By Stericycle Staff | Aug. 25, 2015

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Timely and effective communication with patients, prospects, and employees is fundamental to success in any industry, but particularly for home health services. With its distinctive service model and the sensitive anytime/anywhere nature of patient care, a traditional phone-based communications process will not cut it. The following are eight ways in which outmoded phone support is failing your staff, patients, and business.

1) Necessity of 24/7/365 Support
Changes in health can neither be planned nor predicted accurately, and they’re certainly not relegated to business hours. To truly meet the needs of patients, skilled caregivers, and potential clients, you have to be on call with a live answer every moment of every day – holidays, weekends, and in the middle of the night. A missed call or call to voicemail can literally mean the difference between life and death.

2) Staff Burnout
Though some agencies try to manage 24/7/365 support by scheduling on-call coordinators, answering every call is not feasible and eats into the quality of life of the people who are expected to answer. Many home health caregivers are already resource constrained and maxed out by the demands of their jobs. Adding phone duty during what are supposed to be their off hours will eventually burn out staff and erode productivity.

3) Reliability
Because 24/7/365 staffing of an in-office landline is cost-prohibitive, many organizations have resorted to cellphone-based support outside of office hours. Though cellphone service coverage has expanded, it is still far less reliable than landlines. If the on-call person is out of range, the call will go to voicemail. And even if a call connects, it doesn’t mean the connection will persist.

4) Lost Revenue
Just as missing patients’ and skilled caregivers’ calls can have a harmful effect on quality of care, missing prospects’ calls can negatively impact your revenue. A Fortune Magazine study found that 80% of people will hang up if they go to a businesses’ voicemail. That’s a huge opportunity lost, as those callers will simply move on to the next provider on the list until they find one who answers.

5) All Calls are Not Urgent
Traditionally, every call that can be answered should be answered, regardless of time of day, week, or year. But as we all know, not all calls are urgent. It’s a waste of staff’s time to be answering routine calls from vendors, salespeople, job seekers, and other non-care related callers.

6) All Communication Isn’t by Phone
With computers, tablets, cellphones, texts, emails, and whatever new forms of communication are on the horizon, having phone-only service is antiquated and limiting. Patients, providers, and prospects should be able to reach you by whatever means of communication they prefer.

7) Maintaining HIPAA Compliance
Sometimes the communication of a patient’s Protected Health Information (PHI) is necessary for determining care needed or deciding on a course of action. But the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requires that all PHI be kept private and secure, and that’s not always possible with a cellphone.

8) Lost Data
With a mix of daytime phone-based communications and after-hours cellphone coverage, each call and interaction with a patient, provider, or prospect remains an isolated event unless the call information is logged or recorded in a centralized system. Valuable insights about individuals or sequences of events slip between the cracks with this fragmented approach to communication.
Though nothing can replace or replicate the personalized service of your own agents talking to your care takers, patients, and prospects, modern technology and increased service expectations have made that model – as the sole means of communication – unworkable. A comprehensive communications strategy, including trained outside agents live-answering calls on your behalf is the only way to efficiently increase revenue, avoid employee burnout, and most importantly, keep patients healthy and happy.

Our customer experience agents are the missing link that maintains clinical communication between your agency and service providers. Contact Stericycle Communication Solutions for a communication service quote today.

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Author: Stericycle Staff

Stericycle has been delivering communication services to North American companies for over 25 years. Since 2011, we’ve been blogging about how to deliver best-in-class communications to patients and consumers – providing practical advice and current best practices for both healthcare and commercial organizations. We hope you enjoy and keep reading!
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