Patient-centered care has become a buzzword recently as hospitals and doctors’ offices look for ways to improve the patient experience. This is a big shift away from the physician-centered model that dominated the industry for decades, prioritizing the doctor’s needs, expertise, and perspectives.
However, shifting to a patient-centered model is often easier said than done, given that patient-centered care is about perception—how patients perceive the care they receive and whether their needs have been met. It goes beyond objective measures like lab results and vital signs. It requires a more human approach to medicine through enhanced communication, collaboration, and empathy—all things you can’t measure on a chart or provide with an AI chatbot.
However, a positive patient experience is an integral part of health care. Patients who feel valued by their provider are more likely to schedule regular visits and follow-ups, are more candid about health concerns, and are more likely to trust a diagnosis and follow through with treatment. A more positive patient experience has a direct correlation with better health outcomes as well as decreased expenses.
Obviously, the patient experience encompasses a broad spectrum of interactions and activities, but it all starts with a phone call. It’s the moment when a patient has identified a need or concern and has taken the initiative to reach out and schedule an appointment or ask a question. The treatment they receive on that first encounter is critical in shaping their perception of your practice, which is why a patient-centered call center with agents trained to respond to medical queries is so important.
This expertise isn’t as common as you might think because it’s about so much more than answering phone calls and scheduling appointments. Quality healthcare call agents are knowledgeable about medical terminology, privacy regulations, and digital healthcare platforms, and they also have a range of soft skills and social dispositions that put patients at ease and build a positive rapport.
Premier Agent Training
Let’s take a closer look at that patient on the phone. They may be in physical pain or discomfort, but they are also probably experiencing a range of emotional challenges—uncertainty about how their condition might progress or what treatment will entail, concerns about costs and medical coverage, stress about scheduling and time away from work, and perhaps some embarrassment about their symptoms.
Many people avoid the doctor altogether for these very reasons, but the person in our example has decided to explore their options, prompting them to pick up the phone and call your practice. What do they need from the agent on the other end of the line? How can an agent create a positive patient experience from this first phone call?
- Extensive knowledge of the company’s products, services, and processes. Agents should be able to clearly answer questions about the practice, the medical services available, and what patients can expect when they schedule an appointment or procedure.
- HIPAA Compliance Training. Protecting a patient’s personal healthcare information is critical for the patient and the practice, so an agent must strictly adhere to established measures.
- Effective communication. Effective communication involves listening to the patient’s needs and concerns and responding appropriately to answer questions, explaining medical procedures and billing information, confirming appointments, and gathering important information that the medical team may need.
- Attention to detail. An agent must follow specific workflows and correctly input information into the computer system to avoid errors, oversights, and misunderstandings.
- Empathy. Patients are more at ease when they sense that their needs are important and that the agent is genuinely concerned about their well-being.
- Efficiency. While agents can’t build emotional connections if they rush through every call, part of providing a positive patient experience is addressing problems quickly by avoiding unnecessary wait times and having quick access to the correct information.
Problem-solving skills. A good agent is a problem-solver who remains calm under pressure and can come up with logical solutions as problems arise.
Why Outsource Scheduling Teams?
As the list above demonstrates, healthcare call agents are crucial to the success of a medical practice, and it takes extensive training in several key areas to ensure a positive patient experience from the very beginning. However, many providers don’t have the time, resources, or expertise to provide this level of training to an internal call team.
This is especially true as a practice gets busier, and call volumes increase, requiring a more extensive staff, ongoing training, and optimal workflows.
The most significant advantage of outsourcing your call center is that your partner takes on these responsibilities. When you work with the right outsourcing partner, they have the resources and expertise to maximize your return on investment and provide every patient with the attention and care they deserve.
Other advantages include:
- Scalability. When call volumes are high, your outsource partner can immediately scale up the number of agents available. This type of flexibility ensures you always have the call staff you need without paying a large team when volumes are low.
- Lower wait times. Patients who sit on hold for long periods have much lower satisfaction rates. With a flexible staffing model, agents are available around the clock to answer patient calls and significantly reduce wait times.
- Enhanced medical care. When an outsourced call team handles scheduling, appointment reminders, and post-procedure calls, the on-site team can focus exclusively on clinical work and patients in the office.
- Higher attendance rates. One of the primary reasons patients miss their appointment is because they forgot or didn’t realize they had an appointment. An outsource partner diligently contacts patients to remind them of upcoming appointments. And when patients speak with live agents and build positive connections with your practice, they are more likely to book annual exams and follow-up appointments.
- Improved workflows. An experienced outsourcing partner can help enhance workflows for optimal efficiency and improved communication.
The bottom line is that working with a trusted outsourced call center can significantly improve the patient experience, health outcomes, and profit margins. Partnerships like those with RDI allow you to focus on sound medical care and in-person relationships to help your practice and your patients thrive.