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Healthcare Call Center Imperfections

 Some call center failures and future are shared.

· Heart of Innovation

Summmary: How frustrating is it to try and get an appointment with a physician or obtain medical information and you, as a patient, get lost in a phone tree, are connected to the wrong department, or end up talking to someone who can't answer any of your questions? Dennis Reno, senior vice president of customer experience for call center quality assurance technology firm Cyara joins The Heart of Innovation this week to talk with me and Dr.John Phillips about the follies and future of healthcare call centers. You don't want to miss his stories about how microwaves caused calls to be rejected at one facility while calls by patients looking for bloodwork results end up being routed to the morgue. ALSO, on this episode, a special Save My Piggies, featuring a retired Communications Center Supervisor for a State Highway Patrol department who shares a story of fighting to save her limbs due to Peripheral Artery Disease while helping to save the lives of others.

Show Notes:

Open Enrollment just wrapped up and call centers werecenter stage, handling a high volume of calls from patients looking to secure their health insurance for 2023. On the front lines ready to prevent call center fails was Cyara, a quality assurance technology company that helps
organizations, including those in healthcare, spot problems and find resolve of them before the customers discover them and hang up. Show hosts Kym McNicholas and Dr. John Phillips talk to Cyara Senior Vice President of Customer Experience Dennis Reno about the biggest call center failures and how to fix them.

Troubleshooting High Call Center Volume 

Dennis, with 40 years in call centers before joining Cyara,talks about the biggest for healthcare companies during open enrollment is the high call volume. They’re software tests the healthcare company call systems to see at what level they will have a meltdown, if at all. No major events transpired during this year’s open enrollment for healthcare insurance
companies in terms of call volume.

Call Center Success and Failures 

Dennis admits both the “automated” and “human element” can each have challenges. Extensive automated phone trees and long wait times can lead to patient frustration. Also, options may not cover all of what patients may have questions about. When patients do talk to a call center representative, scripts also may not address all of a patient’s concerns. Dennis explains why he urges companies to focus their call center training on ‘talking points’ versus providing a full script. He believes it may lead to fewer ‘requests for a supervisor’ because it makes the call more conversational, ensuring a patient feels heard and their issue resolved because it provides more freedom for a call center representative to adapt to a patient’s needs.

Dennis shared a few examples of call center issues his team discovered quickly and averted. One involved remote employees. When a call center representative would stand by a microwave that was heating something up, calls to that representative were being rejected afterwards. Another involved a series of number associated with a company’s marketing campaigns that were leading to nowhere because the campaigns ended. Another involved a mishap in routing that led callers looking for bloodwork results to the morgue.

The Near Future Healthcare Call Center 

Artificial Intelligence is improving the effectiveness of automated call centers. Dennis explains how we already see it with United Airlines where, when you call, it recognizes your phone number, is able to instantly scan your records and determine that it’s likely you are calling
about your upcoming flight, and the system asks first if that’s why you are reaching out. He says he’s starting to see this happening in some healthcare systems. Some are able to recognize your phone number or recognize you instantly once you input your medical record number. Then the system can scan your records to assess what you might be calling about and prompts you with whether you are calling about your upcoming appointment, checking on the status of recent bloodwork, or if you’re calling to check to see if a prescription you ordered is ready for pick-up. Dennis says more facilities will likely transition to this more intelligent frontline system. Meantime, most have already started rolling out AI with the billing department first as it’s the simplest area to automate.

Retired Call Center Supervisor’s Limb Saving Story 

In this episode’s Save My Piggies series, Connie, a retired Communications Center Supervisor for a State Highway Patrol, shares how she fought for her legs while helping to save lives. Connie was diagnosed with Peripheral Artery Disease,restricted blood flow in the legs due to plaque build-up, in June of 2020. For Connie, she had blood clots that were building up in one of her legs causing severe pain and swelling. Her EMT friend told her it’s likely a blood clot
causing symptoms and to go to the emergency department. The ER doctor, without imaging, told her that her leg cramps were likely a lack of a potassium and to ‘eat more bananas.’ The next day her general practitioner ruled out symptoms of a DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis), or blood clot in her vein and told her to seek immediate care if her discomfort doesn’t improve on its own. Two days later an urgent care doctor sent her back to the emergency room for a suspected blood clot. This time another emergency room doctor called in a vascular consult who had her in for imaging and on the table to remove blood clots from her arteries, not veins, within hours. She was also diagnosed at that point with Peripheral Artery Disease. Since the arterial blood clots weren’t discovered and treated soonest, tension had built up in the tissue and muscle below her knee due to the lack of circulation, and needed to be released in a surgical procedure called a fasciotomy. Connie did lose her pinky toe due to the lack of circulation as well. But doctors told Connie she was lucky as it could have been more had she not received urgent treatment.

To try and prevent a repeat occurrence, Connie searched the web for more information on
Peripheral Artery Disease and found patient groups supported by The Way To My Heart. The Way To My Heart is a 501(c)(3) which provides comprehensive education, high-touch advocacy, and real-time support for peripheral artery disease patients globally. It was through patient advocates there that she learned more about the disease, how to spot a problem early, and critical questions to discuss with her vascular specialist prior to any procedure. So, when she started experiencing symptoms again months later, she was confident she was on track to getting the right treatment at the right time to keep her on her feet. She expresses during this episode the importance of trusting your gut when you know something is wrong and to keep pressing healthcare workers to work with you on uncovering the source of trouble and helping to find resolve.

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