In the vast landscape of technological advancements and automation, it’s easy to get swept up in the allure of digital solutions and the promises they hold for the future. Yet, amidst the whirring gears and lines of code, there is a force that transcends algorithms: the human touch. Today, we undertake an exploration of patient support services, where empathy reigns supreme and the impact of genuine human interaction cannot be replicated.
Imagine a world where every patient encounter leaves a lasting imprint, where healthcare support centers are not just hubs of efficiency but also bastions of compassion. In this realm, the directors of patient support centers and patient experience centers hold the key to unlocking the true potential of exceptional care. They understand the nuanced dance between streamlined operations and the irreplaceable connection forged between human beings.
We delve into the heart of this captivating discussion, where we defend a thesis that withstands the test of time: despite the breathtaking leaps of technology, the human touch will continue to play a vital role in delivering excellence in patient service. As experts in the field, we present an innovative perspective tailored to astute minds seeking outsourcing solutions to streamline operations, enhance efficiency, and reduce costs wherever possible.
So, let us embark on this captivating voyage into the future of patient support. Throughout this journey, we will uncover the definition of excellent patient service, explore the latest developments in healthcare contact centers, and navigate the growing influence of technology in patient support. We will see how the fusion of technology and human connection yields real care, unlike anything the healthcare landscape has witnessed before.
In The Future Of Patient Support, Excellence Is The New Norm
Defining Excellent Patient Support Service: A Vision of Care
Patient support implies providing services to the patient that are accurate, free from harm, and compliant with the latest evolution of medical industry regulations. It is already a challenging task in itself, but delivering excellence in Patient Support Services is even harder.
Excellent patient support service provided by a healthcare contact center refers to the highest standard of care and assistance offered to patients. It enhances the patient experience ensuring they receive optimal and timely support, guidance, and empathy when interacting with the contact center.
Service excellence is the result of a carefully planned and executed effort. Healthcare support service outsourcers reach excellence when they have worked hard to install a culture of service excellence with:
- leadership that sets clear expectations and put in place methods to monitor whether those expectations are being met (Percentage of First Call Resolution, Average Wait Time and Abandonment Rate, Average Call Time, Customer Satisfaction Rate)
- identification of service champions,
- high standard and regular training for the agents,
To sum up, excellent patient support has five main aspects: compassionate communication, timely responses to medical inquiries or concerns; knowledge about a wide range of health issues; efficiency in addressing all matters brought before it and handling them with care (privacy protection); commitment to continuous improvement.
Revolutionizing Healthcare Contact Centers: Latest Developments
Patient engagement, omnichannel platforms, and personalization strategies
Patient engagement strategies involve sending proactive reminders, alerts, surveys, and educational materials to the callers, as well as providing feedback and incentives for healthy behaviors.
Patients want to reach out on the channel of their choice—this might be email, the next phone call, the patient portal, the medical App, and so forth. Regardless of what medium they use, healthcare contact centers must be able to provide consistent and personalized experiences.
Personalization strategies involve using caller data and preferences to tailor the call center services and interactions to each individual’s needs and expectations.
Healthcare is one of several sectors that stand to benefit from automation. Given the ever-growing volumes of data, it is crucial to automate administrative or procedural tasks so that healthcare professionals can focus on what matters: providing treatment.
Automations have been around in the contact center industry for a while. But recent software advances in AI and CRM are making them more affordable at large scale. Automations broaden a healthcare provider’s reach, extending beyond simple consultation or payment reminders.
They are getting widely used:
- to allow patients to take appointments online
- to calculate an out-of-pocket estimate for the patient’s cost of care
- to send a regular and up-to-date list of all the missing required documentation before the appointment.
- to manage bills and health information online, from any mobile or tablet device
When used appropriately and judiciously, automation makes it possible to perform procedures more efficiently and effectively.
Remote and flexible work arrangements for call center agents
Cloud-based platforms can provide secure and scalable access to the call center software and data from any location and device.
These are some examples of how healthcare contact centers are evolving to meet the changing demands and expectations of the healthcare industry and consumers.
Emerging Trends in Patient Support: The Growing Usage Of Technology
As they face growing difficulties to recruit, Medical institutions are seeing technologies as powerful ways to perform tasks that don’t relate directly to patient care.
