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Organizing call centers for patient satisfaction

Organizing Call Centers
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Patient satisfaction is becoming a key metric for all health care organizations and providers. Not only is payment reimbursement from agencies like Medicaid tied to patient satisfaction, but patients can and will change providers or carriers if they are not happy.

Call centers can play an important role in increasing patient satisfaction. However, organizing call centers poorly can cause more frustration in a customer. Call centers are often organized by department or product line.

In a health insurance company, organizing call centers traditionally can create silos with separate phone numbers depending on coverage or the type of questions. Unfortunately, this structure leads to frustrated callers.

Ideally, call centers should be organized beginning with the customer perspective rather than the organizational structure.

Patient satisfaction

The purpose of using a call center for health care is to enhance patient satisfaction. Unfortunately, if a call center is not organized for ease of use by the patient, the goal of enhanced patient satisfaction falters, with patients hanging up in frustration. Frustrated patients lead to poor scoring, lower reimbursements and potential loss of patients.

Transferring between departments rarely leads to satisfaction. In fact, 63 percent of customers get frustrated if they are transferred multiple times. The longer a patient must wait to receive an actual person will affect satisfaction as well, as expectations have increased when it comes to answer speed.

Metrics like average wait time, transfers accepted, the average time to answer, and abandoned in queue all play a significant role in how successful a call center is performing for a health care organization. And if the call center is not performing well, you can guarantee patient satisfaction is taking a hit.

Organizing call centers for success

Organizing call centers with a cross-functional view of a patient’s needs by rising above organizational silos is one of the first keys for decreasing patient frustration. While trust can be lacking, especially in the case of providing medical information to patients, certain steps can be taken to ensure a call center performs well while giving a customer a great experience.

Thorough training to ensure no agent is on the floor unprepared to handle any request is key. Training should include how to handle calls in a respectful and empathetic manner, as patients who call in are different than retail or manufacturing consumers.

Also, opening the lines of communication with the provider or clinic is a necessary technological aspect. Doctors need to be informed about information given to their patients, and clinics need up-to-date information regarding appointment setting.

Continued support with a strong technological infrastructure will keep call wait times down and patients happy with their call center involvement. Use of IVR with natural language processing can handle easy questions, freeing up well-trained agents to answer and respond to more difficult and time-consuming issues.

Ultimately, organizing call centers with the customer experience priority will benefit health care organizations and providers. Clinical and administrative staff will be freed up to focus on in-person patients while physicians can expect satisfied patients.

A quality call center is necessary in a world with an increasing focus on patient satisfaction, and organizing call centers with the patient in mind – and not the organizational structure – will ensure pleased customers.

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