January 2015

This is Your Wake-Up Call:

Ten Ways to Improve the Patient Experience

The Increasing Importance of the Patient Experience

As more and more hospitals, health systems and academic medical centers embrace value-based care, the concept of “Patient Experience” has become an extremely important measurement of success. It constitutes seven of the 33 accountable care organization (ACO) quality measures defined by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). And it is increasingly being recognized as a key motivator of everything from patient loyalty to how much healthcare providers enjoy their jobs. So, no wonder patient experience/satisfaction is a top priority for 70 percent of American hospitals. But what can a hospital do to drive patient satisfaction scores up?

Patient satisfaction is driven by positive encounters at every point of contact within your organization – and telephone encounters are no exception. Whether the issue is setting or changing an appointment, clarifying a billing issue, asking for directions, refilling a prescription, seeking pre-admission or post-discharge information, or just wanting a little healthcare reassurance, one thing is certain: when people have a positive phone encounter with your team members, they feel more positive about their overall hospital experience. Conversely, when they must wait on hold for one minute or more, and encounter apathy or delays, they do not. Indeed, a study by Frost & Sullivan Research suggests that being on hold for an extended period of time is the top reason for dissatisfaction, and that it only takes two bad experiences on the telephone to diminish their opinion of a service provider.

With approximately two-thirds of U.S. hospitals utilizing call centers to support patients, there are an inordinate number of opportunities for these points of contact to affect patients’ perceptions of their experiences. Hospitals maintain call centers for nurse advice, pre-admission education, disease management programs, post-discharge follow up, appointment scheduling, medication refills, marketing campaigns, referrals, triage, billing and collections. So, it stands to reason that hospitals need to pay attention to their call centers to help ensure the best possible patient experience.

The Rising Costs of Maintaining Call Centers

However, even as the number of hospital call centers is steadily increasing, so are the costs of maintaining them. Couple that with other rising healthcare costs and declining reimbursements, and it’s easy to see why hospitals are seeking to improve call center efficiency by following one or more of the following approaches: