Call centers offer a one-stop solution for any medical center or health system that wants to improve the customer experience. No matter what the patient is calling for, even if it’s outside our scope, we get them to the right person who can help. We want every encounter to be a world-class experience, and you do that by having patients fully satisfied at the end of every call.

From the viewpoints of the physician and administrative staff, it’s critical that they look at processes and see what to outsource. Scheduling, physician referrals – those are the types of things a call center can take off of hospital staff so they can really focus on what’s most important. Many medical offices are overtasked and over-stretched, and they don’t have enough time for those good customer service skills. If they allow medical call centers to do outsourced tasks for them, it helps retain patients so the patients keep coming back again and again.

We often hear patients say, “My neighbor just went to Dr. So-and-So and had a great experience,” and now they’re a new patient calling us. We want to start the new patient off with a wonderful experience so they too will talk about their experience with friends and family. We work to become very engaged with our patients and understand what their needs are.

When a patient mentions anything that sets off an alarm, we have an escalation process in place to get help for that patient right away. If the patient has a spider bite that’s getting redder and redder and swelling, or they have shortness of breath and a sharp pain in the left arm, we don’t say we’ll get you in next week. We react and get the practitioner or nurse on the phone immediately so they can make the best  clinical decision.

Medical call centers set the tone for every patient that calls in. We know that patients have a lot of choices, and if we are rude or inconsistent they’ll walk away. We can’t afford for that to happen. Hospital and physicians can't afford for that to happen. If someone calls in and they’re new to the area and need a new doctor, we get a match that’s close to their home or their work. We look at the demographics of the individual as well as their medical needs. That helps them get to the right doctor so they’ll keep returning. Our focus on consistency, kindness, engagement with the patient – and  those customer service skills drive revenue.

If you've been to the doctor’s office lately, you know it’s like the “Night of the Living Dead.” Everybody’s sick. There’s a line over here for one thing, a line over there for another, and finally you’re at the desk and they answer the phone. They’re scheduling somebody else as you’ve been standing in line for 10 minutes. I've seen people walk out because of that.

For our biggest client (a large health system), prior to partnering with us, it was every man for himself. A patient would call for an appointment, then ask for directions and need other help. The line in front of the desk would grow and patients would get frustrated with the wait to check in. The health system realized they needed to consolidate and take that task off of their front desk and administrative staff.

Now I talk to many practice managers who tell me, “You don’t realize what you've done for us,” and “This has been the best experience.” Together we have the same goals and mission. They’re happy. Their patients are happy. And their workload is now so much more manageable.

McKesson

About the author

McKesson Business Performance Services offers services and consulting to help hospitals, health systems, and physician practices improve business performance, boost margins and transition successfully to value-based care.