Healthcare Call Centers

Improve the Patient Experience in Your Medical Call Center  

Focus What You Do Based on What Matters Most to Your Patients

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Our call center platforms generate a myriad of statistics. The vast number of them is sure to overwhelm any manager, so we pick a few key ones to track. Common ones are average speed to answer, hold time, and abandonment rate.

We also look at first call resolution and customer satisfaction. Specific to healthcare, we may look at patient acquisition cost, appointment setting, and physician referrals.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Yet patients don’t care about these numbers. They have different things in mind. Therefore, the best way to improve the patient experience in your medical call center is to focus on what matters most to your patients and callers.

Provide Correct Answers

Your callers and your patients expect you to provide correct answers to their questions. Though this is of the utmost importance in a telephone triage setting—sometimes a matter of life and death—accuracy matters regardless of why they call.

Giving incorrect information will cause them to take wrong action or make incorrect decisions.

It may result in them calling again in hopes of talking with another agent to get a credible response. And they’ll always be likely to share their frustration with other people, damaging your brand in the process.

Beyond providing correct answers, they need to believe that you did. This means communicating with confidence. Providing the right answer only to have the caller dismiss it, is only a slight improvement over providing the wrong answer.

Minimize Delays

Given the nature of call center work, it’s not possible to have an agent answer every call on the first ring and never place the patient on hold. Yet you should strive to minimize service delays for those who contact you. This will do much to improve the patient experience.

This means answering calls as quickly as possible. This must be by a real person, not a machine. Having a computer answer their call accomplishes little, except when automated solutions can fully address the reason for their call.

But guess what? Though automated solutions may address some caller questions, seldom do they provide a full resolution.

Beyond answering quickly is minimizing hold time. In this regard, it doesn’t matter how the call was put on hold.

They don’t care if they’re listening to on-hold music because a machine put them there or if a person did it. They’re still waiting. And they’re growing increasingly discontent as each second ticks by.

A nice customer friendly solution is to offer them the opportunity to receive a call back. Just make sure you follow through. If you don’t, they’ll call again, fuming as they wait to talk to your agent.

Offer Empathy

Medical call center agents handle the same type of calls all day long, day after day. They all to easily fall into a rut of moving from caller to caller with mechanical precision and detached emotion.

What is routine to them, however, is real and raw to the patient. What doesn’t strike agents as urgent may loom as an emergency to the caller. Treat it as such.

Agents should never forget the perspective of their callers, making sure to offer empathy and compassion to the patient’s situation. This may be the one hundredth such call for the agent, but it’s the first one for the caller.

Never lose sight of that as you seek to improve the patient experience.

Improve the Patient Experience Summary

Though you don’t want to disregard common call center metrics, adopt a patient-centric perspective.

Strive to provide correct answers, minimize delays, and offer empathy. If you do these three things, you’ll be far ahead of most every other medical call center.

Do this and your patients will appreciate it, even if they never tell you.

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.