Brian Atkinson, GM and VP EMEA, Five9
The pandemic has made it clear: even in the healthcare sector, it is essential to be accessible and help and support patients via various channels. Remote communication between doctor and patient has been crucial to allow all but the most acute care to be delivered to patients in the comfort and safety of their homes.
But being agile is not the only requirement in the digital age. Expectations are increasing for the health sector to provide a more seamless experience – similar to other sectors like retail and banking.
The cloud has enabled the healthcare sector to continue to deliver services with minimal disruption during the pandemic. But it can also allow greater flexibility to communicate with patients anytime, anywhere, whether over the phone, through email, chat or even video – crucial to providing a more human experience when it comes to delivering care.
Elevating the patient experience
Investment into cloud applications has proved invaluable during the pandemic and provided continuity in a way that wouldn’t have been possible a decade ago.
But improving the patient experience requires going one step further and laying the foundation for next generation healthcare experiences. This means harnessing the best of human empathy, skill, expertise, and compassion supported by AI-empowered technology that improves care in ways humans can’t achieve alone.
It’s not about removing interactions, but about empowering them in ways that enable an even higher level of care and patient support – creating seamless experiences that may begin online via a GP’s website, move to an app or patient portal, and provide health workers with all the necessary patient history when scheduling appointments and making follow-ups in a secure way.
It’s also about creating ease and flow through the system so patients don’t have to repeat themselves – joining up patient information and medical chart history so it’s available. All of this can make healthcare easier, more accessible, more convenient, and more present.
Integrating data and applications through the cloud
So, how can technology achieve such a connected experience? To do this, systems must be able to communicate so that information can flow and create the pathway for patient journeys that stretch across time and communication channels.
When systems are on premises, IT does these integrations manually and it often requires lengthy amounts of time to complete and maintain. In the cloud, however, many of these integrations are already built. Cloud software and applications that offer pre-built integrations with unified communications (UC), customer relationship management (CRM), and other business applications are crucial to delivering this seamless communication, as is supplying APIs and software development kits (SDKs) to connect to other applications across the organisation.
Expanding the contact centre’s purpose
Increasingly, as the health sector contemplates the best way to connect with and communicate with patients and providers, they are evaluating expanding the use and purpose of cloud contact centres.
Currently, contact centres are typically used to handle appointment scheduling and nurse hotlines. But there is great potential for these to become a central “hub” for the delivery of telehealth, and capable of delivering more human experiences that make accessing and interacting with healthcare organisations much easier, faster, and convenient. Crucially, streamlining every interaction can also free up precious time for nurses to focus on the most urgent calls.
An example is as follows: take someone who has twisted their ankle whilst running. A visual interactive voice response (IVR) asks them for their NHS number, does a secondary verification, and has them select the relevant option. They select ‘injury’, which routes the call to the appropriate nurse, based on this selection. The nurse discusses their symptoms and provides at-home treatment recommendations. Their ankle still hurts after a week or so, so the person decides to book an e-visit with the doctor. Back on their GP’s website, they select “appointment” from the visual IVR, receiving a confirmation text with appointment information.
On the day of the e-visit, the patient logs into the link provided. The doctor logs into the system from their laptop at home and receives a preview dialler for the patient, as well as their medical chart and history. They review the case and launch the video call for the consultation. Following the visit, the patient receives a text notifying them of their e-visit summary in their online patient portal, along with the option to schedule a follow-up appointment if needed.
Switching to telehealth visits for non-emergent cases is undoubtedly a big change for the health sector which has often come under fire for its lack of digital prowess. Cloud contact centre software takes telehealth even further, no longer limiting this to over-the-phone appointment, but video visits where patient and clinician can interact face-to-face and with all the patient’s medical history to hand. A more joined up and seamless communications system means more effective and thorough consultations, and greater trust and confidence from patients.
Providing an even better patient service
Patients are increasingly coming to expect the same type of anytime, anywhere service they receive when they interact with companies in retail, banking, hospitality, and other industries. Delivering connected experiences has the potential to revolutionise healthcare, streamlining patient queries and enabling them to be put in touch with the right clinicians and nurses as quickly as possible, saving time on both sides. Whether a patient has an emergency in the middle of a pandemic or it’s just another day in the middle of the ‘new normal’, access to and quality of care can be improved drastically, improving the patient experience, making more effective use of time and resources, and ultimately helping to save lives.