Harnessing Technology in Patient Support
Patient care service can be delivered through technology in various ways. Technology can make health care more accessible, convenient, personalized, and effective. Healthcare automation facilitates faster tasks.
The healthcare industry is benefiting from advances in technology that make a variety of processes more efficient, including:
- Patient check-in/check-out processes
- Appointment reminders
- Prescription refills
- Medical record transfers
- Follow-up appointment scheduling
- Patient surveys & questionnaires
- Patient-provider communication
- Educational information distribution
- Intake & consent processes
- Escalation or triage processes
Since the Covid-19 pandemic, remote access to healthcare services allows patients to contact their healthcare providers and doctors from their homes or preferred places. A wide range of tools and apps make video consultations possible with the doctor and monitor their vital signs.
An early consultation can reduce deteriorated health because patients delay their medical visits too long. It is especially beneficial for patients living far from medical practices or for those with reduced mobility.
In the not-so-distant future, wearables will emerge as a ubiquitous technology in the realm of medicine, revolutionizing patient support and transforming the landscape of healthcare contact centers. These innovative devices range from smartwatches to biosensors, such as smartwatches, fitness trackers, or sensors. These wearables can help them track their physical activity, heart rate, blood pressure, sleep quality, and more, empowering patients to actively monitor their health in real time.
The future of patient support integrates wearables, enabling healthcare contact centers to offer personalized and proactive care as they leverage the wealth of information collected from these devices. From remote patient monitoring to early detection of health issues, wearables will enhance the accuracy of diagnoses, improve treatment outcomes, and facilitate timely interventions.
By embracing this new frontier of technology, healthcare providers can embrace a future where patient support is not only reactive but also predictive and preventive, ensuring optimal care for every individual.
Breaking Ground with AI and Automation in Patient Support
Medical technology has come a long way. Computing power, storage capabilities, and technological maturity create the conditions for cost-efficient and human-like conversational experiences with machines.
Conversational AI is primed to create a massive impact in the healthcare industry, making machines capable of understanding and responding to human language. In other words, chatbots tend to convince anyone into thinking they’re talking to an actual human.
Artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing (NLP) can help to understand the caller’s intent, provide relevant information, route the calls to the appropriate agents, and generate insights from the call data. AI and NLP can also reduce call waiting time, improve caller satisfaction, and lower operational costs.
For example, in the contact center, an AI-powered Electronic Medical Records (EMR) can automatically listen along and take notes during the calls. It can create automated documentation that will be easily accessible for future references and in perfect compliance with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
Another interesting example of an AI breakthrough in Healthcare contact centers is real-time guidance to the contact center personnel. They can keep agents up to date with the best medical counsel, as well as the upcoming reforms, emerging legislation, and ever-evolving compliance requirements.
Appointment Scheduling through AI systems allows patients to schedule appointments easily without the frustrations of a complicated user interface. Patients can seamlessly book an appointment with their preferred provider or reschedule or cancel an existing appointment.
Med-PaLM 2, is a medical AI model, one of the latest technology in the medical industry.
At Google’s annual developer conference, the Internet giant announced a new program known as MED-PaLM 2. It is an AI platform designed specifically to provide answers to medical questions. It can also support contact centers in the patient support industry by providing accurate and helpful information to the support agents in case of doubt. MED-PaLM 2 achieves an accuracy of 85.4% on USMLE questions.
Hence, patient care service can be delivered through technology in various ways. Technology can make health care more accessible, convenient, personalized, and effective.
The Role of Humans in Healthcare Contact Centers
As a patient, receiving medical care and efficient technology is important, but what truly sets a positive experience apart is the human touch. 40% of consumers prefer to seek out a contact center agent for complex issues like payment disputes. Patients want to feel seen and heard, not just like another number in a system. This is where human interaction can greatly enhance patient support services. By providing personalized, empathetic, and collaborative care, patient satisfaction, engagement, and outcomes can improve.
Common Patient Challenges When Navigating Automated Systems
Automated systems undoubtedly offer numerous advantages for patients and healthcare providers alike, such as convenience, efficiency, accuracy, and accessibility. However, it is essential to acknowledge and address the challenges and risks they can introduce into the healthcare landscape.
Challenges in Patient Interactions
First, communication and relationship barriers can arise from reduced human interaction, empathy, and trust. Patients may find themselves feeling less comfortable or confident when engaging with chatbots, voice assistants, or robots compared to human providers who can better understand their unique needs and concerns.
