Sponsored Post

Improving the patient experience one call at a time

As hospitals face consolidation and CIOs are asked to increase staff productivity, tech companies that can support automation with solutions that are easy to onboard are getting heightened interest.

The complexity of the patient’s journey in healthcare often begins with a phone call. If healthcare executives want to get a sense of their patients’ first impressions with the hospital brand, perhaps they should call the main switchboard and see how long it takes to reach their intended contact (or if they’re even successful). Websites and patient portals may be the gateway to a health system for certain populations, but not all queries can be addressed this way and some people need to use the phone for complex questions.

Scott D’Entremont, chief revenue officer of Parlance, noted that when hospitals receive Google reviews of 1 and 2 stars, it’s rarely about the quality of care and most frequently about the communication experience, such as trying (and failing) to schedule an appointment or when a call is dropped. Abandoned calls and long hold times are other issues that hospitals struggle with.   

As hospitals face consolidation and CIOs are asked to increase staff productivity, technology solutions that support automation and are easy to implement are getting heightened interest.

The challenge with modern automatic speech recognition (ASR) systems is that they often fall short when it comes to recognizing and handling proper names.  There are many reasons why this happens, such as regional dialects or international accents, which can confuse these systems. Phonetics and heterography, in which two words may sound the same but are spelled differently, can also cause calls to be misdirected and add to the learning curve ASR systems face.

Here’s a look at what Parlance has to offer compared with other automation solutions:

By leveraging conversational AI, Parlance intelligent speech solutions reduce agent effort and workload at contact centers. The company works with some of the largest health systems in the country to alleviate contact center burdens.

Parlance uses proprietary tech to train its models with phonetics to recognize proper names — its system recognizes more than 1 billion proper names, according to data from the company. The business is building custom statistical language models that can infer likely pronunciation information. It applies regular listening to identify frequently misrecognized names and other missing content that callers often ask for. Parlance then updates the directory to include these alternate names, corrected or missing pronunciations, or missing entities in each client’s directory. This continuous directory upkeep results in much higher offload of PBX call volumes and improves switchboard operations.

Parlance also works with hospitals to make improvements after the initial onboarding process. For example, if a caller asks for physical therapy, the Parlance system can ask a follow-up question depending on whether the caller wants inpatient physical therapy or outpatient physical therapy. Parlance customers include national health system HCA. In a recent webinar, D’Entremont partnered with Andy Draper, Divisional CIO of HCA Continental Division based in Denver, Colorado.  Draper shared why his institution turned to Parlance and how the system performs. 

Draper said he and his team wanted to come up with a solution that would enable consolidation and reduce costs. He also offered context for the current healthcare landscape as a driver of these decisions. CIOs have to be relentless about removing burdensome costs from the health system and present their ideas to CFOs on how to accomplish this goal.

“We are now in the ripples of the pandemic,” Draper said. “CIOs need to come to the table with ideas on how to automate and consolidate and increase productivity of our employees.”

Draper added that HCA wanted to change the structure and culture of PBX operators from answering to a disparate set of managers to being on one team. He noted that it only took 90 days from the first meeting with Parlance to onboard its system and only another 90 days after that to see dramatic results. HCA Healthcare now offloads an average of 66% of calls with speech-driven call routing to support switchboard centralization. As a result, routine callers are easily connected to patients, doctors and appointment schedulers, and callers with complex service needs are able to connect to live support staff much faster 

“As a CIO, if I were looking for a quick win in the budget cycle, I would do this…It was fantastic!” Draper exclaimed. “Just as much as we add efficiency with these systems — the folks who do need to get to a live person are now connected to someone who isn’t rushed and can take the time to help the caller.” The technology enables this assistance to be provided in a more professional manner which strikes a nice balance between efficiency, automation and personalization.

D’Entremont said concerns that increased automation will lead to significant job cuts are overblown because in most cases, people who staff switchboards are often retrained for other roles at the hospital.

“People think [this tech] is going to lead to high layoffs. We are in an economy with a very low unemployment rate. The people currently in PBX roles can be redeployed to other roles within health systems,” D’Entremont said.

In a healthcare industry that has endured a tumultuous two years of a public health crisis, most hospitals need to implement cost-cutting measures. Automation is part of that discussion. By using Parlance, providers can inject efficiency into their switchboard and use PBX operators to help people who require more assistance. It increases productivity and improves the overall patient experience.

Photo: AnnaStills, Getty Images