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The crucial new role of automation in healthcare CX

Posted November 24, 2020
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Automation is an incredibly powerful tool in today’s business arsenal. It’s also one of the most misunderstood. Despite some thinking its only purpose is to completely replace person-to-person interactions, taking basic humanity out of the equation, the reality is that automation can help companies care for their customers in new, more personalized and meaningful ways.

This is particularly evident in the healthcare industry where efficiency and accuracy of information are expected and necessary, but interactions oftentimes also require a human touch. For instance, if a customer needs to file a health insurance claim for a sick family member, automation can make the process much more simple and efficient when emotions are running high. When consumers feel physically and emotionally drained, the last thing they need is a frustrating claim submission process that’s time-consuming and complex. In scenarios like these, automation accommodates the state of mind of the people that are typically filling in these forms.

By including aspects of automation in their overall digital transformation strategy, companies can provide consumers with more convenient customer service options, build stronger brand-customer relationships, enhance communications and improve the overall customer experience (CX). Let’s dig in.

Mobile messaging solutions for healthcare

According to Gartner, just two years from now 70% of customer interactions will involve chatbots and mobile messaging.

We’re already seeing this trend in the healthcare industry. As the Chicago Sun-Times reports, many doctors and hospitals are now encouraging patients to schedule their appointments and check-in for visits via mobile apps. This approach makes the initial steps of seeing a healthcare professional faster and more efficient. With COVID-19 an ongoing concern for both patients and healthcare workers, mobile check-ins also help physicians’ offices and other healthcare businesses keep waiting room numbers low to uphold physical distancing practices.

Unsurprisingly, the global pandemic continues to accelerate the usage and growth of digital and automated technologies like these. Today, many doctors’ offices operate entirely remotely, addressing patient concerns by phone or by videoconferencing, in order to handle routine medical needs at a safe distance — and patients seem to be open-minded about this shift from in-person. According to research published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, initial uptake and feelings of telehealth options during the first wave of the pandemic were surprisingly promising.

When it comes to CX, mobile technology can deliver the ease, speed and convenience consumers seek — and that, in turn, benefits all organizations, including those in healthcare. In fact, the high correlation between good CX and business success is why PwC introduced a new metric in 2019: return on experience, or ROX. “This is as true for healthcare or pharmaceutical companies as it is for other industries,” the market research firm writes. “Delivering a superior experience will be what makes you a winner.”

Innovating with chatbots

A conversation about automation would be incomplete without chatbots. Many organizations are already using them to lighten the load of customer queries for their frontline employees, and the pandemic has given healthcare companies even more of a reason to explore the functional, affordable chatbot opportunity.

Consider, for example, the role of chatbots in telemedicine. Chatbots are always available and always on, thus allowing patients to access information even outside of office hours. Because they can access large volumes of data so quickly, bots can also help determine whether a patient needs a follow-up appointment with a human doctor, and facilitate the booking. Taken one step further, bots could identify a patient’s symptoms as requiring a further conversation with a specialist. All of this makes for a better patient experience and contributes to better health outcomes.

There are many examples of organizations that have put automation to the test in recent months. In Georgia, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta developed a chatbot that can help parents evaluate their children’s medical symptoms, or simply get more information about how to treat a possible exposure to COVID-19.

According to reports, patients who called the health center prior to the introduction of the chatbot had to wait between 30 minutes to an hour to speak with a professional. Now, they can get answers quickly and easily. The application was used more than 1,000 times a day during its first week online.

On the other side of the country, Seattle’s Providence St. Joseph Health - the nation’s third-largest non-profit health system, collaborated with Microsoft this year to build an online screening and triage tool for patients suffering from coronavirus symptoms. Users are greeted with a message from “Grace,” a bot who guides them through the Coronavirus Assessment Tool’s screening process.

Patients can choose to assess their COVID-19 risk, ask questions or find testing centers. Providence is careful to note the tool isn’t a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, but the chatbot is still proving popular. Harvard Business Review reported that the tool was used by more than 40,000 patients in its first week online, “delivering care at an unprecedented scale.”

Delivering helpful information on demand, leveraging mobile technology to upgrade the doctor’s office check-in process and helping patients self-assess their symptoms can go a long way toward improving the brand perception of health care providers. Although aspects of digital transformation aren’t new to this industry, it’s important for healthcare providers to consistently seek additional ways to incorporate and leverage automation to meet their ultimate goals of prioritizing patient care and improving health outcomes.

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