Healthcare Contact Centers Need a Checkup

January 29, 2016

Call centers always seem to get a bad rap, and maybe there’s a reason for that. Think about it: No one calls up when they’re happy. There’s usually a problem involved, and an unhappy caller on the other end. But that should just serve to give staffers a reason to be empathetic and help the caller out.

Now, for one segment of the market, there’s a new financial incentive as well.

In a recent piece on, writer Daniella Koren took a look at call centers in the healthcare industry, and spelled out why they must pay particular attention to ensuring customers have a positive experience when they call in.

Koren notes that “The Affordable Care Act outlines that CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services) hold back one percent of reimbursements to hospitals in the U.S. each year. This one percent is redistributed as a reward to top-performing hospitals and taken away from poor performers. Thirty percent of what makes a hospital a top or poor performer is made up of that hospital’s Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) score.”

The HCAHPS is measured directly from what patients say; they fill out the survey. And if they had a bad experience on the phone, you can bet they’ll say so.

Keeping that in mind, Koren listed five suggestions to make the call center more effective, to help yield a better score:

Listen: “Call staff should listen closely to patients,” Koren says, “ask additional questions if necessary, and offer help based on what the patient has said.”

Reference Previous Calls: “When speaking to patients who call frequently, call center staff should be able to quickly reference past calls to better determine the patient’s needs,” she advises.

Always Follow Up: Once a call is over, the conversation should continue. “Before ending the call,” Koren suggests, “schedule a time to call the patient for a follow-up of that day’s call, or a reminder call if they are due for an office visit or a prescription renewal.”

Make the Most of Patient Outreach: Communication is an integral part of the patient care continuum, and patients should be alerted about seasonal immunizations, health events in their community, and screening tests they should have.

Don’t Underestimate Post-Discharge Calls: “Post-discharge calls encourage patients to become involved in their own care and can help start relationships with new patients who have received care and been discharged,” Koren says. “These follow-up calls also confirm that medication instructions are understood and are being followed.”

Customer care doesn’t end when the phone call does. In fact, the call can be the beginning of a new chapter. Make sure it counts.

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