A successful outbound calling strategy can be transformational for healthcare providers of all types and sizes. From the smallest community health center, to the largest hospital system, you need to be able to get and stay in touch with your patients. Whether your goal is to increase appointment volume, boost quality metrics, improve patient satisfaction, or reduce visit no-shows, phone calls are still the best way to reach patients.
But outbound calling in healthcare can be tricky. Lengthy, outdated patient lists, messy spreadsheets, and complicated reporting can make it challenging to achieve highly productive, highly efficient outbound calling goals. The good news is that with a few simple tips and the right technology in place, your outbound calling strategy can be tremendously successful. The result? Higher conversion rates, better quality of care results, and happier patients.
1. Use a real-time patient audience.
Make sure your patient outreach audience is at-the-ready. It should be in a centralized place so that everyone on staff making phone calls can access it and know the status of the outreach in real time (ie, whether or not the call has been made yet and what follow up may be needed).
Solid outbound calling audiences should include the patient’s preferred name, preferred pronouns, phone number and phone number type (landline or cellphone), provider name, key action, and any other relevant information you might have. Data like open care gaps, overdue appointments, and screenings that need to be scheduled can help the call agent direct the patient to their next best action. Integrating directly with your EHR enables you to pull the key data points needed for your patient audiences.
2. Prepare a clear, concise outbound calling script.
Make sure each person on your outbound calling team has a crisp, concise script at-the-ready. The script should outline each of the key points the call team should cover during the call. This can help the team stay on track and ensure that they cover all the important information.
But no conversation will follow a script perfectly. While it’s useful as a reference for your team, make sure to also coach your callers on when they can deviate from or personalize the script, especially as they gain more experience. The best outbound call agents can vary their script to be tailored to each individual patient. This results in more personal, less transactional interactions.
3. Make phone calls during days and times when patients are most likely to pick up.
Trying to reach someone on a Monday morning? A Friday evening? Forget it. Planning your outbound calling to avoid most people’s busiest times will give you the best chance of turning that phone call into the patient’s next best action. Studies have found that middle of the week phone calls, especially Wednesdays and Thursdays, are the best days to reach people. People are less likely to be traveling and taking part in extended weekend plans.
For the best times of day, try late mornings (10-11 am) or late afternoons (4-5 pm). People may be at work, but you avoid the busy commuting hours, rushed kid drop-offs and pick-ups, and dinner plans. Of course, your call teams won’t be able to complete all of your outbound phone calls on Wednesdays at 10am. Appointment reminders and other urgent calls will need to be made throughout the week. However, any call that requires a conversation is best made during the ideal late morning and early evening hours, mid-week if possible. Save your cursory calls like appointment reminders for Monday mornings and your calls to high-risk or inactive patients for those ideal times.
4. Always follow up.
When a patient does not pick up, plan to try them again later. Make it a best practice to schedule a follow-up call for two or three days later, and set a reminder so that whoever is on duty knows when to follow up and what to say. If the patient picks up but is not available to talk at that moment, have your agents schedule a follow-up call at a time that is convenient for the patient.
5. Don’t underestimate the power of voicemail.
Even if you follow up with a patient, and he or she doesn’t pick up, fret not. Voicemails still work. Patients are most likely to listen to a voicemail message if it’s from a number they recognize, so make sure you are using a centralized business phone number for your outbound calling. Providing a solid script that your outbound calling healthcare teams can use for voicemails (see Tip #1!) can increase response rates by 22 percent. Just make sure you follow HIPAA guidelines and limit the amount of information on the voicemail in order to protect the patient’s privacy.
6. Follow TCPA and HIPAA rules and guidelines.
That leads us to our next transformational tip, which is to make sure to always follow the rules and guidelines around outbound calling. The good news is that if a patient provides you with their phone number, that constitutes consent to call or text a patient if the call or message is for a specific healthcare-related reason. These include reasons like appointment reminders, lab results, or scheduling follow-up care.
HIPAA rules also allow a provider to discuss a patient’s condition or treatment with the patient over the phone. However, “providers apply reasonable safeguards when making these communications to protect the information from inappropriate use or disclosure”.
7. Make use of your inbound call center team.
When inbound calls are down to a trickle, have some of your top-performing callers change it up and place outbound calls instead. Placing outbound calls can help break up the monotony of answering phone calls. It can also incentivize your call team staff to be more productive. This strategy works well when you have lulls in inbound call volume throughout the week.
8. Get familiar with outbound calling healthcare metrics.
Boosting your call team’s productivity can lead to higher appointment volume for your organization and better quality of care results for your patient population. But in order to make the best use of your outbound calling and maximize productivity, make sure your team is tracking key outbound calling metrics. For example, make sure you track –
- Average handle time: the length of all calls divided by the total number of calls
- Occupancy rate: time spent on calls over time spent unavailable
- Conversion rate: appointments made, appointments completed, or screenings completed over total calls
With the right outbound calling healthcare solution in place, you will see these metrics will significantly improve across call teams.
9. Track and analyze your results.
Keep track of the calls you make and the responses you receive via the metrics list in Tip #8. By analyzing this data, you can improve your approach and inform hiring, coaching, and other decisions to run your outbound call center most effectively.
Simple, regular reports can be shared organization-wide to demonstrate the efficacy of your outbound calling teams in areas like appointment volume and quality of care.
10. Have the right technology in place.
Finally, and arguably most importantly, make sure you have the right outbound calling solution in place to help you meet your outbound calling goals. With the Actium Health CENTARITM platform, everything you need for a successful outbound calling strategy is right at your fingertips.
- Technology that integrates with your EHR, population health management tool, and other sources of patient data
- AI-generated patient outreach lists, pulled from your various patient data sources, sorted based on each patient’s level of risk and probability of engagement
- Ability to filter outbound calling lists based on fields like insurance plan, primary care provider, location, and more
- Simple and intuitive user interface that allows call teams to track calls, share notes, and access call scripts across different locations, in real-time
- Ability to schedule follow-up calls, with reminders that result in the patient’s information automatically popping back in the queue at the appropriate time
- Built-in agent KPI dashboards that give managers and supervisors real-time visibility into call volume and performance
- Downloadable, presentation-ready outbound calling dashboards and reports
Successful Outbound Calling Management in Healthcare
A transformational outbound calling strategy can be the difference between slow appointment volume and full provider calendars. Between high patient satisfaction and disgruntled patients. Between lagging quality of care indicators and quality of care bonuses. In other words, outbound calling is foundational to all of your goals – it’s the most important link you have to your patients between visits. These tips are designed to help you find success in your outbound calling strategy so you can reach all of your organizational goals.
Interested in learning more about activating your highest-risk patients and tracking productivity with outbound calling? Touch base with the Actium Health team today.