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Survey: Automated Patient Follow-Up Calls Cheaper Than Humans
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Survey: Automated Patient Follow-Up Calls Cheaper Than Humans

December 18, 2014

  By Michelle Amodio, TMCnet Contributor

HealthITAnalytics  is reporting that automated phone calls designed to follow up with patients are cheaper than hiring live staff to do the same work. While that seems completely obvious for many reasons, there was a study that included some details to further back up what is otherwise a known fact.

For example, the American Journal of Managed Care rounded up data over the course of two years, and it was found that an IVR system was about $9,000 cheaper than calls initiated by nursing staff. The folks doing the research at the University of Alabama at Birmingham; Texas Tech University; and The Advisory Board Company compared an IVR system to the time it took a nurse to do all of the necessary follow up after an ambulatory procedure, and the results are thus: a nurse can take about three minutes to prepare for a call and another six minutes to make said call.

When added up against an average salary, you’re looking at some serious money spent. So, what is the per-minute salary for such a phone call? Relying on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it was concluded that it will cost an organization around 51 cents per minute.

IVR systems are quite different, of course. While the cost to implement a system is a large up-front investment, the ongoing costs tend to pay for themselves because the calls are at no additional charge. Of course, if the patient is in need of a real live person, the call will then get transferred to address additional needs. Still, the system is designed to curtail the live person costs, and while it might be cause for celebration, automated systems are not without their flaws, at least in this circumstance.

One of the greatest disadvantages of IVR systems is that many people simply dislike talking to machines. People are particularly averse to receiving automated calls as part of telemarketing campaigns or polling. It’s almost worse to get a call that can have such important information behind it, like how to take care of yourself after a procedure.  

IVRs have their place and have done a lot of good to help specific organizations with their call volumes. As with any business decision, there are pros and cons to integrating such a system into your workplace.

It's important to take time to consider the facts and evaluate your needs.

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