With the costs of healthcare steadily on the rise, it may not come as a surprise to many that healthcare users are starting to take a consumer-driven approach, considering multiple locations, multiple physicians, and other factors to get the best overall experience. Indeed, patients are starting to expect an “exceptional care experience” from start to finish, and that means not only more and better services, but more and more frequent contact in the system itself. A new report from MediaPost notes that the best way to provide that care is via the call center.
The biggest issue in providing this kind of experience is time. On both the providers' part and on the customers' part, time constraints are increasingly weighing on the system as a whole. A recent study from Nursing Care Quality, conducted at the University of Missouri's Sinclair School of Nursing, notes that it takes clinical staff an average of two hours a day just to clarify medication orders for patients. Physicians need up to an hour just to get time to respond to a voicemail message, on average.
That alone is issue enough, but patients are likewise strapped for time. A survey from Nuance Communications (News - Alert) noted that around a third (30 percent) spent less than 10 minutes with a physician. Forty percent reported feeling “rushed” during appointments, and that can have potential ramifications as well.
But using a call center system, reports note, can have some substantial benefits, particularly if the call center is staffed with nurses. Such a call center can provide a quick evaluation, as well as a means to tell how serious a problem may be. But with a call center able to fend off some of the lower-level contacts, that makes scheduling physical appointments a bit easier. It also facilitates follow-up points to give the patient more support in keeping up with doctor's advice after treatment, and gives the patient a greater sense of feeling connected.
Call centers aren't the only operation that can provide these points, though; telemedicine is also offering much of this as well. Forty-three percent of respondents in a Web-based survey noted that the reason to invest in telemedicine tools was to fill in the gaps targeted by call centers, and 16 percent noted that the “removal of barriers to patient care” was the main reason.
The idea of an omnichannel experience, made popular by retailers looking for an edge, is spreading. People want to be able to contact a business—any business—by any particular means regardless of “office hours.” If people are more comfortable with mobile devices, or with online chat, those who make concessions to that desire are more likely to achieve desired outcomes. Omnichannel has been spreading throughout retail for some time now, so it's not much of a surprise to see it bleed over into other classes of business.
Regardless of the actual motives, though, it's clear that customers want the ability to stay better in touch, and on their own terms. The call center—along with telemedicine—may be just what's needed here to put up the kind of experience customers want. Only time will tell if that proves to be the case, but for now, it's looking like a safe bet.
Edited by Dominick Sorrentino