In the healthcare world, there is a paradigm shift toward a value-based system that places the patient at the center of all healthcare decisions. The new mantra for patient care is better, smarter and healthier. Patient-experience metrics play a key role in tracking the value-based metrics used to assess a medical system. It is therefore not surprising that 54 percent of healthcare executives said in a HealthLeaders Media survey that improving patient experience and satisfaction is one of their top three priorities. The values are based on appropriateness of treatments, cost-efficiency, safety, care, quality, long-term results and several more. The shift to this patient-centered model is real. According to a survey conducted by Advancing High Performance Health (AMGA) in 2016, 58 percent of surveyed medical groups and integrated care systems planned to gradually shift to a value-based system in two years.
The writing on the wall is clear — medical-care systems must upgrade their user-experience capabilities to meet the core Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) quality-of-care measurements. But did you know that raising your patient-experience grades will actually deliver higher profitability? According to a Deloitte-HCHAPS study, “hospitals with ‘excellent’ Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems patient ratings between 2008 and 2014 had a net margin of 4.7 percent, on average, as compared to just 1.8 percent for hospitals with ‘low’ ratings.” In the same study, they found that the attributed increase in net margins (61 percent) and in returns on assets (58 percent) was overwhelmingly driven by patient quality issues.
Hospitals and medical-care providers that seek new ways to both improve patient interactions and to track patient quality responses. As a result, communication channels are becoming intuitive, personalized and frictionless to keep patients engaged in actively managing their health and improving the quality of their care from day-to-day. In today’s changing landscape, successful healthcare providers are recognizing the importance of elevating the patient experience in order to diminish the total cost of care by focusing on patient interactions that harness the following five attributes:
- Positive: Your patient’s healthcare experience is focused on positive outcomes that create loyal patients
- Customized: Your patients are individuals who are looking to you for tailored care solutions instead of a “one size fits all” approach.
- Simple: To inspire loyalty by finding ways to make healthcare effortless, simple and compliant
- Secure: Always keep your patients safe and their personal information secure
- Dynamic: Your team needs to deliver solutions that are tailored to patients’ evolving health needs while continually focusing on improving patient outcomes and adapting to keep costs in line with reimbursement while meeting treatment plans
Every touchpoint with your patients is critical, but most important is your call-center teams’ human-to-human interaction. Patient satisfaction is not a fuzzy number but a key, core metric that many payment organizations now use for reimbursement decisions. Let’s step into the real world where the pressure is very real and time is of the essence for your phone teams. They must handle a myriad of questions, events and care decisions expertly and with a high level of patient satisfaction across a range of medical care areas.
- Administrative & Billing Issues: Your patient engagement team must be able make each patient interaction a positive experience, including simple things like providing directions, updating insurance information, assessing billing issues and initiating resolutions. This is where the value of caring begins.
- Medical & Prescription Inquiries: Your team must connect with patients on a personal level to assess their aches, pains and worries and skillfully guide patients to through the care continuum. They need to have the knowledge and training to know how to order prescription refills and when to triage patients to a pharmacist or a clinician.
- Treatment-Plan Compliance: In a value-based world, it is essential for your patient engagement team to be effective care coaches. Phone representatives need to know when to praise and when to nudge with a positive reinforcement that inspires patient compliance.
- Technical-Support Questions: Your team must make it the easiest way to find and explain answers to technical questions — whether it’s medical device support, urgent product recalls or fielding frequently asked questions — your support team should continually instill confidence in your brand.
Now consider that just one poorly managed patient interaction can result in a negative response on a quality survey. All it takes is two or three phone delays or accidental disconnections, and the patient’s patience is lost, feelings are hurt, tempers flare, and when asked about quality, your patient will give you a poor score. They add up quickly if there is a systemic flaw in your phone touchpoints.
Here five key attributes that will help your organization become a contender in the quality contest and enhance the patient’s overall experience:
1. Seek expertise that’s a mile wide and a mile deep.
For your voice communication channels, steer away from companies that are like the Río Grande, a mile wide and an inch deep. For positive, loyalty-building outcomes look for companies that possess a broad range of technical capabilities. But you can’t stop there. Your teams need to communicate in an honest way that builds trust, enables full disclosure to patients so that the entire process is transparent. By building a system on caring and healthcare awareness you can turn every phone engagement into a high quality, positive experience.
