A positive customer service experience can turn a doubter into a believer almost instantly, while a negative one can do the opposite. We see this in our world almost daily, most notably with retailers, but more recently in the healthcare space. With the impacts of COVID-19 still being felt in the way we live and work, the greatest change has been in the way many healthcare organizations are viewing patients as customers. Like any industry, healthcare is no different in that it’s a business. In order for a business to prosper, customers need to be treated fairly so they are incentivized to keep coming back.
In a recent interview with Touch Point Media, CereCore’s own Chris Wickersham spoke to host Reed Smith about the challenges and opportunities felt in the industry with regards to patient experience. Specifically, Wickersham pointed to the fact that the operations team has more to do with it than one might realize. Read on to hear some of main takeaways from “behind the desk.”
Takeaway 1: Remember your role
In Wickersham’s role as Director of Customer Support for CereCore, he oversees the day-to-day operations of the Level 1 Help Desk. “IT is the forgotten piece of the patient care continuum,” said Wickersham. “Technology today is really at the epicenter of everything that happens in patient care.” While patient portals and telehealth services provide a lot of advantages to the users, like any other piece of technology it has its challenges. Cybersecurity breaches, connectivity issues and human error are on the line daily.
For these reasons, it’s vital that the service desk representative is ready to tackle these challenges with patience and professionalism. Service desk staff are often the first point-of-contact the patient has to the organization, and it can make or break the patient experience. Remembering the importance of that patient connection, especially before the physician or clinician is introduced, is imperative to improving patient satisfaction, patient loyalty and ultimately leads to better business for the provider.
Takeaway 2: Provide education
Wickersham reiterated the point that a well-educated staff is a good staff, especially when it comes to ensuring physicians have access to critical data that is imperative to patients’ wellbeing. In this day and age, many hospitals operate with at least 10 EHRs in place and oftentimes more, so it is easy for data to live in silos and thus the operations to get muddied.
With proper training and onboarding on the front end, common issues can be avoided. It also helps to bolster the organization’s approach to cybersecurity best practices, interoperability guidelines and more.
Takeaway 3: Think retention, not adoption
As Wickersham explained, the COVID-19 pandemic pushed healthcare providers and organizations toward a change that was going to happen inevitably. The challenge has thus been keeping patients and healthcare workers engaged and using the technology that is available.
Patient portals have so many useful functions, from scheduling appointments, asking the provider questions, requesting Rx refills and more. Wickersham noticed at CereCore that they saw an increase in patient portal volume between 25-30% since the onset of the pandemic. Similar to the education that is needed for the operations staff behind the desk, it is important to keep patients up to date on the latest advancements with patient portal technology and telehealth support.
Takeaway 4: Don’t lose sight of human interaction
At the end of the day, technology can never replace human interaction. It all goes back to the information from takeaway 1 regarding operations staff being the first point of contact. A cheerful voice, a “how are you doing?” and a calm demeanor goes a long way for a patient needing help at the other end of the line. If the COVID-19 pandemic has magnified anything over the past 18 months, it’s that health care is not equal for all—access to broadband internet, transportation to and from appointments…all of these factors play into a patient’s experience.
The good news is that with a bit of education, connection and compassion, it is possible for the operations staff at your organization to take the first step in making sure everyone who logs onto a portal or walks through the door has a positive experience. Listen to the full interview with Chris Wickersham and Reed Smith.