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TASKE Technology's Call Center Blog

Last month, we went to New Orleans, Louisiana to attend the Healthcare Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS) annual conference and exhibit. HIMSS is a nonprofit organization that promotes the best use of information technology and management systems in the healthcare industry.

After sharing ideas at the conference, we thought that this month, we’d talk about concerns for contact centers operating in the healthcare industry. Many of these concerns are based on the anticipated effects of the aging baby boom generation, so even if you’re not in the healthcare industry, you may find some of this information relevant to your areas of service.

There’s no arguing that the healthcare industry is in a growth phase. Sourcing the Kaiser Family Foundation (May 2012), Health PAC online reports that “half of health care spending is used to treat just 5% of the population.” As baby boomers age, more people will access healthcare services with more frequency. You’ll want to make sure that your contact center is prepared to keep up with higher demands.

Client Services Innovation

As your client demographics change, be sure that the services your contact center offers are in line with high-demand client needs. For example, if you provide telehealth advice to clients, you may want to track call trends for specific health issues.

The Reuter’s Health article, “Baby Boomers’ health worse than past generations” states that “in a large national survey, about 13 percent of baby boomers…reported being in “excellent” health in middle age, compared to 32 percent of the previous generation who said the same at the same stage of life. In particular, obesity and diabetes played a role in the difference.”

One useful way to track call trends is to ask agents to “tag” the reason for each call, such as “Weight” or “Chest Pain”. If your reporting software supports tracking these tags (often referred to as reason or account codes), you can report on them.

Contact Center Technologies

You may also need to consider how you provide services to your clients, whether these are patients who use health services or healthcare providers and organizations (such as physicians, emergency response teams, hospitals, or labs). Advancements in online video, web portal, and mobile solutions can change your interaction with clients, such as how elderly clients with disabilities contact you or how diagnostic tests and lab results are provided to you.

Your contact center IT team should also consider the effects of changes in healthcare practices and legislation. For example, with the increasing use of electronic health records management, there may be new storage and security requirements to ensure the privacy of patient data.

It’s important to stay on top of technologies as they are introduced in your industry, even if you don’t invest in them today. As your contact center evolves, you can make more informed decisions with an understanding of the direction that technology is taking and how it can be used to meet your clients’ needs.

Agent Training

Whether you’re providing patient access to services, electronic health records management, or telehealth communications, the demand for more healthcare services probably means that you need to increase your staff to handle higher call volumes. Self-service options may provide some relief, but depending on your area of service, some portion of healthcare calls will always need to be handled by agents.

Agent training—which always plays a critical role in customer satisfaction –may become more complex because of ongoing internal changes (such as new services) and external factors (such as advances in diagnostic tests and treatment options). Agents may need a higher level of industry expertise or competence to ensure that communications remain compliant with accepted practices and existing legislation.

Particularly in patient care, client satisfaction is directly related to the knowledge, skill, and efficiency with which your agents handle issues.

Regardless of what type of healthcare service your contact center offers, growth is going to bring change. While you can’t anticipate all the possibilities and consequences, you do know that, without careful planning, the rapid expansion of your services, IT infrastructure, and staff can lead to less than desirable results, including lower customer satisfaction, operational inefficiencies, and, in extreme cases, life-threatening situations.

If you want to see a great example of how accurate, timely information saved a life, check out our case study for Sanford Health.  In an emergency situation, the contact center was able to locate a caller by tracing the phone number associated with an earlier call. This contact allowed the healthcare provider to pass life-saving information along before a crisis occurred.

See you next month.

 

Tags: business objectives, call tracking, call volume, client services, communication channels, customer satisfaction, healthcare, technology, Training.

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