Promoting Better Customer Service During a Pandemic

Pankaj Gupta

By Pankaj Gupta, CEO, iPlum

During the early stages of the pandemic, many health providers and patients saw the flaws with healthcare customer service. Patients engaged in rounds of “phone tag” with their doctors, or they accepted a three or four day wait time to hear back from MyChart messages. Smaller providers with paper records struggled to provide access to information for patients who understandably did not want to visit an office during a health crisis.

Chat, email, and phone channels exploded with patients who wanted to learn more about the new virus. The pandemic accelerated digital change and connectivity, leaving many in healthcare unprepared. They had to implement new technology at scale, including videoconferencing, EHR access and other improvements, all while managing HIPAA compliance. As the pandemic continues into the fall of 2021 and beyond, healthcare providers need to evolve their digital offerings.

They need new technology that isn’t a short-term fix but sets the industry up for a more connected future of more satisfied and healthier patients.

Leveraging Technology for Integrated Healthcare

Many physicians and staff call patients using their mobile phones but would block the caller ID for privacy reasons. However, the patient can’t call the healthcare provider back on this line. It doesn’t enable easy back and forth for setting an appointment or double checking a course of care. This dynamic means a less open patient and provider relationship that lacks a personal touch. With a better relationship, patients often see improved engagement with their provider, leading to improved outcomes, fewer mistakes, or misinterpretations, and less legal exposure for the provider.

Companies need to invest in technologies that offer an elegant solution for improved provider-to-patient communication. Look into solutions that provide a second phone line for more secure communication for healthcareprovider staff and patients. This allows providers to assist patients quickly and efficiently, eliminating a lot of “phone tag.”

Enhanced text communications that fall under HIPAA compliance are an integral part of a broader telehealth experience. It complements advanced secure videoconferencing, mobile access to records, and other operations that happen through personal devices.

Implementing AI to Handle Requests

Artificial intelligence is also streamlining healthcare customer service. During the pandemic, healthcare providers managed not only an overload of patients, but also an increase in patient concerns and inquiries. Many providers struggled to provide timely responses, especially for non-urgent inquiries that did not pertain to a patient’s immediate health concerns.

Healthcare providers like hospitals respond to a flood of non-medical and medical-related messages every day, from questions about parking to password resets for accessing records. Providers are using AI-enhanced platforms that use what’s known as “conversational AI” to improve the speed and accuracy of automated responses. Some providers offer conversational AI platforms that can transform service desks. Instead of running a traditional limited chatbot, the AI engine uses machine learning to understand context and sentiment.

It pulls from knowledge bases including a provider’s site as well as Salesforce, ServiceNow, and other sources to provide fast and relevant answers. It enables self-service, reduces service desk and operational costs, and improves patient engagement and satisfaction with their care providers. These types of platforms can learn over time and understand when to relay questions to a human agent if it’s unable to provide an immediate contextually-relevant response.

User Education Still Needed

Healthcare providers’ management and IT departments want the latest capabilities such as text communications platforms. However, they need to educate the user base, so they utilize the platforms in the right way. The end users need education, through training videos and other sources, so they understand how to use the platforms and have context about the ways it can save them time and optimize their health.

IT should work with the other departments to produce rollout content and test the UI of any new platforms to promote steady and positive end user adoptions. They need to get patients on board first, and then wow them with secure texts, instant records access, and a level of connectivity that’s needed for the remote digitally transformed world.

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