The Potential Affect On Patient Loyalty?

Is Office Automation Destroying Your Practice?

Endeavor Health recently conducted a survey of 146 prospective patients shopping new medical or dental providers. Of those surveyed, 71% indicated that if their phone call was answered by an automated answering platform rather than actual person they would not consider becoming a patient of that provider!

Let’s face it: For the most part customer service really is a thing of the past! It’s especially so for consumers in the healthcare sector. Automated phone systems, press this button for self-service, etc. It’s horrible. And for many medical and dental practices, the goal is cutting costs related to front office staff, which has typically been a profit drain. Medical and dental practices slash costs by eliminating personal interaction, using consolidation front and back office personnel, call deflection technology, robotic implementations of call scripting and workforce optimization tools. Get off the call, get out of the patient site, move on to the next appointment as quickly as possible! The result is a reduction in the amount of time their people spend in direct personal contact with patients. It’s a short-term means of saving money, but is it truly profitable in the long run?

We presently work with a large cardiology practice which, prior to engaging Endeavor, implemented a workforce optimization tool designed to squeeze another half of an inbound call per day out of each of the practice’s six front office staff. The practice partners were moaning that it was an abject disaster. Patient satisfaction plunged to the lowest levels in history as the practice abandoned the intimate patient relationships their providers had built up over decades. With patient satisfaction goes patient loyalty, and soon patients were defecting to alternative providers within their plan network. Costs are lower, but patients are disgruntled and revenue takes a beating.

Endeavor believes that it's time to change all of this! Patients...customers want it, and it makes perfect business sense! There’s a tendency to see service as a sunk cost – the patient is reaching out to you. So people say, ‘It’s a cost. Let’s look to eliminate it.’ Every one of those moments of truth is an opportunity to make a difference to patients in a personalized way. For a consultancy who is positive on our medical and dental clients, we see a 10% to 15% increase in spending and four to five times increased patient retention. One of our clients patients recently reported having had a horribly comical experience with her cell provider. She had a couple of simple requests. After fruitless chases down the rabbit hole of automated attendants, followed by robotic interactions with three clueless customer service representatives, she decided to terminate her provider, take her business elsewhere and ended up with a more competitive price as a result! The amusing thing, she said: “I could have easily been upsold or extended on my current contract!”

Working with another of our existing dental practices we are implementing a different strategy – we're leveraging technology not to eliminate personal patient contact, but to strengthen it. We’ve armed their team of four front office team members with iPads loaded with cloud-based scheduling and management apps, product manuals, instructional videos and social enterprise technology. Staff is now encouraged to interact with their patients, and collaborate with their peers in the interest of exceeding customer expectations and generating additional production revenue. The incremental revenue generated (tens of thousands annually) is expected to far outweigh the initial technology investment and the entire organization is enthusiastic about it.

These stories underscore that the human element generates meaningful, memorable patient experiences that lead to loyalty and increased revenue. Technology is at the crux of both of these examples, but it’s not the technology that more efficiently fixes customer problems, instead it is the engine that empowers the people that solve them. That’s the key distinction and realization that separates the decent service organizations from the great ones.

The overall objective is to not mistake cost cutting for efficiency. #weshouldtalk