7 ways digital care coordination improves call center operations

Call Centers have been a staple of health care organizations for decades.

These centers perform a variety of functions such as outbound outreach to close gaps in care and fielding inbound calls from patients trying to book appointments. Historically, helping patients find the right provider and book the appropriate appointment through a Call Center has been difficult and inefficient. All too often, staff are relying on outdated, clunky tools to do their job, making the experience painful for everyone involved. Massive spreadsheets and three-ring binders full of provider rules are manually combed through, or agents must log into 5 or 6 different systems to help a single patient. To confirm an appointment arduous three-way calls with the patient, the Call Center agent and the Provider’s office often results in a poor experience for all parties and, most importantly, appointments not being scheduled.

At MyHealthDirect, we’ve sat down with numerous clients to address these challenging scenarios with solutions that ease the burden on the Call Center agents while also improving the patient experience. Call Centers that are focused on facilitating appointments typically see these seven benefits when they use digital care coordination technology:

1. Reduce Length of Call Times
Call Centers that adopt a digital care coordination platform report noteworthy reductions in average patient call length. Because all scheduling rules are automated in the system, Call Center agents can quickly and easily find and book appointments. Time is no longer wasted wading through binders of rules, scanning spreadsheets or connecting three-way calls. Less time spent hunting and coordinating means less time on the phone – for both agents and patients.

2. Reduce Call Volume
Digital care coordination can be implemented across multiple access channels – including channels that are self-service. Enabling patients to book their own healthcare appointments online means fewer patients are opting to phone the health system Call Center in the first place. This translates to reduced call volume overall, and less work for busy Call Center staff. Moreover, patient satisfaction improves as the demand for self-service is met.

3. Quickly Find the Right Appointment
Call Center agents often have a tough time finding the right provider to meet a patient’s needs. Typically, Call Center agents use cumbersome spreadsheets or enormous binders to manually find the right provider. A good digital care coordination platform provides a seamless way for Call Center agents to qualify patients, find the right provider and book the appointment. By asking a few questions and entering the answers into the platform, a Call Center agent can determine the ideal provider and appointment for the patient’s needs. No more spreadsheets and binders – all the rules are now online.

4. Book Outside Office Hours
Many providers’ offices are closed during the times of day that patients are most available to make their care appointments, such as lunchtime, in the early evening after work, or over the weekend. For many years, this has been a gap in the business of patient scheduling. By putting the rules and appointments online, Call Center agents have constant access to providers’ schedules, even outside of traditional office hours. This means that appointments can be booked even when the provider’s office is inaccessible.

5. Automate Outreach by Phone or Text
Many health systems send automated phone and text campaigns to patients about their healthcare needs, but all of them still require a patient to call in to schedule an actual appointment. With digital care coordination, patients can use their phones (through IVR or text) to book appointments in real time, as a part of the campaign. Not only does this save patients’ time, it improves Call Center efficiency by reducing the overall number of phone calls. This allows Call Center representatives to focus their time and energy on the patients that require a higher touch experience.

6. Eliminate Three-Way Calls
Typically, Call Centers depend on three-way calls to coordinate and book care appointments for patients. A large amount of time is wasted on every call as agents connect patients and providers on the line and sort through schedules to identify an appointment time that works. This is an arduous, time-consuming and often faulty process. With digital care coordination, Call Center agents can instantly book appointments without calling the provider – eliminated the need for three-way calls. Patients get the appointment they need faster, enabling Call Center agents to service more people. Providers also benefit from the reduced call volume as well.

7. Increase Completion Rates for Healthcare Services
By coordinating care through an online platform, the completion rates for services that the Call Center is focused on increases dramatically. Completion rates go up because 1) an increase in the number of patients a Call Center can interact with, 2) an increase in the likelihood a patient will accept an appointment because of shorter call times and 3) integrated reminders increase the likelihood a patient will show up to the appointment.

Upgrading to a digital care coordination model unlocks a variety of benefits for health system Call Centers. Patients, agents and providers benefit from a streamlined approach that simplifies key, repeatable and time-consuming tasks. Organizations that find ways to use technology to reduce this friction will have a significant competitive advantage. Most importantly though, patients will have a higher likelihood of accessing the care they need.

About the author:
Jason Kressel is Chief Operating Officer at MyHealthDirect, a leader in online scheduling and digital care coordination solutions.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within these guest posts are those of the author alone and do not represent those of Becker's Hospital Review/Becker's Healthcare. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them.

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