Guest Column | September 7, 2018

Medical Call Centers, Or Next-Generation Clinics?

By Perry Price, CEO and President of Revation Systems

Call Center Service

Technology is rapidly changing the way we communicate — not only with our friends and loved ones, but with businesses as well. As mobile devices expand in both quantity and capability, technology is now impacting nearly every facet of our lives. For example, conversations that used to happen face-to-face are now occurring over chat or video. In the medical field, this shift is rapidly changing the way that patients receive care from a clinic or provider as well.

As virtual visits become more common — and possibly a standard feature one day — the role of doctor-patient relationships (or at least their locations) is evolving too. Whether it’s a visual exam of a rash through video or photos, an email outlining concerning symptoms or a brief phone call for medical advice, many of the everyday interactions between patients and doctors are increasingly being conducted through call center technology rather than in-person visits.

The recent digital transformation is resulting in a strong patient preference (or even expectation) for a variety of communication approaches with a medical provider, such as chat, text, SMS, video, audio, screen share, etc. As this trend continues, medical call centers are beginning to look more like the next-generation of clinics.

Contact centers in nearly every industry are making the shift to deploying unified communications (UC) solutions in efforts to better meet the growing communication expectations of consumers. With the vast amount of technology available today, video capabilities specifically have transformed medical call centers from an initial point of contact into a next-generation type of clinic where patients can receive care from anywhere and at any time.

Patients Are Turning To Tech For Faster, More Efficient Care

Perhaps the most significant factor causing medical call centers to morph into next-generation-type clinics is the abundance of technology that exists in the lives of patients in the U.S. today — as the majority of the population is now tied to a mobile device throughout the day, either for work or personal reasons.

This reliance on technology has created a shift in the expectations that patients have for how, and when, they’re able to communicate with their local clinic or provider. While 10 years ago patients might have been satisfied with calling into a clinic to schedule an appointment, today’s tech-savvy patients expect more convenience — not only being able to schedule an appointment in real-time from their mobile device, but also to chat/message with a nurse or provider about minor health issues. As a result, streamlining an initial conversation regarding symptoms or the logistics of scheduling an appointment (virtually, of course) on the first point of contact is appealing to both parties as it also provides faster, more efficient care.

UC Solutions Answer The Call For Flexibility & Facilitate Real-Time Care

In a conversation between the Thomas Jefferson University President Steve Klasko and a medical student at Wharton University, Klasko noted that in 20 years 80 percent of doctors’ tasks will be replaced by artificial intelligence (AI) such as IBM Watson and that the related importance of skills like empathy can’t be replaced. This statistic points to the abundant power that unified communications can have in healthcare specifically, since the integration of a variety of multimedia types is the secret to medical call centers enhancing the level of service and care that a healthcare organization can offer to patients.

To envision what this might look like, consider the following: Sonya has been experiencing a rash on her neck for the last couple of days, but has been putting off going into her local clinic to see a provider due to her hectic schedule and the assumption that she would not be able to get a same-day appointment. As it turns out, her clinic has a medical call center that utilizes a UC solution, so Sonya is able to use the clinic’s app on her smartphone and start chatting with a nurse about her symptoms. Sonya then sends an image of the rash to the nurse securely, with her health information protected. The nurse can diagnose the condition and prescribe her a cream that Sonya can pick up at the nearest pharmacy.

Where a medical call center of the past with a legacy telephony system could only help Sonya schedule an appointment for a day or week later, the medical call center of today is able to function as a virtual clinic to give Sonya care in real-time and in her preferred mode of communication.

Video Capabilities = Expanded Reach Of Care

Along with expanding a medical call center’s functionality past limited scheduling options and into a front line of defense for routine medical visits, UC technology can also significantly expand the reach of care to a greater patient population — even outside of a local community. According to a report from Tratica, the number of telehealth video consultations is expected to reach 158.4 million by 2020. This number indicates the growing popularity of leveraging telehealth video consultations as the first point of contact, rather than going through the traditional process of making an appointment and visiting a local clinic days later.

While telehealth adoption is still in progress, it’s already changing how some patients think of their medical environments. In another five years, it’s very possible that the 21st Century health clinic for minor medical checks could look a lot like a call center.

About The Author

Perry Price is CEO/president of Revation Systems. In this role, Price builds and grows the customer base, recruits qualified talent, and streamlines internal operations. Price utilizes his deep domain expertise in IP networking and communication applications, including telephony, unified communications, call-center technologies, and messaging.