This post is the first in a series about transforming the traditional hospital call center to drive engagement, acquisition and retention, and revenue. In our next post, we’ll examine the engagement center, a model that has emerged in several leading health systems in response to trends in the market and greater consumerism around healthcare purchasing. In our final post, we’ll examine how one large academic institution is blazing the path to anywhere, anytime engagement, delivering powerful advances for patients, local populations, and its business results.
Today, a strong patient-provider relationship is central to the strategic market shift to patient-centric care. This shift is a result of changing customer expectations and market fluctuations; healthcare consumers want better care and reduced costs. As a result, health systems now need to capitalize on every patient and consumer interaction—from fielding a first inquiry to actively supporting proactive health, ongoing care, and recovery—to successfully acquire and retain patients for life.
To achieve this, health systems need to speak with a unified voice and deliver consistent, positive experiences in every interaction, no matter how they communicate with patients and customers. As call centers handle around 68 percent of all consumer interactions, it’s vital that the hospital call center is set up to deliver these types of experience.
Unfortunately, traditional hospital call centers are not. Why? Let’s take a closer look at what these types of call centers are like:
Overview of the Traditional Hospital Call Center
The hospital-based call center has been used for years as a common approach to handle a wide variety of patient and consumer interactions. Born in the era of volume-based, episodic care, traditional hospital call centers focused on basic, repeatable functions, like appointment scheduling, physician referrals, event enrollment, and the like. Separate and distinct department-specific call centers were often set-up to serve specialized functions or specific needs, such as nurse triage and marketing responses.
Limitations & Challenges of the Traditional Hospital Call Center
When contacting the traditional hospital call center, the caller’s experience is comparable to calling a cable company— impersonal “once and done” transactions with long hold times where callers are transferred to multiple “specialists” to get their needs addressed.
Designed primarily to cost-effectively handle as many calls as possible about a limited set of scenarios, call centers are not viewed as strategic, value-adding assets. Rather, they’ve been built to minimize the cost of back-office functions, with primary focus on response times, calls per hour, abandonment rates, and workforce optimization—metrics that are operational and impersonal.
While these types of healthcare call centers serve their purpose, they often fail to positively impact callers’ perceptions of the health system or its providers, to engage the caller or broaden callers’ awareness of other relevant services beneficial to them or their loved ones. Overall, traditional call centers deliver little to no strategic or marketing value, and potential cross-sell/up-sell opportunities to extend patient lifetime value or improve network utilization are lost.
The Solution: The Engagement Center
To solve the challenges of the traditional call center and expand its capabilities, implement an engagement center. An engagement center is an optimized call center that integrates with healthcare CRM (HCRM) data to personalize customer interactions, be more proactive, and boost caller satisfaction. Engagement center agents have access to comprehensive caller profiles rich with HCRM data, giving them the information necessary to tailor conversations to the individual and successfully engage them with content that resonates. In this way, the engagement center supports acquisition and retention, drives high-value service line growth and extends patient lifetime value.
Engagement centers also complement other communication channels like email and social media to connect touchpoints and create smooth, cross-channel engagement journeys. It also makes cross-selling and upselling simpler, as agents have key information in front of them to provide an experience that builds on past interactions.
The hospital call center presents a valuable opportunity to transform from cost center to profit center when integrated with specialized technology platforms, data and analytics, and properly-trained representatives. By transforming a traditional call center into an engagement center, heath systems can deliver on-the-fly, highly-personalized patient experiences, thus increasing patient acquisition and retention and driving revenue.