Transforming the Call Center of Yesterday into the Engagement Center of Tomorrow

The healthcare industry as we know it is being upended.

Gone are the days of “episodic” only volume-based care – and what’s arrived is a new mix of value-based care that increasingly focuses on improving patient care, building strong and lasting relationships with consumers and patients, and empowering patients to take a proactive approach to their own care.

But, as the saying goes, doing so is much easier said than done. Today’s healthcare consumer is everywhere – online, mobile, social media, etc. – and this “anywhere, anytime, anyplace” mentality tasks healthcare organizations with the challenge (and the opportunity) of driving high-impact engagement centered around individual patient needs.

For health systems, the stakes are high. One Becker’s Hospital Review article shows more than half of patients expect mobile technology to significantly alter how providers send out healthcare information. Forty-eight percent expect that mHealth will improve healthcare quality overall.

In order to meet exceedingly high patient expectations and be successful in this rapidly evolving healthcare landscape, health systems must be able to create consistent, positive, personalized patient experiences that optimize every consumer or patient inquiry – across multiple communications channels.

One common approach that has been utilized for years to handle a wide variety of patient and consumer interactions is the hospital-based call center. These traditional call centers have been limited to phone interactions and geared more toward one-off efficiency than overall effectiveness.

Today’s consumer-centric healthcare landscape, however, demands a more robust, integrated, and personalized engagement center. Properly deployed, such an engagement center standardizes patient communication across multiple channels and consumer touchpoints, both engaging prospective patients and supporting the needs and requests of existing patients.

Let’s take a look at how this engagement center model can help healthcare organizations drive patient engagement while improving patient experiences and outcomes – both now and into the future:

Deeper, Highly Personalized Patient Engagement

The new engagement model for the hospital call center has emerged in several leading health systems in response to various market shifts: the transition to more value-based constructs, the increase in consumerism and greater personal choice, instant access to healthcare information at our fingertips, etc.

Typically, this model integrates disparate patient communications channels into one centralized operation and leverages robust CRM technology to support more personalized patient interactions, driving increased consumer engagement through more tailored and relevant communications.

The advantages to this are two-fold:

1) Consumers and patients have access to the answers and information they seek faster. Examples might include getting referrals, enrolling in events, securing physician appointments, etc.

2) Customer service representatives have the opportunity to educate patients on the ways health systems can support their journey to better health and well-being, such as providing value-added care reminders, promoting relevant educational events, or sharing rich content about related services patients may have previously expressed interest in.

The idea is to go beyond patient satisfaction to promoting patient engagement not just during a single patient encounter but across the entire continuum of care.

A recent Gallup article supports the assertion that hospitals must surpass patient expectations in order to build and maintain patient engagement and loyalty in an era when consumers can shop around for the best value. “To thrive in a consumer-driven environment,” notes Gallup, “healthcare providers must foster the patient-provider relationship, apply strategies for building patient engagement, and [exceed] patient expectations of quality care.”

Quality Interactions That Lead to Proactive Health

In addition to driving deeper patient engagement, the engagement center model also allows providers to create ongoing, personalized relationships that lead patients to become more active participants in their own care.

Coupled with healthcare innovations such as patient- and provider-specific portals, mobile applications, live chat, telehealth technologies, etc., the engagement center allows health systems to better interact with, educate, and empower patients to take a proactive approach to their care.

If, for example, a patient logs their progress data via personal health apps or online forms, the CRM system can automatically generate alerts to patients or providers, thus spurring further constructive dialogue regarding clinical implications, as well as personalized next steps to optimize care.

The end result is, of course, improved quality interaction – between both the provider and the patient – as it’s necessary to establish a commitment between the two parties to drive proactive health over the long term.

Improved Health Outcomes

Health systems that implement CRM-based engagement solutions foster not only personalized patient engagement and quality interactions, but also the ability to improve patient health outcomes over the long term.

With a healthcare CRM system in place, hospital engagement centers can not only integrate multiple sources of patient information into a single pane, but also transform the data into actionable information used to drive future campaigns. Drawing on rich data sets and analytics capabilities, health systems can find meaning in real-time or historical data, leveraging this information to make predictions to improve the probability of success down the line.

In addition, the engagement center model supports improved patient outcomes by responding to patient inquiries via multiple media. For example, a telephone inquiry for highly-specialized service can result in a referral for top in-network specialists; conversely, a patient complaint made via a social channel can be followed up with for patient resolution.

The key is for the engagement center to focus on improving patient outcomes as part of the overall strategy for patient care. This may include anything from increasing patient satisfaction to reducing readmission and improving patient safety to reducing missed appointments, etc.

Final Thoughts

Today’s healthcare landscape is undergoing tectonic shifts in policy, innovation, and cost reduction, changes that have paved the way for a more patient-centric approach to care. Born out of – or in response to – these changes has come an increasingly discerning healthcare consumer, making it critical for health systems to find ways to drive patient engagement in order to fend off and compete against new and more sophisticated market entrants.

The newer, more robust “engagement” center of today stands in stark contrast to the traditional hospital call center of yesterday. Such a system fully leverages rich CRM information and standardizes patient communication across multiple channels and consumer touchpoints, resulting in highly personalized patient engagement, quality interactions, and improved health outcomes overall.

Rob Grant Co-Founder, Executive Vice President, Evariant, is charged with advancing the company's market strategy, developing new key business relationships and growing the customer base. He is a veteran of the technology industry, with more than 20 years of executive experience in leading innovation, business strategy, new business development, sales, finance and operations. He has led large-scale technology projects for healthcare systems, educational institutions and Fortune-100 companies. A particular emphasis has been in helping corporations and healthcare organizations transform the way they go-to-market through the utilization of new technology.

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