For patients, calling a large hospital system can be difficult and overwhelming. Patients are not aware of the many different channels that a hospital may have and they do not always know the best number to call to reach the department or the provider that they are seeking. Hospitals may have thousands of numbers; often, a patient calls the first number they see and will experience a large amount of transfers to the wrong departments. To a new patient, an excessive amount of transfers may cause tremendous dissatisfaction and even amplify their anxiety. Having a single point of access into a large health system can increase patient satisfaction exponentially, while reducing inefficiencies resulting from the amount of misdials to erroneous departments.
One access point or one number should be in place to facilitate the process of calling a major hospital system, and enhance a patient’s overall experience. While one number is an effective way to channel the initial calls from patients, it is important to remember that is only the first step in the patient’s journey. Patients must feel a sense of ease and security from their first call to the day they’ve completed their appointment or treatment within the hospital system. Providing comfort and care to patients is always the number one priority of all healthcare providers. Walking a mile in a patient’s shoes allows for a coordinator or manager to see how frustrating it can be to be transferred multiple times, while seeking medical care.
Healthcare organizations have a number of tools at their disposal that allow for the use of one number or one access point to be effective. Telephony trees offer a great deal of utility when having a single number for patients to call. With a telephony tree in place, a patient can be routed to the appropriate department based on which option they choose. It is important to keep telephony trees both functional and simple for patients to use. An overly complicated telephony tree will result in the same misdials as having a multitude of numbers.
In conjunction with a telephony tree, a multi-channel call center can be used to provide patients with all the contact points they need. This model is heavily reliant on skill based routing. When a patient calls in and chooses an option, their call will be routed to an agent who is in a pod or group tasked with handling those calls. For instance, a patient calls in to schedule an appointment with a dermatologist, they are connected with the agents who are trained in scheduling for dermatology and if need be, those agents can warm transfer to the main office. This model allows for seamless handoffs between members of the organization, and it provides the patient with a sense of security as well as an understanding of why they are being reconnected with another representative.
Skill based routing and warm transfers allow for continuity of care, combined with CRM and telephony trees, they provide the gateway for more detailed reporting and a better understanding of patient trends. These tools can be used synergistically to create both care paths and effective workforce management staffing models. Reporting and trends can give an organization an idea of how many patients are calling that initial number and how many transfers it may take to complete their requests. This allows them to formulate better models for first time call resolutions, and stay abreast over the ever-changing demands of the dynamic patient population.
As always, when implementing changes within a healthcare organization, one must take into consideration the effects those changes have on the patients. Patients are and always will be every healthcare organization’s number one priority.
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