By Stericycle Staff | Feb. 24, 2015
In a recent article in Advance Healthcare Network’s Executive Insight magazine, a Stericycle Communication Solutions sales consultant shares the value of providing at-home patients and their caregivers round-the-clock access to home health agencies. For agencies, providing 24/7 patient access is more than a competitive differentiator; it’s essential for conducting business in today’s consumer-centric environment. Moreover, it’s the only way agencies can ensure potentially urgent calls are addressed appropriately and in a timely fashion.
Meeting patients’ round-the-clock needs can be challenging, particularly for agencies operating with tight margins and already overworked staff, according to Rich Press, commercial communication consultant for home health, hospice and durable medical equipment (DME) at Stericycle Communication Solutions. A comprehensive communication strategy is needed to support a high-quality, high-touch home health experience. The strategy involves assessing the risks inherent in existing communication processes and vetting communication services that mitigate or eliminate those risks.
Risk assessment involves focusing on what happens when patients call the office either during or outside of office hours. It’s important to determine how communication could potentially fail and the consequences. Communication gaps can impact patient outcomes, readmissions and loss of business.
The impacts are particularly important in regard to after-hours calls forwarded to the on-call staff member’s mobile phone. Besides the risks inherent in missing an urgent call from a patient, other previously unconsidered ones exist when all after-hours calls are forwarded to the on-call staff member. The results can be adverse impacts on the clinician’s ability to provide care to more critical patients and on their personal life and job satisfaction.
Services mitigate or eliminate risk
Once the risk assessment is complete, the agency should consider ways to mitigate or eliminate the risks. Two types of services are available to assist actively seek ways to tackle identified issues: round-the-clock live-voice answering services and automated solutions.
Tasking one individual to handle inbound calls during or after hours, or both, can be burdensome. Organizations should consider a call center arrangement to prevent missed calls and appropriately triage patients. Most home health agencies don’t have the time or staff resources to manage the call volume, however.
Partnering with a live-voice call center service is an option. The most effective services understand the home health business and leverage technology and training to develop custom call-handling triage protocols that meet unique agency requirements.
Automated solutions can supplement live-voice services by reminding patients of upcoming appointments or medication refills, monitoring patients for medication compliance and even alerting patients and staff of potential disruptions in service due to weather or other emergencies. Additionally, agencies can ask clients via automated solutions if they want to update their medical equipment or participate in a coming patient education event. These tools can even facilitate patient satisfaction surveys. These services can automate patient communication for agencies, saving them both time and staff resources.
Developing an effective communication strategy that involves assessing risks associated with communication challenges and using live-voice services combined with automated solutions can help organizations control costs and time requirements, focusing human resources on the most critical issues while ensuring patients’ needs are addressed 24/7.