Category: Healthcare


Category: Healthcare
West Corporation

Posted on March 24, 2016 by West Corporation 


Text Messaging, Consumerism, and the Healthcare Industry, Part 2: Complying with Regulations

By Fonda Narke, Director of Product Integration, West Corporation Healthcare Practice

Texting is inarguably the preferred mode of communication for many consumers (see my previous blog on how consumers have grown to rely on texting).

So why are many healthcare organizations still hesitant to text their patients? They are rightly careful about complying with regulatory requirements for patient consent and privacy. In this blog, I’ll explain how organizations can implement an effective texting strategy that aligns 100 percent with regulations.

Addressing the Compliance Side of Texting
The two primary regulations organizations must consider when building a texting strategy are:

  • The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) – TCPA requires organizations in any industry—not just healthcare—to obtain consent to contact a consumer on a cellular phone device. The law protects consumers from the text-messaging version of spam (especially in the days when consumers had to pay for each text they received).
  • HIPAA – We in healthcare are, of course, very familiar with HIPAA, so I won’t describe it in any detail here. The law dictates that a patient’s protected health information (PHI) can only be transmitted to healthcare consumers in a secure manner. Texting does not constitute a secure channel for sharing PHI.

Read More >

West Corporation

Posted on March 17, 2016 by West Corporation 


Frost & Sullivan Awards West for Proactive Notifications Product Leadership

West is a proud recipient of Frost & Sullivan’s 2015 North American Product Leadership Award in the Contact Center Outsourcing IndustryFrost & Sullivan AwardIn the wake of customers’ ever-increasing demand for self-service, mobility and an overall-outstanding customer experience, we are privileged to help brands deliver leading communication technology and winning engagement strategies.

Frost & Sullivan recognized West for innovative multi-channel notifications/alert solutions, clear commitment to building lasting partnerships, and accelerated client growth over the past two years. View the press release here.

They graded West’s overall performance based on a wide variety of criteria such as reliability, performance, design and positioning. West scored an overall rating of 9.00, with the closest competitor trailing at 7.75. Read More >

West Corporation

Posted on by West Corporation 


Text Messaging, Consumerism, and the Healthcare Industry, Part 1: These Three Belong Together

By Fonda Narke

Text messaging isn’t just for the under-65 crowd anymore. Baby boomers (soon to become the Medicare population) are text-messaging fanatics. And older Americans already on Medicare are embracing cell phones at an increasing rate. In fact, Deloitte predicts that people 55 and over will be the fastest growing segment of smart phone adoption.

The End of the “Patient” Patient
Now, consider the fact that the healthcare industry is facing change — lots of it. One of the most notable changes is that healthcare is transitioning to a consumer-driven industry. The days of the “patient” patient—the patient who sits patiently for an hour in the waiting room — are in the past.

Healthcare consumers want the same conveniences other industries offer them. They can get their banking done at their convenience at an ATM. They can sign up for text message alerts when their credit card company receives charges on their account. They can contact nearly all major service providers using their channel of choice (whether it’s a call, text, chat or email).

The services available to consumers from other industries put pressure on healthcare organizations to up their game — and text messaging is an important strategy for doing that.

The time is right for healthcare organizations to embrace consumerism and to implement text-messaging strategies. This will benefit the industry in many ways: Read More >

West Corporation

Posted on March 9, 2016 by West Corporation 


Scale and Capacity—Where It Matters

By Colin Roberts

As provider organizations seek to improve customer service, they are challenged to balance automation—which allows patients to self-serve for basic needs—with personalized interaction.

Let’s face it, patients have different requirements and needs, depending on their level of risk.

For example, lower risk patients may only need to reach out to your access center for relatively simple requests, like appointment scheduling or directions to your facility. Meanwhile, higher-risk patients—those with chronic conditions, for example—may require more interaction with a care coordinator, registered nurse or care coach.

The problem for many hospitals is that they handle each of these patient types exactly the same—and it is simply unsustainable from a cost and efficiency standpoint.

Hospitals need to ask themselves—does every patient require the exact same level of attention? Where will efficiency have maximum impact? Read More >

West Corporation

Posted on March 3, 2016 by West Corporation 


Avoiding CMS Penalties—and Capturing New Revenue Streams—Through Proactive Patient Outreach

By Chuck Hayes

Thousands of hospitals across the United States are feeling the financial pressures of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program. Up to three percent of Medicare reimbursement is on the line when patients are readmitted to hospitals within 30 days of discharge for a set of diagnoses specified by CMS.

