Centralize your callcenter or not

Categorized as Operations Tagged

A centralized healthcare call center helps immensely with patient access thereby leading to higher patient acquisition, patient retention, patient satisfaction, better patient reviews.

These, in turn, lead to higher medical practice reputation scores, which in turn contribute to more patient appointment calls.

Of course, this translates to a much easier medical marketing and patient pipeline.

MGMA had done a pretty good study on centralized call centers (read here).

Today’s healthcare consumers are seeking out care that is convenient and easily accessible at a date and time they want to be seen. If today’s patients (new or existing to the system) do not get the appointment date and time requested, they will continue to search for a provider that meets their expectations.”

That’s precisely what most medical call center teams that handle inbound calls for multiple practice groups have seen as well.

What is a centralized healthcare call center

Healthcare is a “local” business. In most cases, medical practices and healthcare organizations have each one of their locations manage their patient communications locally. 

Each location typically has its own local phone number for patients to remember and call as well.

The front desk at each location handles scheduling (new appointments, recalls, rescheduling, cancellations, follow up appointments).

While the patients are in the clinic, the front desk also handles patient admission, discharge, transfers. 

In addition to this, the front desk answers and routes incoming calls about prescriptions, medical billing as well.

A centralized healthcare call center essentially just centralizes these functions to a single team. 

The centralized call center typically handles all incoming calls, makes all necessary outbound calls, and handles the majority of scheduling activities.

You don’t have to co-locate the team.

It is, however, important that they laser focus on these functions.

Centralizing your healthcare call center alleviates much of these front desk tasks and allows the front desk to do what’s most important – improve patient flow and patient experience while the patients are in the clinic.

Generally, a centralized call center team is located away from the offices.

However, in my opinion, that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case.

Don’t pull in your staff into the clinic activities.

Make sure the staff can focus solely on their tasks without in-clinic patient related distractions.

If you do that, it could work just as well.

Make sure the entire centralized call center team follows the same processes and workflows.

Well, then, what’s a decentralized healthcare call center?

In a centralized healthcare call center, you are effectively, centrally housing all your call center agents. 

You are centralizing the technology and the infrastructure into one. 

In centralized call centers, you are centralizing the management and oversight of the call center into a single space. 

You are centralizing the call types that your consolidated call center will handle.

Consolidating the training, security protocols, management into one place.

You are centralizing telecom costs into one as well.

How about decentralized healthcare call center model?

Now, consider the decentralized healthcare call center approach. In this situation, you have multiple sites servicing your patient communications.

Your agents are geographically distributed.

This could mean that your non-call staff are located at multiple sites. Although, arguably, this doesn’t necessarily have to be.

With a decentralized call center your real estate footprint at each location / site could also be a lot smaller.

The telecom, call center technology and infrastructure are also now spread across the multiple locations / sites.

You are not limited to the talent pool of a consolidated / centralized call center.

Therefore, this allows you to tap into the talent pool of the various sites / locations.

For example, to support various languages, you could have multiple sites located across various countries / regions.

Your training and hiring will also be spread across those decentralized sites. While this means that you have access to the local talent pool at each location, you might also have to have training that’s local to each site.

While your footprint is a lot smaller at each location, your risks at each location are lower as well.

Centralized vs decentralized healthcare call center

The pros and cons of centralized healthcare call centers vs decentralized ones have been a perennial debate. 

There’s no single, slam dunk formula that you can use or apply to come to an answer.

Rule of thumb

One general rule of thumb that we’d like to point out – a centralized call center brings in economies of scale and all the benefits from achieving economies of scale.

If your call center is going to be staffed with only a handful of staff, there would be no economies of scale to achieve.

This means that you don’t have the need to scale.

Let’s look at some points about total costs of ownership next.