Determine the right staffing for your call center
For this, you really do need to understand and implement the call center industry standard – Erlang C model.
There are several handy calculators you can use to determine your staffing need based on the Erlang C calculator. (e.g. here’s one).
Before you determine the right amount of staff you need, make sure that you know the total number of inbound calls handled per week/month and also understand the seasonality of call volumes.
You need to understand (from the steps above) which days a week call volumes are highest and staff accordingly.
Take care to understand what the typical call duration is and also find out which call types have what durations.
You might need more time on call to go towards resolution for inbound appointment requests.
Meanwhile you might immediately forward your pharmacy related calls to your technicians.
Once you have figured out how many agents you need on the floor at all times, take some time to adjust for call center attrition, training, leaves etc.
I typically adjust the right staff size needed by 20% to account for the bench and having the same staff sizing on the floor at all times.
Transition existing scheduling coordinators into this centralized team
My recommendation is to hire someone with at least 2-3 years of scheduling experience in your practice as being a critical part of your team and being a mentor for new agents.
Healthcare practices typically do have high attrition rates in front desk/ receptionist staff.
Your mileage may vary on this one as you might not have folks with 3 years experience in scheduling your providers.
If that’s your case, any of your existing scheduling coordinators would suffice.
You need to train the centralized call center agents on the ins and outs or idiosyncrasies in scheduling for your practice.
Create the entire standard operating procedure before you get started.
Make sure your scheduling coordinator(s) do the training / knowledge transfer.
This helps because new agents should have material for self-help and training before they spend 1-1 time on scheduling training.
Training on accuracy of scheduling appointments
Accuracy of appointments scheduled ends up being a sticking point for most of these transitions.
While the ability to handle more patient calls is great (and that’s why you started the call center in the first place), patient experience and appropriate / accurate appointment scheduling takes priority over volume of calls.
There are several items to check before I consider a scheduled appointment to be accurate. E.g.
- Correct patient name spelling,
- 1 or more patient phone numbers (mobile preferred),
- Correct DOB of patient,
- Did the agent match the doctor’s “desired” schedule?
- The right doctor selected for the visit type?
- Did the agent select the appointment as per Nature Of Visit?
- The appointment booked as Per call notes?
- Did they document the call correctly (chief complaint, reason for visit etc)?
- Referring provider / PCP info – was that collected or not
- Did we collect the source of patient appt (e.g. “where did they hear about us”)
- Was the correct payer name, plan name, member ID collected or not
- Did the agent advise the patient about their insurance?
There should be a training program / orientation program for call center agents so they clearly understand the importance of gathering each info and do actually gather all the information requested by management.
Try to develop training courses that are ready to go before agents are even starting with their first calls.
Try to have agents participate in mock calls before they take live calls from patients.