Creating a Remote Healthcare Call Center Operation in the Middle of a Crisis.

Eugene Khazin

Principal and Co-Founder, Prime TSR

The uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in increased call center volumes for many companies, with some industries more affected than others. The increase in calls paired with an entire call center workforce working from home has caused business continuity issues and a lot of customer frustrations as they are forced to wait longer than ever 

One industry being heavily impacted by the increased call volume is the healthcare industry, including hospitals and insurers. But, there are two large problems that hospitals and insurers are facing that prevent them from creating an exceptional customer support platform and effective call center operation.

The first issue is that healthcare is a regulated industry, so there are stricter data confidentiality laws, thus limiting them on many fronts. The second issue is that patient data that providers use to give better care are spread out across disparate systems that don’t talk to each other. Take all of these issues, and then add a global pandemic that forces your workers to be remote, and now you are facing an unprecedented challenge.

Now that we’ve helped several organizations enable their remote workforce, and create a business continuity and disaster recovery plan, I have a few things to share that can be helpful for you. Here are my recommendations for navigating this extremely tough time and launching an effective remote call center operation, quickly, securely, and effectively.

Rule #1: Move Quickly — Utilize Secure, Healthcare-Compliant Cloud Platforms

The cloud has enabled businesses to transition to new platforms without any disruptions. One of the biggest advancements is in cloud call centers, and Amazon is a leading provider in this space with Amazon Connect.

Using Amazon Connect, you can create a secure call center with a dedicated toll-free phone number, defined agent rules, and routing in less than 30 minutes. Of course, there are many business rules that will need to be additionally configured, but this platform allows you to do that as well as natively integrate with your data platforms instead of focusing on custom solutions, which are costly and time-consuming. 

We’re currently working with a healthcare company and utilizing Amazon Connect as the call center platform enabling 200+ workers to work remotely for the first time ever, without any business interruption. It’s not only reduced cost but pioneered how remote workforces can be as impactful as if they were sitting next to each other.

Amazon Connect is one small example of how healthcare organizations are approaching business continuity. Secure, easy-to-use, and compliant telehealth solutions are also available for many healthcare providers that provide care remotely.

Rule #2: Make It Easy to Access Data — Invest in Healthcare Interoperability to Instantly Access the Right Information Across Disparate Systems

What happens when your call center agents no longer have cubicle neighbors? How do they get answers to questions they’re not sure about? Do they put the customer on hold and make a phone call? Do they message an individual or group of people hoping someone has an answer? How does communication work, and most importantly, how do call center agents access the information they need?

The clear advantage of having a physical call center is agents can easily get information from their cubicle neighbor or their supervisor. But, in a remote workforce, the dynamic is much different and requires agents to either be more knowledgeable or have better tools that instantly provide them with the right information. 

And, as you know, in healthcare, getting information is difficult since it’s spread out across multiple systems. In fact, the average health system in the United States has 18 different EHR systems among its various affiliated providers.

Understanding healthcare interoperability, and how you can connect your data sources to various healthcare platforms, is more important than ever, especially for a customer call center operation.

Your customer cares about getting their problem solved, and that’s it. Invest in healthcare interoperability to integrate all the healthcare systems needed to provide a seamless customer call center. The good news is there are effective ways to do this without starting from scratch or investing in custom development.

Solve the Right Problem, and You’ll See an Immediate Improvement in Customer Service

Even before the recent pandemic struck, remote work was accelerating in the U.S., but organization readiness will be put to the test in the next 3–6 months. This is a critical time for your call centers to operate, but done in a way that protects employees.

Remember, business continuity means something different to each person. What business problem are you trying to solve? Who is your target audience? What exactly are you trying to do?

Creating a business continuity plan for a healthcare call center is the smart thing. And when you’re doing this in the middle of a crisis, every decision you make is critical. Follow these two rules above, and get the right partner to help you transition to a remote workforce.