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How to walk the call center floor when there isn’t one

Working from home is no longer a luxury. Today with COVID-19, it’s a necessity … even in health care. In this guest post, Shawn Yates, director of product management, health care for a company that develops a variety of information systems, shares how hospitals can allow nonmedical personnel to work from home and still manage their performance and results.


While the popularity of remote work has grown 44% over the last five years and 91% over the past 10 years, the ability to empower, manage and support employees working from home has now become a mission-critical concern for businesses in every sector. Remote work is no longer a rare benefit that modern job candidates consider a “nice to have;”  with public health and safety at stake, it’s become standard practice.

As their battle against the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, hospital execs and administrators have had to look for ways to allow nonmedical personnel, such as A/R agents, to work from home without suffering a loss in productivity. Unfortunately, as integral as EHRs are in large, high-volume healthcare settings, they aren’t equipped to provide insight into agent activity. Without the ability to manage performance effectively from a distance, many facilities fear allowing agents to work from home will lead to declining results on accounts.

To overcome this challenge, hospitals are looking to EHR-friendly technology that can close the “EHR gap” – along with the physical gap between call center and home. A simple software implementation can add crucial capabilities and tools existing EHRs lack, such as productivity tracking, automatic QA scorecards and gamification. With real-time visibility for managers and a steady stream of data that can help agents improve on their own, performance measurement and management can be simpler and more effective than ever before.

Here’s what tech-enabled managers focus on and achieve day to day as they walk the virtual call center floor.

Build a culture of accountability

A high-performing A/R team is essential to achieving and maintaining a healthy revenue cycle. To reach their full potential – and stay engaged and loyal – remote agents (like all employees) need clear priorities, timely feedback, and tools that can help them excel. They also need to be accountable for progress toward predefined performance goals.

Real-time performance data, which both managers and agents can see at a glance, help establish a culture of accountability based on transparency and trust. Managers can remotely track agent activity, measure performance, intervene as needed and reward successes. Over time, managers and agents work together to create a virtuous cycle of improvement and boost their value to the organization.

Provide meaningful coaching and QA

When transitioning to a work-at-home setup, employees (especially newer employees) are often concerned about the quality and frequency of interaction and coaching they can expect from their supervisors. Tech-enabled A/R managers not only prioritize regular coaching and QA, but also ensure any feedback they give is specific, actionable, and timely.

Automatic QA with biweekly scorecards, the ability to listen in on live calls, and ease of access to call recordings (which are automatically paired with account information) allow managers to provide coaching in real time and evaluate agents’ performance on an ongoing basis. A comprehensive, data-rich, results-oriented performance management program is key to keeping collectors sharp and motivated and accelerating their progress.

Drive engagement through gamification

Gamification on the A/R front line helps ensure agent productivity in a remote work environment. Recent studies found that 90% of employees feel more productive in a gamified setting, where performance rankings encourage friendly competition and motivate individuals to continually aim higher.

The ability to view leaderboards that rank top performers also makes virtual call center agents feel more connected to their team and employer, thus reducing feelings of isolation and improving morale. While these gains don’t have a direct financial impact, having a happy, motivated workforce is no less important to advancing organizational goals related to employee retention, days in A/R, and overall recovery rates.

While many facilities’ work-from-home initiatives were triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, operations leaders are now more open to maintaining this arrangement, whether full time or flex time. They’re discovering how easy it is, with the right technology, to bridge the gap between call center and home. In many cases, they’re seeing significant upticks in productivity and performance.

With the benefit of real-time, data-driven performance management, managers and agents have the power to make virtual call centers a more effective revenue driver. As facilities’ financial health improves, a receding pandemic will give way to new growth and market opportunities.

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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