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Posted on June 30, 2016 by West Corporation 


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5 Steps Toward a Modernized Healthcare Contact Center

By Brian Cooper, Sr. Account Executive, West Corporation

Contact center modernization is a journey. Knowing where you are in your modernization journey makes it easier to determine which “on ramp” to take as you work towards successfully transforming your healthcare contact center (see my previous blog to determine your contact center’s maturity level). The following are a sequence of steps and considerations that can help guide you on your contact center modernization journey, whether you’re crawling, walking, or running.

1. Leverage or Build a Forward-Thinking Culture
Healthcare organizations must first look inward to see what opportunities and gaps exist in both business culture and processes. The first step in a journey towards a modernized, world-class contact center is to assess the readiness of your organization to accept this change. You’ll want to build upon strengths – and address gaps – in the culture to persuade internal stakeholders of the value of this transformation. For instance:

  1. Does your health system have a reputation for innovation and thought leadership (both internally and externally)?
  2. Does company leadership have solid initiatives focused on providing a “world class” access experience for your patients and providers?
  3. Are the physicians and clinical staff open to embracing technology to maximize operational efficiencies and effectiveness while still maintaining the human touch? If not, this may signal some areas to enhance ahead of modernizing the contact center.
  4. One other consideration that may spur internal support for action is an evaluation of the competitive risk and high opportunity cost of doing nothing.
  5. Can your organization effectively compete with the systems and processes currently in place as rivals move forward? Turning leakage dollars to “keepage” through an enhanced patient experience is a huge consideration and business driver for leading health systems.

2. Consider Data Availability and Consistency
In order to effectively leverage technology to help gain a 360-degree view of your patients across the care continuum, you will need access to both clinical and non-clinical patient data. The problem for many organizations is that different types of patient data are siloed into several different applications or data warehouses within the health system. To assess how challenging this data consolidation and integration will be for your health system, consider the following questions:

  1. Are you on a single EMR platform currently? If not, is there a plan to move in that direction?
  2. Is your EMR platform updated within at least one major release of the most recent version?
  3. Are you tracking and leveraging patient communication preferences in your EMR or other systems? If so, are you actually using them?
  4. Do you use any CRM/CXM software to track and monitor patient behavioral data (non-clinical patient interactions)?
  5. Do you have visibility into the volume and types of calls that are coming into, and being transferred throughout, your health system and/or medical group?
  6. Have you allocated business analytics or business intelligence resources to provide actionable insights from the transactional and behavioral data you are capturing?

Don’t despair if you’ve answered “No” to several or all of these questions. Why data accessibility is critical to maximizing the value of technology within your contact center environment, it’s still possible for you to move forward with modernizing your contact center, in tandem with addressing these typical data related issues.

3. Centralize Scheduling Operations
Centralized scheduling and contact center operations is a great way to standardize that first contact with a patient or provider and start their journey with your health system off right. But this is no small task and there are many necessary considerations to make sure the switch to centralized scheduling doesn’t feel impersonal or cumbersome to patients or providers. If you are planning to make the shift to centralized scheduling, here are some questions to consider:

  1. Will your agents be on a centralized phone system to ensure calls are routed through a “single front door” regardless of the number they dial?
  2. Do you have the ability to effectively, efficiently, and consistently route the patient or provider to the right agent, for the right physician, for the right reason, at the right time?
  3. Will you have visibility into all contact center activities so you can effectively manage your center in real-time?
  4. Do you have an effective and efficient way to manage your workforce?
  5. Do your agents have the ability to schedule for all physicians within a respective specialty (including Primary Care) or clinic, both hospital and ambulatory? Asked differently, are they multi-skilled agents or are they only able to schedule for on specific area?
  6. Do you have redundancy in your operations and/or the flexibility to allow your agents to work from home (or other secondary / remote location) during a disaster situation or even as a regular course of operation?

4. Implement Scheduling Templates
As healthcare organizations advance along the contact center modernization path, many decide to create or consolidate (reduce the number of) scheduling templates to build a more self-service oriented scheduling model (i.e. self-scheduling via the portal or hospital website). Some of the more progressive health systems even envision providing a mobile app like “Open Table” to allow for simple and easy scheduling and re-scheduling of appointments via that application. In any case I’d recommend you start small and grow from there. Here are some questions to ask yourself as you consider implementing or consolidating these templates:

  1. Have you cleared the cultural and data accessibility hurdles? This is key in order to move forward with scheduling templates as you’ll need leadership / Executive support to help get the Physicians on-board with more standardized templates.
  2. Where do you want to start (i.e. begin with affiliated PCPs, a single clinic, or specialty)?
  3. How are you engaging the physicians within your health system? Do they feel like they are empowered and are part of the process?
  4. What success metrics are you using to get the physicians on-board?
  5. Are you currently offering scheduling via your website or portal? If so, has it been successful? If not, why?
  6. Do you plan to re-design your website and/or launch a mobile application? If so, does it make sense to offer self-service scheduling as a part of these launches?

5. Take the Leap and Institute a Single Patient Front Door
Imagine a centralized access environment that greets every patient or provider with a consistent, branded, intelligent, and personalized user experience regardless of the phone number they dial to reach your health system. This is the final step for many systems along the journey to a modernized contact center. If you’ve completed some or most of the steps outlined in the 5 key areas above, then your system is likely ready to institute the “single patient front door”, at least to a certain degree. This is where the “crawl, walk, and run” stages come into play. There’s a front door to leverage if you are in any of these 3 stages. If you haven’t checked ANY of the boxes in the areas above, do not give up! There are still ways to implement a front-door solution that can get you into the “crawl” stage to begin transformation. There are technology partners out there that can help!

By now you have a good idea of how far your organization has to go to achieve a truly modern contact center. But keep in mind – wherever you are starting from – there are a number of benefits you can reap, even in the very near term, by simply taking that next step along the transformation continuum.

 

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