This year brought operational difficulties as COVID-19 vaccines began to rollout, transitioning to hybrid care models, trying to get patients back into in-person care, spikes in COVID-19 cases with the Delta variant, and clinician burnout that took hold like the industry has never seen before. Throughout all of these different challenges, our clients remained innovative and agile, leveraging our solutions and technologies to enable them to not only survive but thrive in another challenging year.
In this blog, we outline the major challenges that health systems faced in 2021 and how our patient engagement solutions were able to help our clients.
Improving COVID-19 Vaccine Operational Efficiencies
Many of our clients began planning for vaccine programs in late 2020, and by February 2021, we were helping schedule and remind for thousands of COVID-19 vaccine appointments a day. Our medical call center agents made outbound calls on behalf of our clients and answered COVID-19 vaccine hotlines to help answer questions and schedule appointments.
Even more, our clients improved their operational efficiencies with our online scheduling solution for COVID-19 vaccine appointments. We worked closely with them to develop new functionalities to track and remind patients of second doses and boosters, collect data, and manage eligibility. Together we developed solutions that delivered a smooth patient experience and made huge operational impacts for our clients, which enabled them to quickly respond with best practices for pediatric and booster COVID-19 vaccines.
Transitioning to Hybrid Care Models
In 2020, we helped health systems pivot to deliver successful virtual visits for the majority of their appointments. We developed an online scheduling solution that integrated with telehealth technologies and supported patients through the often cumbersome and confusing transition to virtual appointments.
In 2021, we continued to support providers with telehealth best practices and services. However, the patient journey switched once again, from predominantly telehealth to hybrid care models. Our medical call center services continued to support patients by answering their questions about virtual visits, technology, and expectations, while our live voice scheduling helped direct patients to the right venue of care. Online scheduling made booking appointments across all venues of care simple for patients, and our Communication & Reminders solution reduced no-show rates for providers. Ultimately, what resulted was a patient-centric hybrid care model that worked for both providers and patients.
Addressing the Delta Variant and COVID-19 Spikes
Late summer was a tough time for many of our clients. The Delta variant caused COVID-19 cases to spike in many parts of the country to the point where some health systems had to make the tough decision to cancel elective procedures and in-person visits. Additionally, many were required to put strategic initiatives on hold as they weathered this new wave of cases. However, once again, we were blown away by their ingenuity.
When access centers were overwhelmed with inbound calls and outbound scheduling requirements, we partnered together with our clients to better serve their patients. Our clients identified call center services to outsource to create capacity for their access centers, and we were able to staff, train, and start helping within weeks. One client gave our medical call center their prescription refill calls to create capacity, while another had us do all imaging scheduling, cancelations, and rebooking calls. We were proud to be an extension of their team and brand and help them ride the new wave of COVID-19 cases.
Reducing Clinician Burnout
Unfortunately, towards the end of the summer, we started hearing from our clients that their staff was experiencing burnout like they had never seen before. The stresses of the pandemic coupled with compassion fatigue were taking a toll on almost every health system we spoke to. Nurses were leaving their jobs and the field altogether, leaving employers with unprecedented nursing shortages and staff burnout.
Thinking outside the box and with employee well-being in mind, our clients came to us to brainstorm ways to provide additional support for their struggling staff. CHRISTUS Health came to us with an idea to boost employee morale during a staffing crisis by leveraging our call center solutions to build an Associate Wellbeing Check-In Program. In partnership with CHRISTUS, our agents called employees to remind them of the EAP services available to them and even connected them to resources in real-time. The personal outreach helped improve clinician burnout and boosted resiliency during this unprecedented staffing crisis.
Stericycle Communication Solutions Stands Ready to Help in 2022
This year was full of challenges, but our clients continued to innovate and prioritize the patient experience and their staff’s well-being, and it was truly an honor to support them through it. We are committed to innovating in ways that serve our health system clients when and how they need us.
Whatever 2022 brings with the worsening healthcare staffing crisis, the Omicron variant, COVID-19 boosters and pediatric immunizations (and potentially new vaccines), evolutions in care models, the expansion of non-traditional healthcare providers, ever-changing healthcare consumer trends, EHR transitions, and whatever else might be thrown at our industry, we stand ready to serve and support.