The New Patient Advocate in the Back Office: Workforce Management

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During the throes of day to day operations, nurses, medical secretaries and physicians are often facilitating communication between physicians and patients. Patients call daily with triage questions, inquiries about medical instructions, updates on changes in conditions, and to receive test results.  Patient calls are typically categorized by a clerical operator and in turn sent on to nursing staff or the physician for further action.

Telephony is very antiquated in the back office resulting in high wait times. Consider these familiar dynamics: web-iStock_000037305950Medium.jpg

  • Clerical operators and secretaries use roll over and voice mail when they are busy assisting other callers.
  • Patients often call the offices repeatedly until they hear a live voice.
  • Patients invariably complain that they do not receive a return call from their physician’s office.
  • Office managers use anecdotes or word of mouth to measure the call volumes by provider.

Call volumes to the doctors’ offices have increased since the discussions around the Accountable Care Act began to circulate.

At a time when consumers are spending less time on the phone overall, patients are phoning their doctors more than ever, medical professionals report: Phone calls to physician practices have increased between 25 and 50% since 2008, estimates Mary Pat Whaley, president of Manage my Practice, which advises doctors across the country on running their offices. Between the economic downturn and rising insurance co-pays and deductibles, “People are really trying to avoid going to the doctor if at all possible,” Whaley says. Instead, they pick up the phone, looking for free medical advice: Physicians “have seen a drastic change in how many phone calls the practices are getting,” she says.

With the changes in Healthcare, workforce management is a necessity not only for call centers but for the doctors’ offices as well. In order to accommodate the rise in phone communication; tracking of call patterns as well as the seasonal ebbs and flows is a must. Trends must be analyzed and forecasted by specialty. Average handle times of calls can also be documented. A practice can examine the types of calls and their length in order to restructure their staffing matrix. Practice administrators must alter their staffing to allow for clerical and clinical staff to focus on inbound and outbound calls.

Workforce management will allow for proper staffing to enable the back office staff to manage the coordination of the physician’s schedules based on the patients’ demand for communication. There will be accountability for responding as well as standard turnaround times depending on the type of call that was placed by the patient. With the addition of workforce management in the doctor’s offices, physicians can ensure that none of their patients are forgotten. Aspect’s Workforce Management has the potential to become the new patient advocate in the back office!

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Bob Trine

Bob Trine identifies and brings to market enabling technologies that improve patient communications, enhance patient experience and leverage integrated business intelligence. Bob writes about all things patient experience.
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