Over the last year, the healthcare industry has undergone a significant amount of change – not only due to the pandemic, but also to the digital transformation that was already occurring before COVID took the world by storm. And although most healthcare systems have invested in more advanced communications technology as a result of the shift to a remote workforce, another (often more silent) issue still plagues the industry today: patient leakage. Patient leakage refers to the patients that a healthcare organization loses business from based on the inability to successfully capture their business. The causes of patient leakage vary, from a referral to a specialist that just takes too long to a more general unsatisfactory experience with an organization that causes the patient to seek out a different provider.
Despite the variety of different reasons for patient leakage, most healthcare organizations can agree that today’s patients have much less patience for an unsatisfactory experience than ever before. This can be attributed to the growing role of digital communications in the personal lives of patients. Now that consumers can do business with almost any organization in any industry directly from their smartphone, patients expect the same ease in experience when it comes to healthcare. Patient expectations for digital communication are rapidly increasing and if those expectations are not met, patients are likely to look elsewhere for care.
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One of the greatest challenges surrounding patient leakage is the lack of data and insight that healthcare executives have on the issue. This lack of data makes it challenging for healthcare organizations to track the amount of patient leakage they are experiencing and the subsequent impact that it has on bottom-line revenue. As healthcare systems become aware of the value that reducing patient leakage has when it comes to the organization’s revenue, investing in integrated unified communications (UC) is the first step to retaining patients. After all, when it comes to patient satisfaction, communication is key.
Matching Patient Preferences Pays Dividends
Since patient satisfaction plays a large role in patient leakage, it is important that healthcare systems design their communications strategies with the evolving patient preferences in mind. As a result of the digital transformation, patients now expect that there will be digital channels of communication available, as well as self-service options when they engage with their provider. Making it easy for patients to engage with the organization lends itself to a greater likelihood of the patient being satisfied in their interactions, thus growing their loyalty to the healthcare system and reducing the chance for leakage in the future.
Healthcare systems using UC solutions in their contact centers can allow their patients to select from variety of different communication channel, leading to happier patients and a better overall experience. For example, consider the experience a patient may have with a healthcare organization that uses outdated communications technology. The patient, who is new to the clinic but was referred by their primary care doctor, hopes to schedule an appointment online with the specialty group. When they visit the clinic’s site, they don’t find any option for online appointment scheduling, so the patient begrudgingly picks up the phone. But the story doesn’t end there – the patient then is placed on a long hold. Frustrated and inconvenienced, the patient decides to find a different clinic altogether due to this negative first impression. If the clinic had integrated UC solutions, the patient would have easily been able to schedule an appointment online – resulting in the healthcare system keeping the ROI of the referral.
Going hand in hand with keeping patient referrals in network, UC solutions can also help reduce patient leakage by reducing wait times. Contact center agents using UC technology have the ability to handle multiple chat sessions at once versus only being able to handle a single phone call at a time. UC solutions also provide management with much more detailed data and insight to the health of the contact center, even in real-time – allowing for dynamic adjustments to staffing levels throughout the day.
It All Comes Down to Improved Care Coordination
Connecting multiple channels of communication is key not only to a positive, seamless patient experience, but also to the care coordination of the organization. Care coordination refers to the communication that takes place among all of the different providers involved in a patient’s care. Healthcare systems with legacy on-premise phone technology often struggle to conduct seamless and efficient care coordination for their patients. Transitions of care are critical moments in the well-being of a patient. Organizations that can facilitate smooth and efficient handoffs from one care level to another can not only improve patient outcomes but significantly reduce patient leakage.
UC technology equips healthcare systems with the ability for providers to dynamically communicate with each other, helping patients get the right care at the right time. For instance, consider the scenario of a patient transferring from one hospital to another. This is a complex process that involves the swift communication of multiple parties and often has life or death implications. Traditional legacy phone systems are typically unable to support the speed and efficiency with which such communications require. Integrated UC solutions make it easy for all parties involved to easily use chat or speak over the phone with multiple participants on-the-fly – ensuring that the patient receives the care they need as efficiently as possible and helping to reduce patient leakage.
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