This year, 2,601 of the 3,400 hospitals subject to the program will have to pay penalties to CMS.

Needless to say, preventing readmissions is top of mind for hospital executives — and improving transitions of care through proactive patient outreach is a key strategy in achieving this goal.

Engaging Patients through Early Outreach

Research shows that early outreach is key to ensuring that discharged patients understand their care plan and receive the follow-up care they need. That’s one reason why CMS’ transitional care management guidelines require communication with the patient within two business days of discharge.

One Pennsylvania hospital recently proved how effective a simple outreach intervention can be in reducing readmissions. They piloted a program where they sent simple reminders via text message to patients and their caregivers—one message the day after discharge verifying patients had picked up their medications and scheduled their follow-up appointment, and one reminder message the day before the follow-up appointment. The result was astounding: Readmissions in the pilot group were 25 percent lower than in the control group! Read More >

West Corporation

Posted on February 29, 2016 by West Corporation 


Three Tips for Creating Calls-to-Action in Patient Outreach

By Justin Everette

Whether you have adopted automated tools to engage patients about care opportunities or you rely on manual staff efforts to make those connections, the importance of message content cannot be overstated. One of the most essential components of effective communication is the call-to-action — the action you want the patient to take in response to your outreach. Whether it’s calling a phone number, visiting a website, or scheduling a screening — it needs to be extremely clear what you want patients to do and how you want them to do it.

Here are three best practices for creating effective calls-to-action in your patient outreach:

  • Be immediate. You are always going to have a small percentage of your targeted patients abandon your message before it’s complete. Placing the call-to-action at the forefront of your message ensures they at least get the most important information.
  • Be repetitive. Think of this as the call-to-action “sandwich”. After immediately stating the call-to-action in your message, you should then repeat that call-to-action again at the end of the message to make sure you’ve driven the point home. The sandwich looks like this: State the call-to-action, spend some time educating patients on why it is important, and then mention the call-to-action again.
  • Be specific. This is the “how” of your call–to-action. Being specific guides the patient from “get a screening” to “here’s specifically how you schedule this screening”. Instead of “call us”, you can have greater impact by saying “call us at 888-123-4567” (or better yet, offer patients the option to connect directly to the scheduling department). You cannot rely on the message recipient to navigate through a website or to look up a phone number. For best results, be specific and make it as easy as possible to take action.

Immediate, repetitive, and specific. Work these three concepts into your calls-to-action for patient communication that drives engagement and increases response rate.

Justin Everette is Director, Marketing Communications for TeleVox Solutions, West Corporation, where the healthcare mission is to help organizations harness communications to expand the boundaries of where, when, and how healthcare is delivered.

West Corporation

Posted on February 5, 2016 by West Corporation 


Patient Engagement: A Call to Action

By Laura Bramschreiber, VP Marketing Strategy — Healthcare Practice, West Corporation

A core goal of any healthcare practitioner is to encourage patients to either begin, continue, or cease an action or series of actions. How do you communicate with patients in order to compel them to a specific, pre-determined action? Following are common desired patient actions that can be achieved using the right engagement and activation strategies.

Get Patients to See You

Carve out an efficient and consumer-friendly way to keep your patients on top of their wellness and treatment goals via reminders for upcoming services, like immunizations and screenings, and scheduling appointments and follow ups.

There are several ways to realize success in this area, but the two most important include:

  • Ensure that inbound calls from your patients are routed quickly, efficiently, and in a way that intelligently collects data that fosters a holistic view of each patient; and
  • Establish the preferred mode of communication for each patient—be it voice, text, web portal, or some other medium.

Patient preferences for communication channel and frequency can get pretty granular. For example, you may have a single patient who prefers bills to come through e-mail; appointment reminders to come via text; and consults be streamed over video. Establishing and updating these preferences, as well as their consent, are key to any ongoing engagement strategies.

Get Patients to Follow and Utilize their Treatment Plan

Comb your database to identify those patients who would benefit from transition care management (TCM) or coordinated care management (CCM) programs. Treatment gaps and missed appointments put patients at risk for readmission; providers should see these challenges as a means to unearth opportunities to improve the quality and efficacy of their programs, as well as take advantage of new value-based reimbursements in these areas.

Patient education is important, clearly; but so is training and awareness on the part of the clinical staff and physicians. Everyone involved must be up to speed on the value these programs bring to patients and the importance of the program to the practice in terms of revenue. Clearly defining the roles and responsibilities—ranging from scheduling, obtaining written consent, delivering care and billing—is key to success.

