Assessing Your Contact Center Maturity: Evolving Approaches and Capabilities


The contact center is a critical yet often overlooked component of a healthcare organization’s “front door” to patients and family decision-makers. Contact center experiences can range from the positive, with quick and easy resolution, to the negative, which can result in frustration and ultimately in “network leakage.” 

Knowing how to optimize investment requires an understanding of the level of maturity of the contact center’s services, capabilities, and organizational business goals. Investments in contact centers need to focus on business outcomes and must improve the organization’s ability to compete based on consumer experience. 

Below are a series of “maturity stages” based on the capabilities of the contact center. Although each organization will follow a different sequence in evolving its technology investment, a high-level understanding of the “art of the possible” can guide technology roadmaps.

Stage 1: Call Center

Many operations start as call centers using phone-based technology to perform a range of basic services. 

Call Center Capabilities

  • Appointment scheduling

  • Billing and inquiries

  • Physician referrals

  • Insurance authorization

Example technologies include phone systems with automated call distribution, as well as quality control and forecasting available through reports on core variables such as call volume and handle times. Organizations in this stage need to ensure that calls are being responded to in a timely manner and routed effectively. Call experiences should contribute to improved customer satisfaction.

Stage 2: Contact Center - Multiple Communication Channels

Many health systems are expanding services based on needs driven by M&A activity, as well as demand from medical groups. To offer more operational efficiency, basic phone-based call centers are growing into centralized contact centers. 

Expanding into additional channels such as text, email, chat, and webchat, can meet the needs of current, highly-motivated, high-utilization patients, as well as the emerging generation of patients who expect to interact with their healthcare organization as they do with retail and hospitality businesses.

Additional Capabilities

  • Increased options for self-service

  • Outbound text reminders for appointments and medication refills

  • Nurse triage or ask-a-nurse support

Example technologies include touch tone IVR (Interactive Voice Response), text and email outbound communications, and quality monitoring and call recording. Organizations at this stage of maturity focus on maintaining customer intimacy while transitioning service requests from the medical group level to consolidated centers.

Stage 3: Omnichannel Contact Center with Integrated Channels and Reporting

An “omnichannel” approach is much more than simply offering customers new ways to communicate. These communications need to be integrated for customer satisfaction and agent productivity. For example, when contact is initiated on a health system’s website, customers should be offered the option of a phone call with a transfer of information already captured to the agent. The contact may result in a post-call email to follow-up with additional information. The communication across these channels should be seamlessly transitioned from the customer’s point of view.

Additional Capabilities

  • Contacts seamlessly transition across channels (i.e. chat to voice)

  • Patients communicate according to their preferred channel

  • Reporting can be integrated across channels

  • Alerts and notifications through patient-preferred channel

Example technologies include web interface, chat, chatbots, social media; intelligent contact routing across channels; consistent data context across channels; workforce management tools for scheduling and forecasting; knowledge support and scripts for the agents; conversational IVR. Organizations at this stage of maturity place additional focus on ensuring seamless customer experience across communications channels. Here, the contact center offers a multi-pronged digital front door to enable access to services via preferred ways of communicating.

Stage 4: Patient Engagement Center - Clinical, Strategic, and Connected

As healthcare organizations transition to value-based care, contact centers must play a critical role in supporting broader enterprise initiatives. These include population health and care coordination; marketing initiatives such as patient acquisition and retention; Revenue Cycle Management including proactive collection of patient out-of-pocket cost; telehealth and virtual visits.

Additional Capabilities

  • Proactive care coordination: Act on identified care gaps

  • Visibility into the patient journey

  • Promote relevant services

  • Steer patient to “best” provider

  • Support at-home medical device monitoring and consumer telehealth

  • Prospecting and retention marketing campaigns

  • Predictive staff scheduling

Example technologies include: integration with CRM or other patient relationship management systems, agent single view of the patient based on multiple systems, and data from the contact center can be made available to broader patient experience measurement systems. 

Although very few organizations have fully realized the potential outlined for a “patient engagement center,” understanding this vision is critical when planning for contact center technology. In addition, there should be a focus on establishing relationships with other groups across the enterprise that impact contact center operations.

Keep Reading: In our follow-up blog post, we offer Guiding Principles for Leveraging the Healthcare Contact Center

Are you a health system responding to changing market demand, such as the need to better align to healthcare consumer expectations? Burwood is conducting “The State of Patient Engagement” benchmarking survey to identify trends and best practices that will be reported back to survey respondents for use in strategic clinical, IT & business planning efforts. Please take 3-5 minutes to complete our online survey by clicking below.  


July 11, 2018