Have your ever experienced very high wait times when you are trying to reach your doctor’s office?
Multi-tasking can cause a call center or a doctor’s office to deprioritize an incoming call. In a doctor’s office a front office staff member often has to choose between a patient checking in or a patient calling in for an appointment. Within an access center, callers compete to reach a live voice during peak call volumes.
During extreme spikes in call volumes, it is impossible for doctor’s offices and access centers to up-staff. The coordinators would be fully utilized for an hour or two during high peaks. In turn, hiring additional staff can lead to disproportions in productivity. When there are lulls in call volumes, front desk staff and agents can sit idle. There are opportunities to focus on other administrative tasks related to the coordination of care, but these may not justify the recruitment of a full time employee (FTEs). Budgetary constraints may also prohibit the recruitment of additional full time employees. Some offices and access centers have recruited temporary FTEs to take the additional demand for services. Temporary FTEs may suffer from a steep learning curve and may not be able to fully facilitate the incoming requests.
Some have also utilized outsourcers to serve in an overflow capacity. Overflowing calls to an outsourcer during heavy peaks can be an effective solution if the workflow is simplistic and can be replicated and reproduced without errors. There are variable outsourcing pricing structures. Most of these structures are based on the cost per call. Discounts are given to the client when there is an increase in the volume of calls being outsourced. The aforementioned may serve as a buffer for spike and seasonal call volumes, but may be a costly option that requires rework when the requests are too complex for the outsourcers.
The ideal solution is for an access center and doctor’s office to turn on a queue optimizer. This tool provides callers with the option to request a call back when there is a long line in the call queue. Patients can proceed with their day to day tasks without the frustration of waiting on hold or being attached to a telephone. Patients either request a time for a return call or receive a call back when it is their turn to be serviced in the queue. There are some verification components that must be put in place in order to be compliant with HIPPA. If the patient is using a cell phone for the initial call, he or she can bypass some of the security questions to verify his or her identity. If the patient is using a home phone, the patient must record his or her name for the initial greeting and the system will prompt the correct caller to join the interaction if another family member answered. Upon entering into the conversation, the patient must verify his or her demographics to ensure that patient health information is only disseminated to the correct patient.
Queue optimizers allow for patients to continue on with their days, thus reducing the amount of dissatisfaction they may experience during peak call times. Additionally, a queue optimizer creates an inbound and outbound workforce model that is manageable for both the access center and the physician’s office. Workforce management reduces wait times and unnecessary costs of hiring and training temporary staff or outsourcing to other facilities. Customizing the process in which a patient reaches their provider enhances the overall experience and establishes a level of service even before a patient comes into the office. As technology advances, patients’ expectations advance as well. Today’s patients require more attentive behavior from their providers and their offices, queue optimizers are a step in the direction of tailoring each patient’s experience to ensure their satisfaction.
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