Get Patients to Monitor Progress between Visits

Telehealth and remote patient monitoring are incredible opportunities to innovate an underutilized area of patient care, foster new streams of revenue, and add formidable building blocks to value-based care by providing your patients with a comprehensive roadmap to sustained health. This can be accomplished by starting as early after discharge as possible and using communication technology and clinical resources to keep tabs on treatments and follow up care, as well as to monitor and address any complications.

Get Patients to Pay their Bills

A byproduct of value-based care is that the revenue cycle starts much earlier than it used to. Patients are expected to have more “skin in the game” when it comes to paying for healthcare services, which means that providers need to collect as much money as possible pre-service or at the point of care.

Practices and hospitals need to ensure that patients fully understand their financial obligations upfront. A standardized script for staff or automated communications should provide patients information about what they will owe when they come into the office, but also the payment options they can choose from, and any documentation they should bring with them to their visit.

Summary

By taking practical steps toward patient-centric engagement, providers can create a high-quality, intuitive and effortless consumer experience that has elements of a world-class retail service, while meeting the unique needs of the healthcare setting. Look for vendors and partners with the right combination of technology, experience and vision that will help you employ meaningful business practices regarding patient engagement and activation.

West Corporation

Posted on January 25, 2016 by West Corporation 


The Path to Meaningful Engagement

By Colin Roberts, Senior Director, Healthcare Product Integration, West Corporation

Technological innovations have gifted providers with myriad ways to communicate with and collect data from patients.

As provider organizations seek to incorporate more — and more meaningful — touchpoints with their patients throughout the continuum of care, they are challenges to close communication and care gaps, improve staff workflows, and ultimately drive more holistic patient engagement.

The ideal pathway to optimized patient engagement and activation lays in establishing and utilizing standardized best practices and leveraging automation.

A standardized and consistent communication pathway gives every department manager a more productive, contextual, and consistent way to seamlessly engage with patients on any issue and at any point within the continuum of care.

Automation establishes a cadence for reminders, including duration, frequency, time of day, and how patients want to be contacted. Though the term “automation” sometimes carries a negative assumption that the future of patient engagement removes human interaction from the equation, nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, the automation of routine communication alleviates administrative burdens, freeing team members to focus on more complex interactions in a meaningful way. With today’s technology, even automated processes can be personalized — both in messaging (i.e., specific to the individual patient) and how the message is communicated (i.e., the patient: phone call, text, email, etc.).

Value-based healthcare has myriad moving parts, but the clear through line is the efficacy of provider-patient communication. Greater financial obligations have given patients greater power when it comes to choosing a healthcare provider, and the mandate to reduce costly readmissions and provide patients a retail-feel to healthcare encounters has incented providers to seamlessly optimize patients To see a demo, visit the West Corp. booth at HIMSS16 in Las Vegas.

Note: This blog originally appeared in Health IT Outcomes.

Learn More and Schedule a Private Demo


West Corporation

Posted on August 17, 2015 by West Corporation 


The Call Center is Your Front Door

Imagine for a moment that you are a patient at your own health system, and you want to schedule an appointment, ask a question about your treatment plan, or request a referral. Visit the contact page of your health system’s website. What do you see?

Some of you will find a general 800 number that either routes you to one of those byzantine automated selection menus or leads to a call service rep or central operator who doesn’t know who you are, what you need, or how to route your query. Others will be faced by a webpage filled with a dense collection of numbers for a myriad of departments, professional practices, and clinics, leaving you overwhelmed and confused about who to call for what.

Now, pick up the phone and see if you get the information you need on the first try…

The point of this thought experiment is that you as a health system have made considerable financial investments in technology and training in order to create a patient-centric healthcare experience that provides excellent healthcare services spanning the continuum of care, but thanks to call center quagmires your patients are frustrated and dissatisfied before they even walk through the door.

Patient access centers are legitimate business departments and have an important role to play in the transition to value-based, patient-centric care. They have the potential to create new streams of revenue. They can engender loyalty to your brand. Most importantly, access centers are a critical first impression that ultimately determines whether a patient chooses to purchase healthcare services from your system.

Unfortunately, for too many health systems, access centers are an afterthought — or worse, completely neglected.

Patients are Consumers

Just like you, your health system’s patients are consumers who shop at Amazon, purchase airline tickets, and stay at hotels for business and pleasure. They’ve grown accustomed to a concierge-level of customer service, and this has altered their perceptions of what a high-quality healthcare experience should look like. The retail world has decades of experience with providing this level of service, and have leveraged modern technology to make constant improvements to help differentiate their brand, as well as retain and grow their customer base. The healthcare industry is just starting to catch on—not just because it makes good business sense, but also because they are now being incented/penalized to implement value-based care throughout the patient experience.

