For decades, the call center has been a staple in many businesses to effectively manage incoming and outgoing customer calls. In healthcare, the phone is the legacy method of communication for both patients and practices. However, many healthcare organizations are transitioning to a much more expansive way of communicating quickly and more efficiently– the healthcare call center.
Contact Center vs. Call Center
To put it in its simplest terms, a call center handles inbound and outbound patient phone communication, while a contact center accommodates the breadth of channels the average patient may reach out through. The contact center, in essence, allows for multi-channel communication. This includes phone calls, two-way texting, email, webchat, video, and even social media. Both address support questions and inquiries that are essential for any business or organization’s customer experience.
When it comes to healthcare, there is usually a fairly large difference in patient-provider experience between a contact center and a call center.
With the staffing issues practices face today, many providers suffer from heavy call volume. These practices often have to outsource a call center for additional help with appointment scheduling, insurance help, or billing questions. However, with patient outreach occurring across a wide variety of communication channels, addressing phone calls alone just simply is not addressing the problem effectively anymore.
In order to accommodate all methods of communications, Healthcare organizations are increasingly considering contact center solutions to better serve their patients whether they are outsourced agencies or software solutions that better help them improve patient experience and satisfaction.
What is the value in using a contact center?
Call volume is the healthcare practice’s worst nightmare with individual calls costing healthcare providers between $15 and $20 each according to the Wall Street Journal. Even calls as simple as prescription refills can cost a practice $10,000 or more per year.
The traditional call center holds many practices back from a better patient and staff experience.
With 66% of service professionals reporting an increase in use of digital channels in customer outreach, there is a direct need for a contact center infrastructure that can handle more than just call volume. It creates multi-channel communication that is beneficial for both healthcare staff and your patients.
How does the contact center better address the issues of healthcare practices today?
1. Omnichannel communication
The most advantageous part of a contact center is the ability to engage in omnichannel communication. Rather than just handling phone calls, there are many alternatives within a contact center that make it easier and more efficient to connect with your patients.
For example, healthcare staff can use HIPAA-compliant text messaging to safely communicate with their patients. Texts get read within the first three minutes about 90% of the time where as phone calls only get answered about 20%. Texting efficiency allows staff to quickly schedule appointments, send documents or images via text, or to answer questions that don’t require a phone call.
Additionally, the right contact center technology can offer webchat tools so patients can message in directly through your website. This can bring your staff even greater efficiency while making it easy for your patients to reach out. With OhMD, for example, regardless of the channel the communication comes through, they all get dropped into the same consolidated conversation record. A big win in the efficiency column if you are considering a healthcare contact center platform!
On the other hand, call center systems can be restrictive to just phone calls, so more comprehensive options can make a difference in healthcare staffs’ daily workflow. Staff can use texting or webchat to answer inquiries faster without having to pick up the phone. Making sure your staff is content with their workflow in a contact center will lead to improved employee satisfaction and higher engagement within your practice.
2. Reduction in call volume
Here’s a real-world example of the impact a digital contact center can have on practice workflows.
OhMD’s long time customer Family Practice Associates of Lexington implemented HIPAA-compliant texting to give their patients another option to get in touch and saw a 22% reduction in their call volume in just four months!
Using OhMD as a contact center allowed them to move away from strictly placing and fielding patient calls and towards asynchronous communication channels like texting. Staff at the practice are able to respond to patients quicker through text, saving time by eliminating the need to return phone calls or listen to voicemails.
Robust digital contact center technology, like OhMD, allow you to streamline conversations even faster while keeping your staff off the phone.
Tools like outbound Patient Calling allow you to call patients directly from your computer, recording time stamps and allowing for notes to be taken directly in the platform for easy documentation when pushed to your EHR.
There are even tools like OhMD’s Virtual Phone Assistant that give the patient the choice to switch to an SMS text conversation, or to go direct to voicemail (that automatically gets transcribed for your staff) if they don’t want to wait to speak with a staff member. The patient gets to choose what communication channel is best for them if the inquiry doesn’t require a conversation with a staff member.
The common thread amongst these tools is that the best contact center technologies deliver options that encourage patients to text or find other means to connect with the practice instead of call.
3. Patient-centered approach
You know your patients better than anyone, and you know how your staff needs to connect with them. Find a contact center platform that gives you flexibility in its communication solutions.
The users of a contact center are the people you work alongside every day and the primary focus should be a great patient experience and positive outcomes. The contact center technology you choose can greatly impact the ability to put focus where it needs to be if the solutions it offers don’t fit or can’t be optimized for your needs.
The contact center platform you choose should give you the ability to personalize communication channels to what is most appropriate for your patients and for your staff.
Furthermore, the way to a truly patient-centered approach is to put the patient in the drivers seat in their care journey. Like the simple patient phone call, one-way messaging no longer cuts it when it comes to delivering high value care.
When considering a contact center that lets you move beyond phone calls alone, you should consider solutions that allow for actual two-way conversations, like OhMD. This type of solution better positions your patients to take a more active role in their own care.
4. Cloud-based communication
When searching for a contact center solution, you’ll want to consider if it lives on site or in the cloud.
Contact centers can be cloud-based, which means all multi-channeled tools are accessed through the web and there are no physical machines housing the tools and data in your office.
For many small to medium sized organizations this is a more feasible option as a cloud option has no additional space requirements and all staff can access with appropriate credentials and computer access as needed.
Regardless of whether your needs dictate a cloud-based or on-premise solution, you always should ensure that the protected health information is secure, encrypted, and backed up.
5. Better patient communication
No surprise here! The main benefit you should look for when considering a healthcare contact center technology is if it will allow for better patient communication.
A vast majority of patients prefer text messaging as their primary way of communication. Why? Because no one likes to play phone tag.
We’ve all been there. You are at work and their doctor’s office calls.
Nine times out of ten, you are busy doing something else and can’t pick up. Then when you get the chance to call back, you end up on hold or leaving a message that requires another call back – that you miss!
Instead of calling and hoping they get through, if your doctor has a healthcare contact center it is super easy to send a quick text.
Allowing for choice in where the care conversation occurs simply makes the experience better.
With better patient communication, your patients will feel trusted and secure in your care. You can answer their questions quicker with a contact center as you can text rather than call. Get patients in and out the door faster by scheduling them more efficiently as well. There is a multitude of ways to have better communication in your practice with a contact center.
The future of contact centers
Healthcare organizations are slowly moving away from call centers to contact centers for a more efficient, adaptable way of communicating. With multiple ways to connect with patients, it makes the healthcare journey much more effective for both patients and providers. Data shows that over 75% of organizations in and outside of healthcare are adopting a more proactive and flexible approach when it comes to changing their practices.
The contact center technologies that are leading into the future of proactive and flexible care are the ones who are putting added focus on patient conversation rather than one-way messaging.
Good patient communication is key to the success of a practice. Implementing a contact center helps to alleviate overwhelming call volume and allows practices to move towards more intuitive methods of communication.
Improve communication & satisfy patients
An affordable contact center solution that is built to better engage your patients is here. See why over 50,000 healthcare providers choose OhMD.