Data entry errors can also occur due to system design, interface, or functionality. Patients may inadvertently select the wrong option from a drop-down menu, input incorrect values in text fields, or overlook required fields, leading to inaccurate information and potential treatment complications.
Alerting failures pose another significant risk. Inadequate or ambiguous notifications can result in patients not being alerted to critical information such as potential drug interactions, crucial test results, missed appointments, or changes in their treatment plans, compromising their care and well-being.
Risks to Privacy and Security
Automation and default settings within systems can be unpredictable, unclear, or inappropriate, causing patient dissatisfaction and potential harm. Instances may include patients receiving incorrect doses or timings of medication, being assigned to different providers than requested or receiving services that deviate from their expectations.
Privacy and security breaches represent a pressing concern in automated healthcare systems. Patients may be exposed to malicious attacks, unauthorized access, or accidental disclosures, resulting in the hacking, sharing, or leakage of their sensitive medical records and personal information.
These common issues faced by patients in automated healthcare systems can be mitigated through enhanced design, rigorous testing, meticulous implementation, and continuous evaluation of the systems. Additionally, providing comprehensive training and support to both patients and healthcare providers is crucial to ensure efficient and secure system utilization.
The Power of Human Interactions to Overcome Tech Limitations
In terms of patient satisfaction, technological developments can improve process efficiency, but fall short of providing excellent patient care. Despite technological advancements, the human touch will continue to play a vital role in delivering excellent patient service. As far as complex social interaction is concerned, human intelligence continues to be more capable than artificial intelligence in many environments, especially when it comes to understanding and sharing another’s feelings, creativity, empathy, and common sense reasoning.
Five key human skills cannot be replaced by technology:
1. Human agents possess the ability to empathize with patients and understand their emotional and psychological needs. They can offer genuine compassion, reassurance, and support during challenging times, establishing a sense of trust and comfort that technology alone cannot replicate.
2. Effective communication is facilitated through Active Listening, where human agents can attentively listen to patients, decode their concerns, and comprehend the nuances of their unique situations. This skill allows for a deeper understanding of patient needs and enables the agent to respond appropriately, providing tailored assistance and guidance.
3. Human agents possess Critical Thinking abilities, enabling them to analyze complex social scenarios and make better decisions. They can interpret ambiguous information, identify potential gaps or errors in patient data, and apply their expertise to find suitable solutions or escalate issues to the appropriate healthcare professionals.
4. Healthcare support centers often encounter diverse patient cases and situations that demand Adaptability. Human agents can quickly adjust their approach, tone, and language based on individual patient preferences, cultural backgrounds, or varying levels of health literacy. This flexibility allows for effective communication and ensures that patients feel understood and valued.
5. Technology may encounter limitations or technical glitches that require Creative Problem-Solving skills that are beyond its capabilities. Human agents can step in to address these challenges, providing troubleshooting assistance, guiding patients through complex processes, and offering alternative solutions when needed. Their resourcefulness and ability to think outside the box contribute to a more efficient and satisfactory patient experience.
Empathy and Understanding Fuel Positive Patient Outcomes
Empathy and understanding are the main ingredients in the recipe for exceptional patient service. Let’s take a peek at some of the benefits they bring to the table:
- Boosted Patient Satisfaction and Engagement
When patients feel valued, respected, and truly heard, their satisfaction levels soar. Empathy and understanding cultivate an environment where patients feel acknowledged and appreciated, resulting in a more positive healthcare experience. This, in turn, fosters higher levels of patient engagement as individuals actively participate in their care. We often underestimate the power of a smile over the phone. It can feel like a breeze of fresh air for a patient that is stressed by a medical inquiry.
- Improved Patient Compliance and Adherence
When patients are met with empathy and understanding, they’re more likely to embrace the doctor’s recommendations and instructions. Empathy serves as a powerful motivator, empowering patients to take charge of their health.
- Soothed Patient’s Anxiety and Distress
Healthcare can often evoke feelings of anxiety and distress in patients. But when empathy and understanding come into play, the mood changes entirely. Patients feel comforted, reassured, and understood—like they’re wrapped in a warm blanket of compassion. That anxiety and distress melt away, replaced by a sense of calm and confidence in their healthcare journey.
