7 Little Changes That’ll Make a Big Difference With Your Hospital Contact Center

Majority of the patients prefer to connect and talk to a hospital representative over the phone in spite of the advancements and introduction of chatbots and AI engines. In the time of distress, it is natural to have human interaction and reassurance, which dissolves most of the anxiety and ambiguity. 

In most of the modern hospitals there exists a telephone EPABX and intercom framework for structured internal communication. The external communication through inbound telephone calls needs a streamlined workflow, and systematic log mechanism to keep a track on the number of missed calls, type of calls, proper tracking for quality and training among the front office. In many cases these records come in handy incase of medico legal matters.

 

Majority of the small, mid size and large hospitals have an in-house front office team. However, all the hospital administrators or hospital owner-doctors indicate a high amount of attrition in front office staff leading to high costs in training and drop in communication chain against the set internal policy. In many cases, it is being observed that some hospitals and health service providers choose to delegate contact center work process, staffing and training to a third party service provider which has its own set of advantages and disadvantages.

While most of  the hospitals have an in-house front office team, the traditional intercom system is not able to keep pace with the smartphone revolution. Doctors, nurses Hospital staff start communicating using several private chat and messaging systems outside of the legacy EMR or HIS systems, complicating the communication channels, inability to track details of message exchanges for accountability purposes. This may also be against the communication and patient privacy policy regional laws, opening up a new channel for medico-legal lapse. 

 

With this background, it is recommended by a team of policy and hospital administration experts that modern 21st century hospitals should adapt the following :

  1. Transition from paper / emr/ traditional his systems to a contemporary hospital operating system.
  2. Introduce administrative policies preventing hospital staff from exchanging patient related data on private chat / messaging systems.
  3. Adapt a seamless unified digital platform which is a streamlined single window for all internal and external communications.
  4. Track inbound patient communication, missed calls, outbound calls using an advanced contact center system, get more professional. 
  5. To solve the staff attrition problem, choose a system which does not require intense training. Any new staff with basic telephone and computer skills should be able to adapt to the new system. 
  6. Smartphones are a new normal, millenials / gen x / gen y are going to be the major workforce in the coming decades. Instead of forcing them to adapt to a 4 decade old system, the hospitals need to transform their software to work across devices while maintaining the required security. 
  7. The front office and billing department and the clinical services teams should be able to communicate seamlessly to ensure patient experience is enhanced. Modern day hospitals need to look at adapting a patient centric platform which has the ability to provide single window tool to manage the patient journey 

Budget 2021 and Digital Health

In the 2021 budget, healthcare has been the key focus area. With an increase of 137%, the amount earmarked for healthcare for 2021 is Rs 2,23,846 crore. Specifically, the government wants to strengthen its focus on ‘preventive health, curative health and overall wellbeing’ for all the citizens of this country. 

 

The 2021 budget has given an enormous boost to the initiatives of m16 Labs. From our inception, we have worked on making healthcare more accessible in Tier II and Tier III cities. And in the process, we have worked to reduce healthcare costs and improve quality in care provision.

 

Since our technology integrates all aspects of care provision, it enables reduction in healthcare costs through avoiding the duplication of efforts in care facilities. On the other hand, it improves care quality for patient through enabling coordination among providers, and by making information accessible to patients across the care continuum. The use case of a PHC in Karnataka is a testimony to how our solutions can make care accessible to the last mile, while improving quality and reducing costs. 

 

Use Case: A PHC in Karnataka   

Dr. Sathish Pai, Consultant Dermatologist at a super speciality hospital and, Mr. Harish, Chief Pharmacist at a Primary Health Care Centre decided to provide free teleconsultations using WhatsApp for the villagers in a remote region of Shimoga District in Karnataka. 

 

Due to the lack of hospitals in the area, the villagers would have to travel a long way to consult a specialist doctor in the city. Initially, Mr. Harish collected the patient data, such as the patient name, previous history, symptoms, and pictures of the affected area. Then, he sent them to Dr. Sathish via WhatsApp. After a thorough analysis of the pictures and symptoms of the patient, he established a diagnosis and sends across the prescription, only if the ailment is treatable through teleconsultation or else the patient is asked to either consult him in-person or is suggested to see a doctor nearby in their area. 

