While dealing with new patient appointment formalities, electronic medical records, or declining Medicare reimbursements, it may happen that the front office staff or physicians may not handle patient calls in a perfect way. Calls may even go unanswered. More and more hospitals are also relying on healthcare back office services such as call center support and insurance verification services to deal with such time consuming tasks. Patients phone their doctors for several reasons.
Some reasons include the following.
- Patient appointments and directions – The call may be for patient appointment scheduling or to cancel the appointment. Often patients choose the 800 number as they are not sure to reach the concerned department directly. But if new appointment calls are placed on hold for a long time or routed incorrectly, there are chances for them to hang up and go on to the next hospital. Staff attending calls must be trained to first understand the root of the problem. Smooth handling of these calls can help prevent patient leakage to providers outside your network.
- Medical emergency situations – Emergency call handling requires special training for staffs. In emergency situations, patients expect a quick answer and the appropriate action from the hospital. The representative who attends the call must be able to immediately understand the situation and must be capable of providing a solution – call an ambulance, direct the patient to the emergency room or urgent care facility, or refer them to a physician’s office. The right response in such critical situations can safeguard patient’s health, which builds loyalty and a better opinion about the practice.
- Free clinical advice – Patients who are not up to date with the current healthcare system may regularly call the hospital for free clinical advice. Even if such calls are not emergencies, the staff must handle the call in a perfect way and find a solution for the patient’s needs – whether it deserves physician’s visit or whether to route the call. Referrals to physicians may help secure new patients, resulting in long-term revenue.
Another major reason for patient calls can also be regarding the type of insurance plans your hospital accepts. Well-trained patient access representatives can use such calls to verify eligibility and authorization up front, and this will help to avoid claim denials later.
What Needs to Be Taken Care of?
- Patient wait times
- Call-routing accuracy
- Patient-satisfaction scores
- Patient call recording capabilities
- Ongoing coaching and training to your staff
Just like outsourcing medical billing tasks, most healthcare centers also outsource their patient call center function to reduce the challenges of handling phone calls and improve patient satisfaction. Professional support can help facilities reduce cancellations, improve call response time and call routing accuracy, improve patient satisfaction and loyalty, increase reimbursements and staff productivity.
Several reports also suggest that hospitals calling patients after discharge is a good quality improvement and patient satisfaction strategy. It also helps hospitals identify areas that need improvement and help them ensure care continuity and safety to patients even after they have left the hospital.