Healthcare News & Insights

Make remote work the new normal for healthcare call center agents

The coronavirus has made us adapt to a new normal – working from home. For hospital call centers, this presents a challenge. In this guest post, Shawn Yates, director of product management, health care for a company that develops a variety of information systems, reveals how modern software can track work from home agents, measure their performance and much more.

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Remote work has grown 44% over the last five years and 91% since 2010. While this employment trend is accelerating in nearly every industry, some industries – including health care – lag. This can be problematic for any healthcare provider, including hospitals, especially considering the industry’s high turnover rates. Modern job candidates and employees are continually seeking new benefits for higher job satisfaction, and remote work is at or near the top of the list.

Now that the COVID-19 crisis has upended call center operations and forced many hospital systems to resort to remote work for non-essential staff, healthcare administrators are faced with the challenge of providing enough oversight to keep agents productive and patient accounts moving.

When teams are physically separated, technology can close the gap. Modern software can not only track agent productivity, but also provide managers with the ability to measure the performance of work-from-home employees. Real-time performance data also allows for timely coaching, which can even be lacking in physical call centers.

Once the current crisis passes, managers can use today’s performance data to grant or revoke more permanent work-from-home arrangements on an individual basis.

Here are three reasons why administrators should consider allowing their call center agents to work from home post-COVID-19 with the help of modern technology designed for this purpose.

Remote work option creates strong applicant pool

Prior to COVID-19, the unemployment rate in the United States had dropped to just 3.6% – the lowest since 1969. While job seekers have more opportunities available to them when unemployment is low, this complicates the hiring landscape for businesses – especially those that don’t offer a remote work option.

Many healthcare executives have already invested significant resources in moving their A/R teams to remote work, so they’re inclined to stay the course. Long term, this decision will no doubt pay off. Work flexibility is a deciding factor for candidates, according to 51% of hiring professionals; remote work options give hospital executives a significant advantage over competitors that may not offer this type of flexibility. Administrators can build a strong pipeline of applicants, and retain top talent long term, by offering a remote-work benefit.

Flexible work arrangements boost productivity

While many employers have avoided work-from-home arrangements out of concern for declining productivity, studies overwhelmingly show remote work boosts productivity. In a 2018 Indeed survey, 57% of remote workers indicated they’re more productive when working from home, and 72% of employers surveyed said their remote workers are more productive. Just 3% of employers felt their workers are less productive at home than in the office.

Using modern revenue cycle management platforms, managers can view collector productivity in more detail. They can see how agents spend their time and what’s happening during payor and patient calls. At the same time, automation can equip remote agents with the information they need, streamline account work, dramatically reduce payor hold times and enhance QA processes. With more robust managerial support and advanced tools, agents can maximize their time, resolve accounts more quickly, and grow professionally – the keys to a consistently productive remote workforce.

Establish foundation of trust

Regardless of industry, managers tend to distrust their employees. Many employees know their managers don’t trust them, and they don’t trust their managers either – often due to overbearing management practices. Research confirms what common sense tells us: this mutual mistrust erodes employee productivity and loyalty.

Allowing employees to work remotely is a show of trust, which breeds more trust. With a technological infrastructure that offers managers detailed visibility into agent performance and allows agents to enhance their value to the organization while working from home, you can strike the right balance between effective performance management and individual autonomy. As a result, you’ll build a happier, more loyal team and motivate employees to produce better results.

In healthcare receivables, agent productivity is vital. But productivity gains depend on several factors, from morale and retention on the front line to real-time performance management to automation tools that allow agents to accomplish more and excel in their jobs. Remote work, supported by modern revenue cycle platforms, affords all these advantages – and is a permanent change worth making.

Shawn Yates is the director of product management, health care at Ontario Systemsa company that develops a variety of information systems.

 

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