What Are Patient Access’s Top Three Innovations?

What if you could click on a single link and learn about all of the innovations to a health system’s contact center or call center?  Sometimes wishes really do come true.  In the past fifty years there have been three significant contact center innovations…and they are pictured below.

phone-imagetouchtonecordlesscell phone

Rotary, to touchtone, to cordless, to mobile.  Great innovations. Unfortunately for the health system, and equally unfortunate for the callers, the innovation was not for the health system, it was for the caller.

Going from rotary to touchtone, the caller saved about three seconds dialing before being placed on hold.  Going from touchtone to cordless, while it did not save dialing time, it allowed the caller to do the dishes or feed the cat while they were waiting on hold.  It also allowed callers the ability to hit redial when they were disconnected. And going from cordless to mobile allowed callers to do all of their grocery shopping and get their car washed while they were on hold.

Pretty innovative.  In fact, using their mobile phones to schedule an appointment, the callers could place their call to the health system on hold, and drop by the Minute Clinic, or call Doctors On Demand and do a video visit right from their mobile phone.  And then they could disconnect the call they were making to the health system.  And then they could save the phone number for Doctors on Demand, as a favorite. In fact they could save the number to the same speed-dial location on their phone that they had been using for the health system.

Apparently, Doctors On Demand uses this new-fangled thing called the internet for scheduling and video conferencing.  I decided to do a little research on this internet thing.  Turns out the internet is a pretty powerful tool for businesses and consumers.  I started to make a list of things I could do on the internet and another list of things I could not do on the internet.

On the ‘things I could do side’ of the page I wrote; schedule a haircut, order food and have it delivered, pay my bills, watch movies and listen to music, get a diagnosis and a treatment plan, and buy all kinds of stuff. Oh, and I could also read all about my health system and find out what hours its gift shop was open.  And I could do all of these things any day of the week and at any time during the day and on any device I wanted.

On the ‘things I could not do’ using the internet side of the page I wrote; schedule an appointment with my health system, set up a payment plan with my health system, complete my registration, pre-admit myself, chat with a customer agent about my bill while we are both looking at it, order a refill, change an appointment, monitor my wellness—you get the idea so I will not lengthen the list. To do any of those things I would have to call my health system—say it with me—Monday through Friday between 8 A.M. and 5 P.M.

What should the health system do?  It should design a remarkable access experience for every person at every time at any time on any device.  And until it does that, the number of people using the Minute Clinic and services like Doctors On Demand will continue to grow.  And the people who use those services will use them more and more frequently because people do not want to work hard to do business with their health system.  Many health systems still do not get it.

Maybe this will help.  I calculated that the average Lifetime Value of a patient over twenty-five years is worth between $180,000 and $250,000.  If a health system wants to ballpark the ROI of designing a better access experience, send a team of people with calculators to all of the Minute Clinics within twenty miles of your health system. Have those people count all of the people who use the Minute Clinic for an entire week.  Using those calculators multiply that number by the number of weeks in a year—52 for those trying to keep up with the math, and multiple that number by the Lifetime Value of a patient.

The number you derive will have two or three commas in it.  Let’s call that the opportunity cost to the health system of having an access experience that experience that has not changed since the invention of the phone.

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