 

The process was strenuous and required to keep multiple documents on a day-to-day basis like patient details, diagnosis, and physical consent forms which the Government has made mandatory for the patient to sign to show they are willing to receive teleconsultation.

 

With Primary Health Care Centres now providing easy accessibility to super speciality services, patients suffering from diseases need not travel to hospitals in the city to seek treatment instead can stop by the PHC and obtain quality treatment free of cost and once cured can resume their day-to-day work without causing a hindrance to their survival. Given the current situation, it won’t be wrong to say that telemedicine has indeed augmented health care delivery in India especially in such trying times.

 

Referral Management Systems: Will they ever Rule the World?

 

Background 

In most countries, the two main types of care facilities include clinics and hospitals. As gatekeepers, clinics are expected to provide services for uncomplicated cases. From the clinics, the more serious cases are referred to the hospitals. This pyramid of care facilities results in reducing costs for the payer and improving quality of care within the health system. Apart from the transition from primary to specialist care, referrals occur from specialist to specialist care or from an inpatient setting to emergency care. This post looks at the challenges and enablers to electronic referral management systems. 

Referral Management System 

The WHO defines a referral ‘as a process in which a health worker at one level of the health system […] seeks the assistance of a better or differently resourced facility at the same or higher level to assist in, or take over the management of, the client’s case’. Broadly, the usage of referral management systems is carried out to improve health outcomes by monitoring the patient’s journey across the care pathway. 

 

Since the need for referrals occurs due to the escalation in need or change in diagnosis, referral management systems play a critical role in effective care provision. 

 

Challenges to Referral Management Systems 

The key challenges to referral management include: 

 

  • Care provision in clinics is considered to be of a lower quality. This results in people seeking care directly at the tertiary facility.
  • Impersonalized system of record keeping, which results in patients feeling lost. 
  • Paper records result in difficulties in data collection and storage. Because of these problems, there is a lack of accurate information. 
  • The presence of different languages and standards in healthcare creates difficulties in making use of stored information to improve health outcomes.
  • The presence of different record keeping mechanisms results in the fragmentation of information.
  • Difficulties in managing care systems.

 

Enablers of Referral Management Systems:

To a large extent, problems in referral management systems can be overcome with the usage of electronic patient records. 

 

  • Electronic record keeping mechanisms result in increased transparency in care systems.  This increases patient trust.  
  • Information is streamlined through different languages, standards, and record keeping mechanisms in order to improve health outcomes. 
  • Maintaining both provider directories and patient records is easier digitally. 
  • Communication between care providers is streamlined through the use of a single platform. 

 

In conclusion, referral management systems are effective tools for improving quality of care provision, and reducing costs. Despite its effectiveness, several challenges hinder the effectiveness of referral management systems. However, these problems can be overcome with the usage of technologies, which streamline information to improve outcomes. 

 

Sources:

Bossyns P and Van Lerberghe W, 2004, The weakest link: competence and prestige as constraints to referral by isolated nurses in rural Niger, in Human Resources for Health 2004, 2-1, available on line at: http://www.human-resources-health.com/content/pdf/1478-4491-2-1.pdf

Cervantes K, Salgado R, Choi M and Kalter H. 2003 Rapid Assessment of Referral Care Systems: A Guide for Program Managers, published by the Basic Support for Institutionalizing Child Survival Project (BASICS II) for the United States Agency for International Development, Arlington, Virginia, available on line at: http://www.jsi.com/Managed/Docs/Publications/WomensHealth/PNACW615.pdf

Department of Health, Republic of South Africa, 2003, The Clinic Supervisor’s Manual, Version 3, see Section 6: Referral System Guidelines, available on line at: http://www.doh.gov.za/docs/factsheets/guidelines/clinical/index.html 

Barnett M, Sirui S, Landon B. Trends in Physician Referrals in the United States. Arch Intern Med. 2012; 172(2): 163-170. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2011.722.