- Preventing Malpractice Woes and Medical Errors
Misunderstandings and conflicts can sometimes slip into the mix, leading to undesirable outcomes. However, when healthcare providers actively listen, empathize, and understand patients’ needs, the likelihood of misunderstandings decreases significantly. This fosters a safer healthcare environment, reducing the risk of medical errors and subsequent litigation. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.
In a nutshell, empathy and understanding are the dynamic pair for excellent patient service. They not only elevate the quality of care but also nurture a relationship built on trust and compassion. By embodying these qualities, healthcare providers establish strong connections with patients, resulting in improved overall outcomes and a more positive healthcare ecosystem.
Enhancing Healthcare Provider Benefits Through Human Interactions
Improved patient outcomes go hand-in-hand with the quality of care, operational efficiencies, patient satisfaction, and positive relationships with insurers.
Patient satisfaction is a key component of the Healthcare provider’s reputation. When people discuss their level of satisfaction with their healthcare service among family and friends or share their feelings through online platforms, it affects a provider’s reputation, for better or worse. A patient’s satisfaction may focus less on clinical outcomes and more on factors such as whether a health professional explained a medical condition clearly or whether appointment scheduling was smooth.
A good relationship between patient and provider can foster trust, empathy, collaboration, and shared decision-making. Building better relationships can also help the patient feel more comfortable, respected, and understood, which can reduce anxiety and increase motivation.
Patients can only be comforted by others, rather than turning to cutting-edge and effective medical technology for convenience and certainty. At the end of the day, real personal relationships will distinguish your healthcare institution from other competitors and keep patients satisfied and loyal.
Striking the Balance: Blending Technology and Human Touch in Patient Support Services
Technology and human interaction are both essential components of patient support services, but they need to be balanced in a way that maximizes the benefits and minimizes the drawbacks of each.
Let’s see how Patient Support Services can achieve a balance between technology and human interaction.
Technologies To Augment, Not To Replace, Human Interactions
Technology can be used to enhance the quality, efficiency, and accessibility of human interaction, but not to substitute it entirely. It can enable omnichannel communication, remote monitoring, and feedback collection, but it cannot replace the empathy, trust, and collaboration that human interaction can provide. Therefore, technology should be used to free up time and resources for human interaction, not to eliminate it, accordingly, it should be used to automate repetitive tasks, provide data-driven insights, and facilitate coordination and collaboration, while human interaction should be used to provide personalized care, emotional support, and shared decision-making.
A very interesting example of how technology can augment human interactions in a healthcare contact center is an AI-driven voice analysis. It shows promise as a screening tool for Parkinson’s disease. A patient Support Contact center equipped with this AI detection tool could facilitate early diagnosis of the disease and track the effectiveness of treatment.
Technology to Advance Service Accessibility
Technology can be a source of frustration, confusion, and distrust if it is not designed with the user’s needs, preferences, and values in mind. For instance, technology that is complex, unreliable, or intrusive can undermine the patient’s experience and satisfaction. It should be user-friendly, transparent, and ethical to achieve a balance with human interaction, and also easy to use, understand, and access; it should provide clear and accurate information and feedback; and respect the patient’s privacy, autonomy, and dignity.
The ethics of AI still needs deep thinking and regulation before it can (and should) replace humans and adapt to the user’s context and preferences.
To ensure that your patients feel they are being looked after, you want to ensure they have the right care, the right technology, and personal interactions. While cutting-edge technology can offer easily automated healthcare practices, patients still need human contact to feel valued and safe. By combining the convenience of technology with the effectiveness of human interaction, new healthcare techs tools like telemedicine, chatbots, and AI programs provide several chances to enhance the doctor-patient connection. When done properly, integrating technology systems with human interaction may raise the practice’s reputation and patient happiness.
In the ever-evolving landscape of healthcare contact centers, the quest for excellence in patient support remains paramount. NAOS CX is the trusted partner of directors of Patient Support contact centers who seek to outsource solutions to enhance patient experiences and optimize their operations. With a proven track record in providing world-class outsourced contact center services tailored specifically for the US healthcare industry, we invite you to take the next step toward transforming your organization.
Imagine a future where every patient interaction is characterized by empathy, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness. NAOS CX is committed to making this vision a reality for your healthcare contact center. Our team of experts stands ready to collaborate with you, leveraging our industry expertise and cutting-edge technologies to improve patient experiences and reduce contact center costs in just 30 days.