It makes sense to build on a system that is scalable so that it can span across your web of providers, care centers, device teams, clinicians, insurance companies and others. Ideally, there will be a centralized answering team that has the knowledge and adaptability to quickly understand the caller’s medical needs, and immediately connect the patient to the optimal care resource. Knowledge is powerful medicine for patients who are uncertain about a device setting, a new prescription, or a new symptom. If you can build a system that seamlessly links patients to medical-care solutions instead of busy signals you will be well on your way to reaching your patient quality goals.
2. Patients take healthcare personally. We must, too.
Customized follow-up care is becoming the norm in patient-centered systems simply because long term health outcomes for individual patients are now being used to judge the overall effectiveness of healthcare systems. To create a customized solution, select a patient support team that has the technical capabilities to provide audio and text reminders, and can also support telemedicine and new monitoring methods. Your communications management team should be directed by events in the patient’s history such as past interactions, positive treatments, care channels that worked, devices that improved outcomes. When you base care on proven experiences, your system can deliver customized outcomes of high quality in a consistent manner across the board.
With time, your call-center team becomes the nerve center of your medical-care team. Ideally, they will feel and act as if they are a mirror image of your staff, matching the personality and culture of your institution.
3. Simplify your patient experience with patient-friendly data.
In a patient-centered healthcare system, we can leverage our patient’s medical data securely and innovatively by making patient interactions simpler and faster. Communication channels that utilize systems like insight analytics are able to access very granular data and use it to create decision trees that instantly guide patients to optimal-care solutions. It manages both types of data, traditional structured data and the looser unstructured data that is generated by call recordings, email, integrated voice-response data (IVR) automatic-call distribution (ACD), CRM systems and patient surveys. Call centers that use intelligent data systems like insight analytics can integrate the different types of data using highly specialized analysis techniques, predictive modeling tools and other analytical software to create customized solutions for the patient. The result is an engagement process that is frictionless to use, effortless for the patient to access with no “pain-in-the-neck” delays that hurt quality ratings. It is taking data to a higher level asking of it the “what” and the “why” so that your call-center team can give the patient the “how,” which is the solution that your patients are looking for. In this way, a patient-friendly call center can be used to instantly identify touchpoints for the patient to better guide them through their care journey.
4. Security is built on trust.
When it comes to your patient’s privacy, there can be no compromise across all your communications channels and patient touchpoints. HIPPA-compliant institutional policies can be applied across the network so that each node, each representative, each provider is literally following the same directive. By utilizing highly trained medical professionals and care specialists, your patients will receive peace-of-mind assistance with a human touch. From training to quality assurance and performance management, having a trusted, resolution-focused team in place is key to drive optimal patient outcomes. Protect data as if it were your own.
5. Healthcare is dynamic.
Healthcare and your patient engagement team needs to reflect the reality that in a value-centered world, medical solutions will change on a daily basis, with the interest of higher health quality earlier in the process. The status quo is long gone. Today’s healthcare model is evolving toward more holistic, patient-centered solutions that promote better outcomes and preventive care. Your health-engagement team also needs to be adaptable. This is a world that thrives on providing “caring” communications between all parties to encourage compliance and to build positive results. Your voice in this world is your patient-engagement team, which needs to adapt dynamically just as your patients’ change in their engagement pathway. They can now access knowledge resources to empower patients and intelligently guide them through the care journey. Another dynamic driving the industry is how institutions are reimbursed for healthcare. New laws, new insurance programs and new directives are coming our way constantly. Here again, a dynamic capability that your patient-engagement process should offer is the ability to change on a dime and balance costs to care in accordance with your institution’s revenue objectives.
Patient quality requires rigorous attention and focus but these five keys will help your team develop a comprehensive patient-engagement strategy that places patient experience at the center of your institution’s approach. The process is designed to drive positive results that are customized to improve patient outcomes by simplifying healthcare in a system that is committed to patient safety and adaptability in a dynamic world. These five keys for improved patient engagement can create a win/win situation for every component of your health team or medical system.
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