The modern healthcare consumer has more choices than ever before, and are seeking long-term relationships with their providers. The trick for health systems is finding an efficient and cost-effective way of:

  • Properly routing inbound calls using an intelligent, data-accessible system (patient-to-provider);
  • Determining patient communication preferences for outbound contacts (provider-to-patient).

‘Predictive Intent’

Hospitals and health systems have been doing scheduling and automated appointment reminders for years. However, these transactions only account for 20 to 30 percent of inbound and outbound calls.

The model patient access center should be doing a lot more than that. Your access center should drive revenue and patient satisfaction; reduce no-shows and time spent by caregivers on reaching patients; and eliminate the need for patients to fish around for answers to their questions.
If your airline carrier knows your preferred seating arrangement and upcoming flights; if your hotel’s concierge knows your preferred floor and newspaper, then why doesn’t your health system have access to patient data as soon as they call?

After authentication of the patient’s identity, an intelligent patient access platform should have, based on the health system’s defined business rules, real-time access to:

  • Upcoming and past appointments
  • Education and patient record materials in the system’s EMR and patient portal
  • Intelligent routing to be best available advocate, scheduling agent, care coordinator or case manager, based on patient data and what is known about that patient at that point in time
  • The patients’ preferred modes of communication (landline, mobile phone, text, e-mail, etc.)

Even if you don’t leverage live call center representatives, forget about automated menu options. Intelligent access platforms can emulate a live agent for many of these basic functions, leaving live agents to handle the more complex transactions, allowing them to maximize their value to your organizations and to the patients / providers they engage each day.

The goal of contact centers should be to make the patient experience as easy as possible through both personalization and self-service—striving for that perfect balance between automation and a live, human-touch interaction.

Your health system has invested considerable time, energy and money to provide value across the continuum of care. Why squander it over a bad first impression? The nature of each patient call may vary, but everyone is essentially asking one of two questions: will patients buy healthcare from your system or will thye buy healthcare again from your health system?

West Corporation

Posted on August 13, 2015 by West Corporation 


The new healthcare paradigm: “Think Whole Person”

The climate of healthcare is changing. The industry is moving away from the provider-centered approaches of the past to a more ardently patient-centered paradigm that is spreading fast in clinics and hospitals across the U.S. The passage of the Affordable Care Act and new Medicare reimbursement standards from CMS have set a new direction for care delivery aimed at improving patient experience and health.

One good example of this trend is in Omaha, Nebraska where West Corporation is headquartered. A new physician-led practice called “Think Whole Person Healthcare” has recently been launched. The aim is to increase access to services and boost the patient experience while cutting the overall cost of care. The founders recognize that caring for a whole person requires much more than just a single doctor and, thus, have assembled teams of healthcare professionals who work alongside the physician to support their patients. The healthcare teams include pharmacists, physical therapists, nutritionists, case managers and others who coordinate to optimize all facets of the patient’s health. The facility is open extended hours, with some services available 24 hours, seven days a week. Teams function under one clinical leader and strive to deliver the highest quality outcomes.

This is a fascinating model of bringing everything a patient needs into one location. No more driving around town to get needed tests, to see different doctors or to pick up prescriptions. Everything and everyone you are likely to need are co-located in one building.

As the customer engagement model across this entire industry shifts, patients increasingly have an unprecedented amount of control over the way they find, acquire, access and value healthcare benefits and services. This shift is resulting in the “new healthcare consumer,” and those organizations that fail to provide a superior experience are at risk of getting left behind.

Even CMS recognizes the value of treating patients as consumers to improve experience and outcomes. There are several newly released billing codes, including those for Chronic Care Management and Transition Care Management, that now reimburse providers for patient care delivered outside clinical setting. With nearly half of all American adults suffering from chronic health conditions, delivering patient-centered, holistic care beyond the four walls will be critical to the long-term success of healthcare, and an organization’s ability to coordinate and orchestrate patient communications will be a key component of that success.

Whether inside a facility like “Think” or outside the four walls of the doctor’s office, the healthcare industry is experiencing the birth of a new paradigm. The focus on managing patients as customers means better care, improved quality outcomes, increased convenience and better overall patient experience.

To learn more about the West Engagement Center and other solutions focused on patient experience, visit the Healthcare section of the Website.


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