Healthcare Call Centers

Call Center or Contact Center?

Technology Provides More Communication Channels to Serve Patients Better

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

The label of call center referencing outward-facing communications is an historically accurate term. At one time it handled calls from a central location. Hence, we formed a descriptively accurate name of call center.

But many call centers have moved beyond calls to embrace a more inclusive descriptor of contacts. It’s likely your operation has too or plans to do so.

Author and blogger Peter Lyle DeHaan

Here are some of the communication channels available to call centers:

Telephone Calls

Yes, calls still make up the bulk of contacts for most operations. While older generations tend to prefer phone calls and younger generations tend to avoid them, the complex nature of healthcare communications often makes the telephone the most efficient and effective communication channel. This will continue to be the case until a channel emerges that’s more efficient and effective.

Text Chat

Overall, younger demographics like to text. As such, text chat has emerged as a channel of choice for many consumers, and a preferred channel for many contact centers. It’s easier to juggle multiple text chats than phone calls. Also, whereas phone callers hope to not be placed on hold and expect immediate interaction, text chat users tolerate—and even accept—some short communication lags.


While text chat is a preferred channel for many, email remains the go-to-choice for others. Though futurists continue to predict its demise, email has persisted as a default communication channel. Email shines in its ability to facilitate longer and more complex communications.

A benefit of email is that its users expect time delays. This allows email to dovetail nicely into an operation’s workflow mixing the real-time expectation for phone calls and the near-time expectation for text chat. Even so, email users will not tolerate a long delay. A few hours is an acceptable interval, with same-day response being the minimum expectation.

Social Media

A fourth channel consideration is social media. For some users it’s their default communication option. Though most healthcare-related communications are inappropriate for social media, providers should still monitor it to be aware of requests and handle what they can on social media. For overtures that carry a privacy concern, social media can still serve as an initial contact point, which can then more appropriately migrate to another channel.


Though many still think of a call center as handling phone calls, we must embrace an expanded vision of processing other communication channels. This includes text chat, email, and social media. And we must stand poised to embrace future channels as they develop.

Read more in Peter Lyle DeHaan’s Healthcare Call Center Essentials, available in hardcover, paperback, and e-book.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of AnswerStat and Medical Call Center News covering the healthcare call center industry. Read his latest book, Sticky Customer Service.

By Peter Lyle DeHaan

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, publishes books about business, customer service, the call center industry, and business and writing.