In today’s competitive health market, providers must go above and beyond to ensure patient loyalty and retention — and the patient access experience has a critical role to play. If you’re considering outsourcing your patient scheduling, you may be questioning whether dedicated agents or a shared service is the right choice for you. While shared services may initially seem more cost-effective, a closer look reveals significant drawbacks in terms of both cost, quality, and security that should not be overlooked.
Dedicated vs. Shared Patient Support Models: What’s the difference?
In a dedicated agent model, a specialized team is exclusively assigned to provide comprehensive support to patients. This entails addressing inquiries, resolving issues, managing appointment scheduling, and coordinating care, among other aspects of patient access. The dedicated agents are highly trained and focused solely on serving the needs of a single healthcare organization.
On the other hand, a shared support model involves a team of agents who handle calls from multiple healthcare organizations. In this model, the shared agents divide their attention and time among different healthcare organizations, providing support to a broad range of patients.
Quality From the First Call
From the moment a patient initiates their call to a healthcare call center, the importance of quality becomes evident. Its impact extends far and wide, affecting various aspects of the system. In this blog, we delve into the value of dedicated call center agents in healthcare and compare them with the shared agent model. We emphasize how the quality of service provided by dedicated agents permeates throughout the system, resulting in personalized experiences, heightened patient satisfaction, improved efficiency, strengthened security, and long-term cost optimization. Additionally, dedicated agents help reduce errors that can have significant financial implications, ensuring the financial well-being of both patients and healthcare providers.
A Better Patient Experience
Dedicated agents, working exclusively for a single healthcare organization, seamlessly integrate with their team, gaining extensive knowledge of services, processes, and patient requirements. With specialized expertise and a clear grasp of the organization’s offerings, dedicated agents efficiently address patient inquiries, navigate complexities, minimize disruptions, and deliver personalized support. The commitment and continuity of dedicated agents result in an enhanced patient experience marked by effective communication, streamlined processes, and a strong sense of trust.
- By providing personalized care and building rapport with patients, dedicated agents contribute to higher patient retention rates. Satisfied patients are more likely to continue seeking care from the same healthcare organization, resulting in long-term revenue generation.
Unlike the dedicated agent model, shared agents handle calls from multiple healthcare organizations, which can lead to a fragmented experience. Shared agents may lack the in-depth knowledge and familiarity with specific healthcare organizations, leading to a generic approach that fails to address patient concerns effectively. Additionally, divided attention can compromise timely assistance, resulting in longer call durations and increased hold times. These factors have the potential to adversely affect patient satisfaction and ultimately diminish long-term patient retention.
Enhanced Efficiency and Productivity
Dedicated agents offer a substantial boost in efficiency and productivity, thanks to their specialized knowledge and familiarity with the healthcare organization’s systems and processes. Through rigorous training, they acquire an in-depth understanding of medical terminology, appointment scheduling, insurance verification, and other critical operations, reducing the likelihood of costly errors. Their expertise enables them to swiftly and confidently address inquiries, ensuring a seamless and streamlined experience for patients.
- Enhanced accuracy mitigates errors and helps prevent claim denials, longer cycle times, fatal mistakes resulting in higher financial operating costs.
- Expertise of dedicated agents results in shorter call durations, reduced escalations, and transfers, leading to significant operational cost savings.
On the other hand, shared agents often grapple with diverse inquiries from multiple organizations, and at times, even across different industries. This dynamic poses a steeper learning curve and can lead to slower call resolution. Their limited knowledge of specific healthcare workflows may necessitate frequent transfers, call escalations, or misdirected information. These inefficiencies not only compromise the patient’s experience but also impede operational efficiency.
Moreover, the challenges faced by shared agents can result in job dissatisfaction and higher attrition rates, leading to constant hiring and training. This cycle of turnover and retraining further impedes service quality and adds to the organization’s total costs.
Healthcare organizations establish strict protocols and controls specific to their operations, prioritizing the confidentiality and protection of sensitive patient information. Dedicated agents, working exclusively for a single organization, develop a deep understanding of these security protocols, significantly reducing the risk of errors that could compromise security.
In contrast, a shared agent model introduces additional vulnerabilities, potentially leading to a higher risk of data or confidentiality breaches. By employing dedicated agents, healthcare providers can reinforce their security measures, safeguard patient data, and maintain trust and confidence among their patient population. The specialized focus and commitment of dedicated agents help mitigate security risks, ensuring the highest level of data protection and confidentiality within the organization.
- With dedicated agents, healthcare organizations can mitigate the risk of data and confidentiality breaches, which can have far-reaching financial implications. Data breaches can result in reputational damage, legal liabilities, regulatory penalties, and potential loss of patients. Healthcare organizations have suffered nearly 300 breaches in the first half of 2023 alone, impacting more than 39 million people according to the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) data breach portal.
Finding the Balance
Having dedicated agents is crucial for delivering high-quality patient support. However, it is equally important to address the challenge of managing staffing levels to avoid unanswered calls during peak times. The question arises: will there be too many agents during periods of low call volume?
The solution lies in effectively utilizing agents for other patient outreach initiatives, recognizing the importance of reaching and engaging with patients to remain competitive. This approach enables healthcare organizations to strike a balance by having enough agents to handle peak call volumes while leveraging the knowledge of dedicated agents during quieter periods.
During low periods, dedicated agents can proactively engage in tasks such as patient follow-ups, missed appointment rescheduling, and education. In doing so, healthcare providers will achieve more value for their investment and remain competitive going forward.
Curious how many agents your organization needs? Check out our T2 Flex Agent Calculator to work some numbers!
The Flex Factor
At T2 Flex, we believe that dedicated call center support is not just an option but a necessity to thrive in the dynamic and ever-changing healthcare landscape. Operational excellence must be built upon a foundation of absolute quality, and we are committed to providing you with the essential tools and support needed to evolve and thrive. Contact us today to discover how our dedicated call center support can transform your organization and experience the Flex Factor firsthand.