How to Make Patient Scheduling Easy Through Your Call Center
January 17, 2020
As a patient, what would your ideal scheduling experience be? How about booking the appointment on your smartphone from the convenience of your couch, at night, when the doctor’s office is closed? Your appointment is booked, and you didn’t even have to call!
This is the type of hyper-convenience consumers have come to expect. While still only offered by a fraction of healthcare providers out there, online scheduling is catching on throughout the market. If your organization is not offering online scheduling already, here’s a good post on What to Look for in a Self-Scheduling Solution.
Long Live the Call Center
While online scheduling is great (and it really is), one thing we’ve learned over the years is that not all patients want to book online. Yes, we’ve seen providers offload 30% of their call center volume with online scheduling, and in some cases even 50% of patients are booking online at certain locations. Nevertheless, in most situations, the call center is still the primary way that patients are scheduling appointments. With that being the case, you need to make sure that patients have a good experience when calling in to book an appointment. Here are some of the key ways that you can make patient scheduling easy through your call center.
Imagine what reducing call times by 43% will do. First and foremost, the patient experience will be much better. Who doesn’t want the call to go faster? Secondly, imagine what all that time adds up to over all the scheduling calls you get every day, month, and year. By reducing call times, you’re enabling call center agents to focus on those patients who need more attention and you’re making the process better and faster for routine scheduling calls.
Automate the Rules
The key to making the scheduling calls go faster is automating the scheduling protocols and business rules of the providers in the scheduling platform. Many times, call center agents are navigating expansive spreadsheets, or even three-ring binders, of rules that tell them the scheduling criteria for each provider. MyHealthDirect automates all those rules in our system and translates them to easy Q&A prompts for the scheduler. Rules automation = quicker scheduling (while maintaining accuracy).
This daisy-chain just keeps on going! Because the rules are automated, training call center agents on scheduling for any type of care is made much easier and faster. Instead of having to teach agents the various nuances of scheduling complex specialty care, they just need to learn how to use the scheduling platform. The protocols are automated and help dialogues pop-up to explain and guide them through each scheduling process. Instead of it taking 60-90 days to master scheduling for a new specialty (or pod), schedulers can be experts in as little as an hour.
This one is kind of a no-brainer, but in order to really make a scheduling solution hum, it needs to integrate into the practice management system the providers are using. Leveraging APIs or HL7 bi-directional connectivity, all bookings occur in real-time, meaning no double-bookings on accident. This also means no annoying calendar maintenance by staff to constantly be blocking time for the online scheduling solution, checking to see if it’s filled and so on. Via integration, bookings from the call center transact the same as if a staff member was logged in at the providers office and scheduling on-the-spot.
But wait, there’s more!
The theme of all this is to make access easy. This means improving the efficiency of your call center while enhancing the experience for your patients. In many cases, the call center represents the frontline of a healthcare provider’s interaction with consumers. Making this experience as good as possible is critical to attracting and retaining patients. As mentioned in the beginning, other technologies like online scheduling can provide patient-pleasing convenience. But there is one we haven’t discussed yet, automated outreach. The short version is this – you can augment call center capabilities by sending text message and IVR campaigns to patients with the ability to schedule an appointment in real-time all with our easy to use platform. More on that in this short video.
To learn more about how to make scheduling easier for your patients through all your access channels (including the call center), download our free guide, Omni-Channel Access: Unlocking the Digital Front Door.