Provider Strategy

Mastering the Balancing Act

Providers must learn how to automate routine tasks to improve their patients' experience.

In our fast-paced world, technology continues to automate routine tasks in an effort to help us be efficient. Companies gain efficiencies and save money through automation. Technology handles routine operations and frees up staff to concentrate on higher-touch responsibilities. With rapid advancements being made in many aspects of technology, it only makes sense that we utilize it to save money, maximize human resources, and grow revenue.

One type of technology that has been around since the 1970s is interactive voice response (IVR). Call centers have used the technology for decades to automate outbound call schedules. How many times have you answered a phone call, only to hear that classic pause, or a robotic, non-human voice on the other end? Probably too many times to count.

If you’re like most people, you probably despise automated phone calls, but in healthcare, it’s a necessary tool. Home medical equipment providers manage large patient populations with the goal of improved outcomes, and experience continued downward pressure on reimbursements. In order to effectively balance these things, providers often rely on automated patient management services. Consistent monitoring is paramount when managing large populations of patients with diabetes, sleep apnea, or any other chronic disease. In these situations, ongoing, regular outreach is critical to maintaining a patient’s good health. An automated patient management service is the tool that providers depend upon to ensure they maintain consistent contact with the patient for optimum results.

HME providers often consider patient management services to keep patients on therapy and increase resupply revenue. For many providers, the decision often comes to a head when manual processes aren’t keeping up with patient needs. Managing large populations properly is no simple task. Not only must the provider maintain up-to-date information on the status of the patient’s health, they must know when new supplies are needed and ensure they’re receiving them on time. Choosing to utilize patient management services brings up many questions:

  • Will the patient management system help you foster better patient relationships?
  • Will it be user-friendly and accomplish your established goals?
  • Will automating routine tasks increase your staff’s productivity?

HME providers must understand where the tipping point lies between their ability to serve patients well and not anticipating patient’s needs well enough. Here’s where a simple, yet effective calculation can help. Evaluate your current program’s patient population and resupply growth rates. The two growth rates should be the same. If your population is growing faster than your resupply revenue, it might be time to consider utilizing a patient management service to automate your outreach. If you’re already using a service and you’re not seeing resupply growth, it may be time to look for a new one.

Automate Routine Tasks to Save Money

Automating patient outreach saves time and money by redirecting your staff to more important activities, such as handing patient intake and education. In addition to cost savings, HME providers often see a significant uptick in resupply revenue, especially if they were underserving their current population. It is a simple formula: the more patients you’re able to reach on a regular basis, the better you’re able to meet their resupply needs, and the more consistent you’ll be with orders and shipments.

By understanding your tipping point and how automating your outreach efforts can help your business grow, you are that much closer to developing a good relationship with technology. Specifically, you can see results in patient satisfaction levels and how that affects business growth. But, there is one more important thing to consider; does the solution make the patient’s experience positive and easy?

Seek Solutions that Put Patients First

After you’ve addressed the business need for automated outreach, the single most important question you can ask yourself is: will the patient management service improve the way you connect with your patients? This is a key question, namely because of one of my very first statements: most people hate non-human, automated phone services. They’re annoying, bothersome, and oftentimes don’t achieve the results intended because there wasn’t much thought put into the experience.

A great place to start is by thinking about how your patients want to be communicated with. Make their experience with your outreach an easy one. Your goal is to engage with your patients on a consistent basis. When you think about it, they have the very same goal. They want to be able to order the supplies and equipment they need, when they need it. They want to be able to reach a live person at any time in the process. The ordering process should be one where a patient can visit a website and order online, or call in to a toll-free number and reach a live person. When the patient is on the receiving end of a phone call, they want to be reached at a time that is convenient for them. They also want to choose the way they receive that interaction, whether it be via an automated call, live call, email or text.

Not all outreach solutions provide an easy way for patients to choose their outreach method, let alone the time of day or day of the week they’d like to receive calls. These are considerations paramount to your decision, because if your patients become frustrated by the outreach and ordering process, you’ll find yourself right back at ground zero.

Achieving The Delicate Balance

When you’re able to find a good way to balance automation with the patient experience, you’ve struck gold. Not only is the patient well-served and adhering to therapy, you’re freeing up your staff to manage critical patient intake processes and letting technology handle routine outreach. Finding the right outreach partner means ensuring that they are patient-focused, enabling communications to take place that fit the patient’s unique needs. When that happens, your patients thrive, your business thrives, and that’s what it’s all about.

This article originally appeared in the February 2015 issue of HME Business.

About the Author

Matthew Dolph is CEO for CareTouch Communications, Inc. and brings 20 years of service management experience to the company’s operations. His leadership experience with Fortune 500 company call centers helped shape his passion for the outreach experience.


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