We know that first impressions count, and for many healthcare consumers, the medical call center is their first encounter with a healthcare organization. Even for long-time patients, the quality of customer service they receive in call center interactions will affect how they feel about the organization where they receive care. Medical call centers also represent an important source of revenue for healthcare organizations.
Medical Call Centers are Key to Serving Modern Patient Needs
The medical call center serves multiple functions to ensure that patients can see the right providers in the right venue at the right time. It also supports marketing initiatives to encourage patients to take classes, schedule screenings, and participate in other wellness activities and appointments. For these reasons, medical call centers represent an important source of revenue for healthcare organizations.
If you are responsible for patient experience at a hospital, you know the increasing complexity of information sought by patients and other callers and their expectations for timely and accurate responses.
You may still be grappling with staffing challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, including a shift to work from home, as well as significantly increased volumes of patient inquiries. You know that having call center agents who are knowledgeable, caring, responsive, and supportive is key to a positive patient experience. But it’s a demanding and sometimes stressful job with an increasing complexity of information sought by healthcare consumers.
Many healthcare organizations have begun to reevaluate how they handle the large volume of tasks that are key to a positive patient experience –responding not just to general patient inquiries but also requests for appointments, physician referrals, and information on activities to keep patients engaged and on the right path in their healthcare journey.
Modernization Trends in Medical Call Center Technology
A technology revolution is humming inside call center operations. Automated intelligence (AI) and natural language processing (NLP) are being integrated into the call center functions, including sophisticated chatbots , which provide online conversations via text to answer simple requests and provide information without a live agent.
Some of these enhancements include:
Real-time transcription: When a call center agent speaks with a caller, a transcription is made of the live conversation. If the mood or tone changes to a certain degree, the technology senses that and sends an alert to the supervisor, who can immediately engage in the call to help solve an issue.
Another benefit of real-time transcription: It identifies insights for the health system, such as difficulties in scheduling appointments with specific physicians or hospital facilities for tests, making them aware of opportunities to improve access.
Entity extraction: During a call, this technology automatically populates data on the agent’s desktop to accomplish a task. For example, when a patient requests an appointment on a specific day and time with a certain provider at a desired location, this software helps call center agents quickly coordinate a patient’s request, resulting in better customer service.
Digital assistants: Consumers are becoming accustomed to receiving text, email, and automated telephone reminders about upcoming appointments. Those digital assistants are also growing in adoption by healthcare organizations to alleviate some of the tasks of call center staff. The availability and use of customer self-help solutions, such as online scheduling, is also increasing.
The Importance of Live Voice
While current technology is impressive and useful, healthcare is personal, and there will always be a need for a live voice – a person with uniquely human skills who can guide and respond with care. This is especially true for helping callers with complex issues, products, and services. With increasingly diverse populations in different areas of the country and people who may not be fluent in English, multilingual options need to be available for callers.
Optimal Hiring and Training for Medical Call Center Staff
In addition to knowledge and technical ability, the “soft” skills of call center staff are essential to provide excellent service and patient satisfaction, especially considering that many callers are people going through stress because of illness.
When it comes to hiring call center agents and supervisors, Stericycle Communication Solutions looks for individuals who are kind and caring servant leaders with a natural ability to express empathy. Those qualities are emphasized throughout their training – a structured, custom-designed, behavior-focused program with constructive feedback throughout the training process.
Even more, the learning opportunities and support of agents continue well beyond the training period.
That intensive training and staff leadership pays off since the average satisfaction score of Stericycle Communication Solutions medical call center representatives for 2021 across all clients was 93.2 percent .
The Benefits of Outsourcing the Medical Call Center
In recent years, especially since 2020, the outsourcing of medical call center operations, either 24/7 or for specific time periods or functions, has become a valuable option today for many healthcare organizations. It is no secret that many healthcare providers are dealing with staffing shortages and need to reallocate resources to fill staffing gaps. That applies to administrative staff as well as clinical staff.
While offices may be short-staffed, the phone doesn’t stop ringing. As a result, many healthcare organizations have turned to a full-service call center provider with extensive medical experience, such as Stericycle, which provides a comprehensive suite of capabilities for both inbound calls and outbound services and efficient, friendly, empathetic staff.