How Hospital Call Centers Can Improve The Patient Experience, Boost Revenue

GiraffeAt Simon Associates Management Consultants, we have recently been conducting extensive research and client work supporting the great transformation that’s finally beginning in some (regrettably not all) hospital and healthcare call centers across the U.S.

A few very wise industry leaders are realizing that the call center is not just an expense, but can be a real revenue generator, too. They are beginning to see that patients calling for appointments are not problems to be moved along and away. Rather, they’re recognizing that each potential patient represents a new opportunity to promote the brand and grow the business.

Read my latest article in Becker’s

I thought I would share my latest article on this topic: “How to Fix Hospital Call Centers to Improve the Patient Experience and Boost Revenue,” which the editors at Becker’s Hospital Review have just published.

As a corporate anthropologist, I see hospital call centers as gateways to better branding and increased revenue

What we found in our SAMC research was that call centers with ongoing problems show symptoms of a culture that hasn’t adapted to the outside world – and the requirements of today’s patients. As I report in my article:

“I’ve worked with hospitals to improve patient satisfaction rates for years and we’ve seen that the first stop in the patient’s journey – the call center – can set the tone for the rest of the experience. If it’s positive, it can engender comfort among patients that’s further supported during appointments and treatment. Conversely, if the caller is rushed off the phone, sent to an incorrect contact, or treated with disrespect, that can mean the end of the patient experience. While some call centers get it right, many leave much to be desired. For years, hospital leaders have considered the call center a cost center that they begrudgingly need – to handle complaints and low-level administrative tasks. As such, some hospitals have not invested much in them – and it shows.”

Many organizations still don’t see the call center’s potential — and the need to repair it for their own survival

We called 20 hospitals, in search of care for “my father diagnosed with prostate cancer.” Staffers hung up on us, told us to go to their website, or sent us to a contact who directed us somewhere else. Not surprisingly, we were discouraged from ever going back to 90% of those hospitals.

What can be done to fix the problem? A first step: recognize it as an opportunity in disguise that could ignite culture change which leads to more positive outcomes.

5 ways to make your call center a place that not only engages incoming callers but also attracts new patients

Step 1: Determine underlying issues

Before you can make larger changes, you need to diagnose not just the problems you see, but also the issues that remain hidden. One sure way? Hire Mystery Shoppers to uncover these.

Step 2: Put more caring in healthcare

Call centers need to become more focused on the needs of the person on the other end of the phone line, instead of treating him/her like yet another detached voice wanting information or trying to make an appointment.

Step 3: Evaluate your processes & simplify

Considering the many mergers and acquisitions in today’s healthcare space, there’s a deep need to consolidate everything under one system to generate more revenue and savings.

Step 4: Connect the way patients want to communicate

As you streamline your process, you also should adopt a multi-channel strategy and the technology to support it.

Step 5: Acknowledge that a call center can drive business

In this world where any patient with a smartphone can aired his/her views across the Internet, it’s more important than ever to differentiate your brand in a positive way and build business for your hospital.

Now’s the time to make changes to help your patients, your physicians and your own healthcare business

When the call center is embraced as a top priority, everything else follows suit, most notably: increased patient satisfaction, patient retention, new patient acquisition, system-wide efficiencies and profitability.

To read my Becker’s article in full, please click here.