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AI-powered Contact Centers Are Transforming the Patient Experience

Healthcare consumers and patients are demanding better and more personalized customer service from providers. In a recent survey of over 700 patients released early in 2021, 58% of respondents said they have higher customer service expectations of healthcare providers than they did in the prior year.

These expectations are already high; the report also showed that:

  • 84% of healthcare consumers said it is important that their customer service issues are solved quickly and accurately
  • 78% said it is important to be able to engage with healthcare systems on their preferred channels
  • 74% said their preferred channel varies depending on the context

Given the current state of healthcare customer service, it’s easy to understand why patients are dissatisfied. Anybody who’s tried to call a doctor’s office on weekends or after hours is familiar with the delays, disconnections, and endless labyrinth of a typical interactive voice response (IVR) system.

Not surprisingly, consumers are jaded, with 63% saying their healthcare providers are not capable of delivering an excellent experience in a completely digital way. And over two-thirds said that a single poor patient service experience will negatively impact their brand loyalty. Getting the patient experience wrong has a negative impact on your organization overall.

Given that 75% of survey respondents said they are more loyal to providers that invest in improving the patient experience, a promising market opportunity exists for providers that are committed to delivering a superior digital experience to meet these rising expectations.

To take advantage of the opportunity, providers must move beyond traditional call center support built solely around live-agent communication and IVR.  An AI-powered digital contact center empowers healthcare consumers to engage with providers more efficiently – whenever, wherever, and however they choose.

With an AI-based solution, providers can expand their automation and self-service capabilities to not only resolve simple issues more efficiently, but also to better manage complex interactions that require staff conversations, and coordinate care and resources more effectively. The modern contact center can also help eliminate the fragmented nature of the patient experience by leveraging true omnichannel technology that makes it easier for providers to communicate with patients across multiple platforms. When a patient’s interactions on an app or portal “follow” them to a voice chatbot, and then to an agent who has the context of those previous touchpoints at their fingertips, the result is a true journey that powers a better experience, greater efficiency, and better value from digital tools and channels. Providing a convenient, easy-to-use “digital front door” for patients to navigate through the healthcare system, an AI-powered contact center can offer further benefits by eliminating information silos, harmonizing the patient journey, boosting patient satisfaction, and building trust and brand loyalty for providers.

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Growing numbers of providers are looking forward, past what their contact center does now, to imagine being able to facilitate inbound and outbound interactions that proactively serve patient needs, such as providing next-best-action recommendations. Research shows that 71% of patient experience (Px) professionals cite the digital transformation of their contact center as a top strategic priority. And while that research shows only 28% of providers now use AI to fuel recommended actions, 46% anticipate doing so within two years. The trend is clear.

AI-infused contact centers enable patients who might not want to pick up the phone for simple tasks – scheduling appointments, requesting prescription refills, getting directions to the clinic, etc., – to instead choose AI digital agents, chatbots, email, and text. Many of these types of interactions can be handled through automated self-service that is personalized to the patient, rather than requiring talking on the phone with a live agent.

An intelligent contact center is capable of accurately capturing clinical speech and converting it to text through natural language processing (NLP). So, whether the interaction is purely digital or involves a virtual agent that can have a natural conversation with a patient via text, chat, or phone, an AI-based contact center makes communicating with patients more personal.

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AI can also provide added levels of security for healthcare contact centers and patients, including voice authentication and facial recognition. This ensures HIPAA requirements are being met no matter which channel a patient chooses to use. Further, an AI-based contact center can apply cognitive intelligence and sentiment analysis to an interaction to determine a patient’s mood. If the platform senses a person is becoming impatient, it can route the interaction to a virtual agent before the patient’s displeasure escalates.

To eliminate data silos and increase operational efficiency, an AI-based contact center should be integrated on the back end with electronic health records (EHRs), CRM systems, and other relevant data sources. In a case where a patient tells a chatbot that she needs information about her coverage, the AI platform will interpret the word “coverage” and automatically pull up a data source that includes all coverage and benefits information for that person’s health plan. And it would know what that health plan is because the patient will have already been authenticated at the beginning of the interaction.

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Finally, AI drives the next-best actions for patients and agents through automated care pathways based on clinical best practices. This could be a recommendation to schedule a test or an appointment with a specialist. Medical-grade NLP enables virtual agents to accurately interpret when a patient mentions the name of a medication, many of which have uncommon names.

A well-designed digital contact center is a platform for managing interactions. It’s native to the cloud and AI-powered, so it makes the patient experience easy and frictionless while improving efficiency and reducing costs. The next-generation patient experience platform already is transforming the patient and member experience to deliver on the promise of a synchronized, personalized, and radically convenient patient journey.

[To share your insights with us, please write to sghosh@martechseries.com]

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