I mentioned that I moved to Portland, Oregon. When I landed at PDX, I told my friend that the number of Republicans in Oregon had just doubled. If you’ve ever added a drop of oil to a solution of vinegar and water you may recall that the vinegar and water seemed to run away from the oil. I was Portland’s drop of oil, and no amount of shaking was going to result in a vinegarette.
Not all my meetings with health system leaders go as well as I might have hoped. I was in the mode of part mad professor, part merry prankster. However, I tried to appear polite. I sat upright and placed my hands on my knees like I was sitting in a pew.
“You know what year it is, right? It’s the future.” I told the health system’s call center manager.
“As much as I might like to hear about the future you come from, I’ve got a hundred people on hold who want to talk to us.”
“Doesn’t that suggest that you have a problem?”
“No one knows if that’s something or nothing.”
“You should put those words on a patch for your employees to wear. Like a motto on a scroll below two crossed question marks. Since you don’t have a CRM system if you need to call someone back, how do you find their number?” I asked her.
“We look them up in this phone book.”
“Why is the phone book on a chain?” I could tell she was getting tired of me interrogating her.
“People steal them. Don’t you remember the 70’s?”
I looked around at her call center. “You appear to be very bright. This is customer experience, it’s not like splitting the atom. Judging from what I see here, this place is still waiting for the 70’s to arrive.” Knowing that I was never going to get her to jump ahead even to the decade of faxes and pagers, and judging that my time had expired, I turned and ran for the door, lest I got swallowed up in healthcare’s version of Back to the Future, Part Deux.
So that was my day.
Many health systems believe their patient portal is a big step towards meeting the needs of consumers. This chart should put that belief to rest. Patient portals exclude most consumerism needs and experiences. They exclude (RED)non-clinical needs, most of the people who have needs (non-patients), and when most of those needs occur. And for those health systems who continue to believe that their call center is consumer friendly, the fourth pie-chart shows that the typical health system’s call center is closed three out of every four hours each week.