Intelligent virtual healthcare assistants are not created equal - MedCity News

The omnichannel trend in healthcare has led healthcare systems to implement and integrate multiple digital gateways. But they can’t afford to ignore the most used channel of all – phone calls, which make up 70% of people’s first point of contact with the healthcare system. To balance the need for automated solutions with the need to make the patient journey personalized and seamless, hospitals are beginning to adopt more advanced technology solutions such as intelligent virtual assistants (IVAs). Parlance, for example, uses automation to help health systems reduce the number of calls to live operators by 35%-65% so they can focus on more complex calls – from patients, caregivers and callers in the internal health system that I really need it. This reflects a new paradigm in call management and is timely. Little attention is paid to the antiquated phone systems used by health care systems across the country. The increased call volume caused by Covid and the current labor shortage has put a heavy burden on call center operators and agents. A common sense approach to technology, automating routine tasks to save human effort, means operators and agents can spend more time with people who really need it. But not all intelligent virtual assistants are created equal.

Traditional interactive voice response (IVR) software typically provides long, confusing menus that force users to navigate the system by pressing certain numbers or saying key phrases. Inevitably, callers get frustrated and avoid the call maze by pressing “0” for the operator. This puts callers on hold for longer, wastes operator time and causes revenue leakage when calls are abandoned.

Upgrading to a more modern voice IVR means patients get the benefits of faster service combined with easily accessible human agents. Further upgrade to IVA solutions bridge the gap between staffing constraints and caller demand, ensuring even more stable access to resources and care. Patients can engage in natural conversations to complete routine tasks, which offloads repetitive work from contact center agents and improves patient access.

A healthtech company like Parlance combines conversational AI, natural language processing (NLP), and natural language understanding (NLU) with integration into EMR systems so that callers can speak naturally to easily navigate to the resources they need. This transforms the patient experience and allows operators and agents to quickly care for people who need complex support or empathy without going over budget.

Examples of tasks that can be automated with IVA are extensive. But common tasks that instantly optimize business operations include;

  • Patient identification by matching caller ID and EMR
  • Prompting callers to confirm a probable cause for their call based on an EMR match
  • Confirmation questions to verify the identity of the caller
  • Confirm or cancel an appointment
  • Covid-19 or health checks
  • SMS messages with directions sent directly to patients, including links to mapping services

While a one-time software purchase may seem attractive, this approach is fraught with risks and can take long periods of time for IT teams to implement and manage. On the other hand, transferring the management of the technology to an expert team that takes responsibility for the solution and ensures performance saves time and money and removes risk for health systems.

In a recent interview Parlance CEO Joseph Maxwell explained that because Parlance understands caller behavior so well, it has built advanced human-based IVR and IVA technology to provide frictionless positive experiences.

“Much of our history has been about implementing tools and processes to optimize the experience for callers and strike the right balance between automated and live support. We have great tools and great know-how to be able to do this. Having hundreds of health system customers we already work with, some as partners, helping us understand what the future looks like is a big plus. All of this puts us in a great position to immediately resolve communication frustrations for healthcare consumers while saving healthcare systems money.”

picture: Andranik Hakopyan, Getty Images

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