I wrote about considerations for centralized call center vs decentralized call center in part 1 here.
Total costs of ownership of a centralized call center
Operating costs of a location would generally break down into a few well known categories.
You’re going to have:
- Real estate costs
- Infrastructure costs
- Utilities costs
- Hiring costs
- Training costs
- Payroll expenses
With a centralized call center these are items that you achieve economies of scale with.
In a decentralized healthcare call center, you’ll have to incur those same costs at each location.
However, a decentralized call center model allows you to leverage several benefits as well.
Labor arbitrage across locations wherein certain locations might be significantly cheaper than other locations.
Real estate costs across locations might also vary significantly.
Having multiple locations allows you to have a backup site (of sorts) in case of natural disasters in one of your other call center sites.
In certain businesses, customers might simply prefer being served in their local languages. Some customers might prefer being able to actually see and interact with their customer service representatives as well.
As I mentioned before, these factors have to be studied carefully before you can make a decision between a centralized vs decentralized call center to service your patients.
The need for a centralized healthcare call center
The need for a centralized healthcare call center is higher now, more than ever.
Most smaller healthcare practices, in my opinion, remain small because they are not very business savvy
My stance might sound controversial.
I have run into many healthcare practices that grew solely due to luck and the fact that healthcare is a recession proof, evergreen business.
They did not have any business / marketing plans.
These practices are headed by physician practitioners that are good at being doctors.
I have seen even hospitals, federally qualified health centers, health systems operate this way as well.
Most of these organizations have their front desk handle multiple tasks.
Let’s go through a typical front desk person’s daily life.
Day in the life of the front desk staff
The front desk person is checking a patient that just walked in.
She is busy asking the patients for their demographics and insurance details to confirm that billing would not have any problems after the patient leaves.
The front desk is busy with scanning the patient’s insurance cards, driver’s license for identity verification – so she can scan those as a PDF into the patient’s EMR record.
Meanwhile, a technician comes in to drop off surgery forms for a patient that has been identified as a surgical candidate.
The surgeon has decided to do the surgery at an ASC that he prefers.
Keeping in mind that the patient has waited (usually a long time) to see the doctor, has gone through the wait times involved in working with a technician and finally got to a doctor.
After seeing the doctor, the patient is now really anxious to leave the office.
They don’t want to have to wait another 15-20 minutes until the front desk is done serving the current patient.
The front desk now pauses work on checking in the patient she was helping and immediately draws up the papers specific to the surgery center that the surgeon chose.
She hands them to the patient to fill out (even though she has ALL the information she really needs to be used in the surgery forms – right in her EMR).
While the patient is already anxious to leave and even more anxious about the surgery, she acquiesces to re-typing all that information for the front desk staff.
Enter the patient with follow up appointment
Meanwhile, another patient comes in with a follow up appointment request that the doctor has ordered.
Just like with the surgery candidate, this patient has also spent quite some time in the hospital / clinic, so they have to be tended to immediately as well.
So, the front desk person now has to tend to this patient’s follow up date.
She spends a good 10 minutes negotiating with the patient about their preferred date/time and the doctor’s availability.
Point to note here is that this doctor’s availability is still not nailed down – since the schedule is not set up that far ahead yet (3-6 months).
So, any appointment given to the patient will most likely have to change anyway.
At this point, the recalled patient got their appointment.
The front desk staff now goes back to checking in the patient she was handling before.
A new patient walks in
While she is doing so, a patient walks in for their scheduled appointment.
She has to check the patient’s temperature to ensure adherence to COVID policies.
Meanwhile, she has completely forgotten that she kept an incoming call on hold.
At the end of the day, the front desk probably didn’t even get any time to make outbound calls for appointment reminders, recalls, reactivating patients fallen out of care – nothing.
Made up story? Not really
This is not a made up story – this is exactly what your front desk looks like.