks to provide a consultative voice to contact center leaders, who rely on Mindsight’s transparency to make the best technology investments. John earned his BA/BS in Information Systems and continues to focus on how emerging technology, such as machine learning and artificial intelligence, impact the contact center. John enjoys spending his free time with his wife and two young children.
Kleid Gjataj is the Principal Solutions Architect at Mindsight, an IT Services and Consulting firm located in the Chicago area. With nearly 15 years of experience in both domestic and international consulting, Kleid has helped contact centers of all sizes to bridge the gap between business and technology. His extensive experience with IVR, ACD, screen pop, omnichannel, speech analytics, quality management, outbound dialer, and custom applications is grounded in understanding the critical value of the customer journey. Kleid earned his degree in Network and Communications Management and continues to focus on how contact center optimization helps businesses meet goals, increase efficiencies, and reduce costs.
Siobhan Climer writes about technology trends in education, healthcare, and business. She previously taught STEM programs in elementary classrooms and museums, and writes extensively about cybersecurity, disaster recovery, cloud services, backups, data storage, network infrastructure, and the contact center. When she’s not writing tech, she’s writing fantasy, gardening, and exploring the world with her twin daughters. Find her on twitter @techtalksio.