Building a Healthy Outbound IVR

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Healthcare in the United States is complicated, in large part, because multiple stakeholders need to constantly interact with one another through a highly fragmented value chain unlike those found in other industries. Though the patient is ultimately the customer, a primary care physician, physician practice administrator, or other caregiver can also be a customer at some point within the value chain. Oftentimes, the provider or payer makes many of the decisions on behalf of the patient and, as a result, must maintain timely communication.

Additionally, the healthcare industry is facing countervailing demands to improve the quality of care while decreasing costs and increasing access to care. As the responsibility to pay for healthcare services is increasingly being pushed to the patient, a strong trend toward consumerism has emerged within the industry. This is driving providers to be more transparent with respect to the price and quality of the services they provide, which means a greater need for open and timely communication between provider and patient.

When providers need to communicate with their patients, they typically rely on personal phone calls and direct mail. Outbound interactive voice response (IVR) systems allow healthcare professionals to focus their time elsewhere, while providing patients with pertinent information at a time they specify.

Doctors lose productive time when patients fail to show up for appointments. An outbound IVR can remind patients of appointments, thereby decreasing no-show rates and reducing the need for office staff to make appointment reminder calls. Similarly, outbound IVRs can also remind patients of the need to schedule appointments, such as yearly physicals, dental checkups, colonoscopies, and mammograms. Proactive care management, supported by an outbound IVR campaign that encourages patients to make needed appointments, can lead to early detection of serious conditions, ultimately improving health outcomes. Over time, this can reduce healthcare expenditures by delaying the onset and reducing the severity of chronic diseases. Additionally, it can improve revenue prospects for providers.

Surveys have shown that patient reminders also lead to higher vaccination rates. Telephone reminders are the most effective, but also the costliest, way. Outbound IVRs can reduce these costs while delivering a significant improvement in the number and timeliness of vaccinations performed. A sophisticated outbound IVR application not only delivers a simple reminder, but also proposes available appointment times and can be used by the patient to schedule the appointment.

Older Americans
As Americans age and chronic diseases become more prevalent, helping patients manage their complicated medications and related therapeutic regimens will become an increasingly complex and costly challenge to our healthcare system. The ability to initiate the refill of a prescription via an outbound IVR can be of real value. Outbound IVRs can also be used to help patients remember to take their medications while keeping providers informed about whether they have done so. As our population continues to age, this becomes an ever increasing problem. In 2006, approximately 1.1 billion prescriptions (nearly one-quarter of all those written) went unfilled.

Outbound IVRs can also offer providers tremendous administrative support. Bill payment via an outbound IVR, for example, provides not only a reminder but also an opportunity to deliver payment, thus reducing bad debt.

As healthcare in the U.S. continues to move more toward wellness and disease management, outbound IVR is emerging as an invaluable tool to promote timely, cost-effective communication between provider and patient. Today, outbound IVR is used to deliver appointment reminders and scheduling, which focus on immediate conditions and generic preventative measures. Tomorrow, outbound IVRs that focus on patients’ future needs should be part of healthcare providers’ overall toolkits.

Alex Halikias is global sales and market readiness leader of the Business Process Outsourcing Group at EDS, a global technology services provider.
He can be reached at info@eds.com.

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