If you want to build a practice your patients actually enjoy working with, your call center is an excellent place to focus.
By employing call center best practices, you’ll increase patient satisfaction, reduce costs, and help grow the business. Unfortunately, as anyone who’s had problems scheduling a doctor’s appointment or getting test results can tell you, a lot of healthcare call centers struggle to communicate effectively.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the communication challenges healthcare practices often face and how your call center can overcome them.
Communication challenges faced by the healthcare industry
80% of serious medical errors were the result of miscommunication between caregivers during patient handovers.A Joint Commision study cited by HIPAAJournal.com
Another investigation by CRICO Strategies of medical malpractice cases from 2009 to 2013 found 30% of the cases were connected to communication problems, which resulted in 1,744 deaths and $1.7 billion in hospital costs.
Here are some common communication challenges in the healthcare industry that lead to these immense problems:
Poor patient communication skills
Ineffective policies and procedures can prevent call center agents from properly communicating with a patient.
Maybe your call center isn’t making effective use of interpreters and your calls aren’t being resolved quickly because of language difficulties.
Your agents may be criticized for displaying a lack of empathy since they aren’t made aware of common problems patients go through with access to nutrition or housing.
Some staff members may get so comfortable using medical jargon they can’t explain a simple diagnosis in Layman’s terms. Patients are left scratching their heads when they hear they have “hypotension” (not just low blood pressure).
Poor handling of medical data
Some of the most common communication failures happen when a patient gets handed over from one medical caregiver to another who isn’t properly briefed about the patient’s condition. The cause might be the patient’s medical data isn’t updated or shared with the right people.
If a patient’s medical data isn’t properly integrated into the EHR, communication breakdowns can result in costly delays and improper medical treatment.
What’s more, if patient data isn’t protected, it can be vulnerable to data breaches and lead to expensive lawsuits and corrective action plans.
Outdated communication equipment
While many health facilities support their call centers with customer relationship management (CRM) platforms, some still communicate with outdated tools like fax machines and pagers.
You’re at a disadvantage when it comes to managing patient calls and sharing patient information without the effective integration of CRM, EHRs, and mobile devices. The communication gaps can keep nurses and physicians from getting the right information at the right time and limit their ability to help patients.
7 best practices used by effective healthcare call centers
So, how can an effective healthcare call center increase patient satisfaction while avoiding costly medical problems?
Employ the following best practices:
1. Increase empathy in patient communication
Effective call centers are built on agents who know how to establish good rapport with patients and display empathy. Train your agents to:
- Listen carefully to patient concerns
- Maintain eye contact in face-to-face encounters or video chats
- Be respectful
- Understand patient priorities
- Allow patients to ask questions
Call center agents also need to have comprehensive knowledge of the medical facility and staff in order to answer questions and direct inquiries to the right people. Familiarity with the call center software and the ability to communicate policies in Layman’s terms is vital for establishing good patient relations.
2. Update outdated communication systems
Adapting the best healthcare call center practices means using an excellent healthcare customer relationship management (CRM) platform to support your call center.
CRM software assists medical staff for making appointments, handling documents, sharing prescription information, and performing other patient-related activities.
Once healthcare CRM software is integrated into your overall system, medical staff can perform work tasks at any time from anywhere using mobile devices. The improved communication infrastructure enables multiple healthcare providers to work in tandem for the benefit of all patients.
3. Offer patients multiple communication options
These days, people communicate through a lot of different mediums, including email, phone, video chat, live chat, and social media.
By offering patients the option to communicate with your call center through multiple channels, you increase the convenience and improve the patient experience. Options like video chat also offer easier ways to demonstrate medical procedures that might be harder to convey over an ordinary phone call.
It’s also important to maintain a constantly updated EHR that’s shared among call center agents. This ensures your agents know who they’re talking to and what information they need to provide, improving patient-staff rapport.
4. Integrate the CRM system with the practice management software
By integrating your call center’s CRM system into your front office’s practice management software, you can automate tasks including appointment setting, rescheduling, and sending out appointment reminders. This frees up your staff to offer better in-person support, lowers miscommunication, and increases the likelihood of patients showing-up for their appointments.
5. Monitor call quality
To ensure your call center service standards are being upheld, monitor call quality. Record all inbound and outbound calls and make sure patient inquiries are routed to the right departments.
And don’t forget to ask for feedback from your agents! After answering hundreds of calls, your agents have a unique insight into what phrases work best for establishing rapport with callers and the type of terms callers understand the best. All of this can benefit your call center training and improve patient interactions with your agents.
6. Gather and listen to patient feedback
Offer patient surveys to gain their perspective on your call center. Discover what type of services, like automated appointment setting, they need the most. By listening to feedback, your call center can evolve in a way that’s mutually beneficial to staff and patients.
7. Ensure your call center is HIPAA compliant
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 requires health care providers, organizations, and business associates to ensure the security of protected health information (PHI) being transferred, handled, or shared.
Building an effective healthcare call center
The modern healthcare industry requires multiple medical caregivers to work in tandem while treating the same patient. This requires medical staff to have regular access to up-to-date information at all times. Improving call center policies and adopting an effective healthcare CRM platform helps improve workplace communication and ensures a healthier working environment.