When patients call their doctor’s office, the last thing they want to deal with is a cranky receptionist on the other end. Or, just as bad, be stuck on hold. In fact, a study from Frost & Sullivan Research found that being on hold for an extended period of time is one of the top reasons cited for patient dissatisfaction.

Health care call centers can respond quickly to patients, reduce the burden on administrative staff and help improve the patient experience. However, call centers are not created equal. In this Q&A with Cynthia Mazur, Call Center Director at McKesson Business Performance Services, Mazur explains the benefits of health care call centers, how they can improve the patient experience and what differentiates various centers.

Q: Why is a physician’s call center important when it comes to patient experience?

A: A health care call center helps ensure that every patient is set on a positive path. Patients today have options. They can always find another provider. That’s why, on the phone, every interaction must be perfect. If patients have an urgent need, they should get an appointment the same day. A quality call center will work with patients to make sure their experience is positive. Every phone call is important. Companies who fail to train well could deliver bad service, where an agent is rude or lacks the level of sympathy, empathy or professionalism that patients expect.

Q: How do you see call centers evolving as the health care arena undergoes vast change?

“Call centers can generate
an ROI of 3:1, driving revenue and patient loyalty.”

A: I’m old school and think the most important thing is making an investment in your agents. If you fail to make a true investment and teach agents and empower them, despite having the latest technology, nothing will work. It’s vital to have an enhanced training program and also work with agents individually. That being said, enhanced technology such as speech analytics is one factor that helps health care call center services differentiate themselves.

Q: A patient’s first impression of a provider often comes from a phone call. What are some of the challenges providers face?

A: For many physicians, the biggest pain points are their daily practice management issues and challenges such as lack of staff. They simply don’t have the number of administrative staff to efficiently operate. And on the clinical side, it’s the same – they’re strapped. Health care call center support can take a burden off both sides. It is truly a win-win situation for physicians and the entire practice.

Q: What would you say differentiates health care call centers?

A: Training is key. A new agent coming out of training needs to feel comfortable and well equipped with the knowledge that they have the support of an entire team. They also need a solid infrastructure to help them throughout their learning curve. Knowledge takes some time, but agents need to show their great customer service skills on each and every call. That’s engaging with the patient and understanding what they’re going through, whether it’s a wellness visit or a patient with stage 4 cancer. The agent needs to connect with patients and be caring.

At McKesson we have a strong focus on health care call center training and it really does show through – we have a very high scheduling accuracy rate of 99.85 percent. That’s substantial – but most importantly, reflects a pleasing experience for our physicians and their patients.

Q: What type of ROI can a practice expect from investing in a health care call center?

A: A quality call center helps retain patients. When patients are helped in their time of need, they return again and again and again. That’s the biggest ROI for any physician or practice.

But again, there’s also help for the administrative and clinical staff. A call center can work with them to ensure that they get the right appointment for the right patient. An experienced agent can handle the entire transaction and allow the clinical team more time with their patients. That helps every patient get into the office and lets practitioners engage with patients who will return for care.

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