Fully remote, direct-to-patient (DtoP) contact centers - linking patients at home with agents at home - are becoming an increasingly popular way for healthcare providers to stay connected with their patients.
These centers have been in operation for a number of years in the U.S. And since the COVID-19 pandemic this industry has grown considerably outside of the country and in other types of healthcare systems.
DtoP promises improved patient outcomes and increased patient engagement. It shrinks capital and operating costs through minimizing or eliminating contact center real estate and onsite technology and utilities expenses, thereby freeing up resources that can be devoted to care and treatment.
In short, DtoP can deliver a superior patient customer experience (Px).
With advancements in communication technology, healthcare organizations are now able to operate their centers from anywhere in the world, allowing them to tap into a wider pool of talent and reach a larger patient base across different time zones (TZs).
I am going to share the benefits, challenges, and opportunities of DtoP based on my numerous years of experience within the health industry.
1. Improved patient outcomes. By staying connected with patients outside of traditional medical settings, healthcare providers can monitor patients more closely and catch potential issues before they turn into major problems. This can lead to better health outcomes for patients, as well as lower healthcare costs for providers and insurers.
DtoP promises improved patient outcomes and increased patient engagement. It shrinks capital and operating costs...thereby freeing up resources...
2. Increased patient engagement. Patients are often more likely to engage with their healthcare providers when they can communicate with them outside of the traditional 9-5 model. This can lead to improved patient satisfaction, as well as increased patient compliance with treatment plans and other medical recommendations.
Healthcare, practically by definition, is on-demand. A patient’s vitals could suddenly change. Or a lump or sore could appear. Or they may have missed taking their medications. Being on-demand, remote centers enable a more flexible approach to supporting patients and ensuring that they are being provided with services when they need them.
3. Access to a global talent pool. By hiring agents from different parts of the world, businesses can benefit from a diverse set of skills and cultural perspectives that can bring a unique advantage to their DtoP services. Without being constrained by geography, healthcare providers have access to the best qualified agents available.
Additionally, remote work has been proven to boost agent morale and overall job satisfaction. This is because agents are given more flexibility and autonomy to manage their work-life balance, reducing stress and increasing job satisfaction.
By hiring agents from different parts of the world, businesses can benefit from a diverse set of skills and cultural perspectives...
1. Regulatory and compliance. To protect patient privacy and ensure the security of patient data, healthcare providers must comply with a variety of regulations, such as HIPAA.
2. Patient data management. There are several security issues related to the effective management of patient data:
- Unauthorized access. Unlawful access to patient information is one of the biggest threats as it can give rise to identity theft, financial fraud, and other forms of illegal activity.
- Cyberattacks. The healthcare industry is an attractive target for cybercriminals who are constantly seeking to steal sensitive data or disrupt operations. Ransomware attacks, malware, and phishing scams are some of the common threats.
- Insufficient encryption. Lack of encryption on patient data can compromise its privacy and security. Encrypted data is protected from unauthorized access, but many healthcare providers do not utilize adequate encryption measures.
- Mobile device security. The use of mobile devices presents new threats to patient data security. Information stored on a smartphone or tablet is vulnerable to theft, accidental deletion, and hacks.
- Inadequate training. Staff who access patient data must be trained in data security protocols and how to identify risks. Without proper education and training, employees may unwittingly pose a threat to patient data privacy and security.
3. Working remotely. You are probably thinking surely this is a benefit (and yes this is a benefit) but working remotely also has several challenges that you need to consider:
- Distractions. When working from home, it can be hard to ignore distractions like family members, pets, or household chores.
- Limited equipment. Remote call center workers may not always have access to the same equipment and resources as in-house employees, which can impact the quality of service they provide.
- Connectivity issues. Poor internet connection or hardware problems can lead to dropped calls or other technical issues which will impact the customer experience.
- Isolation and communication. Working remotely can be isolating, leading to a lack of communication and collaboration with coworkers, which can impact team dynamics and problem-solving.
4. Managing across different TZs. With agents working from across the North American continent and in different parts of the world, it can be challenging to ensure that coverage is always available. These agents also need to collaborate and communicate effectively.
5. Agent engagement. With a fully remote group, you need to ensure that you have processes in place that enable those “water cooler” moments to still take place but virtually.
6. Need for different communication channels. You also need to consider the impact of different communication channels on a remote contact center.
For example, some patients may prefer to communicate via phone, while others may prefer email or text messaging. It is important for healthcare providers to understand these preferences and be able to accommodate them to maximize the effectiveness of the remote contact center.
1. RPM (remote patient monitoring) and artificial intelligence (AI) are both playing a bigger role in delivering and supporting healthcare services for patients. The ability to automate and provide information to a patient without having to talk to a live agent through DtoP engagement is the future and it’s happening NOW!
New sophisticated digital services will continue to evolve and help to support patients and improve patient outcomes. Providing patients with the right tools is going to be key and the ability to get to a live agent quickly to avoid tech burn out.
Contact centers should be focused on the skills they are going to need not only to support these new services BUT also ensuring that live agents are skilled to pick up interactions from where the AI started and handed off. Understanding these skills NOW will ensure you are future-proofing your center as these technologies continue to evolve.
2. Telehealth programs have exploded since the COVID-19 pandemic and have provided healthcare organizations with the ability to manage and support patients at home without the need for the patients to interact in the traditional environment.
These services are a huge opportunity to further integrate the contact center into your patient support journey and utilize RPM, AI, and other technologies to provide more tailored healthcare.
Understanding the next-best-interaction and utilizing telehealth programs to interact with patients before something becomes an issue is the future of healthcare delivery. These programs can also start to move your center to a revenue generating model as opposed to a pure cost.
1. Px and PES capture. Ensure that you have processes in place to capture Px and PES (Patient Effort Score) so these can be shared across the organization.
2. People, process, and technology.
3. Careful scheduling. These practices ensure that all shifts are covered by agents who have the necessary language skills and cultural understanding to best serve your patients. I would recommend investing in tools that gamify and allow agents the ability to schedule their time outside of the traditional systems that centers typically use!
4. Mentoring and sponsoring programs. These are key for ensuring you are developing your talent. I would also recommend a “Voice of the Agent” program that links the agent back to leadership, so that agents are empowered to raise questions or concerns in a safe environment. You can also add this to your overall reward and recognition programs.
With careful planning and attention... healthcare providers can successfully implement a DtoP remote contact center...
Overall, DtoP remote contact centers can offer a range of benefits for healthcare providers and patients alike.
By staying connected to their patients, healthcare providers can improve patient outcomes, increase patient engagement, and reduce costs. However, there are also challenges to consider, including regulatory compliance concerns and the impact of different communication types on a remote contact center.
With careful planning and attention to these challenges, however, healthcare providers can successfully implement a DtoP remote contact center and reap the many benefits it has to offer.
- Connectivity. Connect the agents and supervisors, and yes patients, with cloud-based multichannel, including collaboration tools.
- Interaction handling protocols. These are essential for ensuring that your center delivers a consistent and compliant service to your patients.
- Remote working protocols. You should have protocols in place that support an agent working from home, these should include:
- How they manage their time
- Home working environment
- IT downtime
- Alternate work location
- Escalations and who to reach out to for help and support
- Call, screen recording and real-time quality monitoring software. This is beneficial for onboarding and coaching and providing feedback to remote agents, with intervention if necessary, to ensure Px as well as supporting new application rollouts.
- Quality management software. This technology monitors all the other interaction types outside of voice and can provide analytics and insights into how these are being used and if your omnichannel offering is operating effectively.