What Is Healthcare’s Yada, Yada, Yada?

My son and I were binge-watching “Breaking Bad.” After several hours, I developed a hankerin’ for fried chicken and last night at 10 P.M. I quenched my hankerin’ at Popeyes. Unable to put two and three together, it did not occur to me that dozens of the Breaking Bad episodes were centered around the fried chicken franchise, Los Pollos Hermanos.

So, this morning, my adroit brain put two and three together in a Pavolvian manner and I discovered that while watching a show that relied on fried chicken made me want to eat fried chicken.  I was encouraged that I hadn’t lost my ability to grasp Pavlo’s signals. The twelve hour lag time I am trying to attribute to the humidity.

Let’s start with a few questions just to see if we can up the angst factor.

Did you ever wonder why your firm has something called a contact center or a call center?

The question nobody is asking is, why doesn’t your firm call it a help center?

The reason is obvious; at least to the callers. The one thing that is known for certain by the callers and by your firm is that every call can be resolved to meet the callers’ needs. What is not known is why aren’t those needs are not being met.

That is why the term customer experience is healthcare’s biggest misnomer or oxymoron.

“Customer experience. It’s a mess, ain’t it?”

“Well, if it isn’t, it’ll do until the mess gets here.”

These numbers may make you wish you were sitting down when you read them.

I met with one of your colleagues today who told me his health system implemented an online scheduling system. The two key performance indicators you should stew on for a few minutes are:

  • People scheduled 37% of all new appointments during the evenings and over the weekends
  • Two-thirds of all online appointments were scheduled for either the current day, or within the next two days.

These numbers are important for the following reasons—hopefully you know these already, but in case you don’t…

  • Everyone who has an appointment has the potential to have a second and third appointment and yada, yada, yada
  • Appointments and subsequent appointments generate revenues
  • Not being able to schedule an appointment generates zero revenues
  • If two of every three people who want an appointment want it within 72 hours, what percentage of them go somewhere else if they cannot get it from your organization
  • If your organization does not allow people to schedule an appointment on weekends and evenings, how many of those appointments does your health system lose

Let’s play with the numbers, and let’s eschew altruism. Let’s look at the numbers in a way that has nothing to do with improving the health of the people who call for an appointment. Let’s be selfish and simply focus on the revenue impact of not being able to schedule an appointment with everyone who wants an appointment.

My first assumption is that the reason your system has a scheduling center is to schedule appointments. My second assumption is that your top key performance indicator (KPI) for that scheduling center is that you want to be able to schedule an appointment for every person who wants an appointment.

So what happens to your KPIs if your employees cannot even answer the phone? What happens to your KPIs if they cannot schedule appointments on weekends and during the evenings? What happens to your KPIs if they cannot schedule appointments during the 2-3 day window when two of every three people want them?

Your health system designed its call center to miss all of the most important KPIs that are essential to your callers. Your health system’s processes are designed to miss the expectations of at least one out of every three callers.

Clearly that was not the intent of the people who authorized building the call center. But how did it become the result?

If your health system looks at these questions from the perspective of losing the marginal revenues of a single appointment, it is missing the point. It is missing it in a big way.

Thinking that every missed appointment costs your health system a hundred dollars is the wrong way to assess the opportunity cost. One appointment leads to a second appointment, and a second appointment leads to a third. And yada, yada, yada.

If your health system misses twenty-five years of appointments and treatments and procedures because it could not make the first appointment, what it really lost was an asset worth $250,000.

That is a really big cost for not being able to answer the phone. People, your patients, buy houses for less money than that.

Get rid of your call center. Get rid of your contact center.

Build a help center.

And once you’ve built that, build an online, mobile platform that makes your help center irrelevant.

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