What a hospital can learn from a contact center…

To what extent does good management of the hospital’s capacity really vary from the good management of a contact center?
Peter Willen

Please allow me to introduce myself. I am Peter Willen, a Möbius employee from the very start, primarily active as an advisor in the healthcare sector, passionate about enterprise excellence and continuous improvement, with a mission to support healthcare institutions in their 101 challenges, such as networking, accreditation, rationalization, construction, integrated healthcare, m-Health, etc… I could go on and on.

At Möbius, we have always believed that having every step of the process be of good quality, right from the start, ensures good results. This is referred to as “quality at the source”. Good consultants that personify the Möbius values are the foundation of every knowledge institution, including Möbius.

As a fervent believer in excellence, I myself very much like to be involved in recruiting new employees. For example, it recently occurred that a few months ago, on a quiet spring evening, I was having a meeting with a prospective consultant who had understood that curiosity was a good trait in a consultant, and his questions started off with: “Why do you work in the healthcare sector, and what can the healthcare sector learn from other sectors?”

The first part of the questions was easily answered. At Möbius, we like to make a difference for our customers, and particularly for our customers’ customers/patients. Especially because we will come to know the patient very well sooner or later, I aim to make a difference every day by supporting healthcare institutions and healthcare providers in their many projects, and I hope that this contributes to the patient’s improvement.

The second part of the question was quite interesting. I have had the opportunity to be active in various sectors, which has greatly expanded my view of an organization. I thought back with pleasure on the really great projects in contact centers that I was able to head several years ago. The challenge then in particular was to offer high-quality service provision using the resources available: ensuring that when customers call in, they don’t have to wait too long, and that they are helped by the right person with the right know-how; that the employees’ productivity is high; that all the work doesn’t have to be done at specific peak moments, etc. The solutions for this were mostly in the better prediction of the work based on historic data and based on external factors, like the weather forecasts, as well as in the better planning the work that could be planned, providing flexibility in the working schedules, and being able to respond quickly by aligning the work (the number of phone calls or emails per language, per subject, etc.) hour by hour, or even minute by minute, with the capacity available. It was also often a matter of good teamwork between the marketing department, which would launch campaigns (and therefore partially influenced the workload), and the contact center, which received the questions or orders. It was/is then the task to plan everything strategically (in the long term), tactically, and operationally (hour by hour).

And now I come to the point of why hospitals can learn something from a contact center. To what extent does good management of the hospital’s capacity (consultation spaces, OR capacity, bed counts) vary from the good management of a contact center? There is a big difference… A hospital is after all much more complex. There is a much greater variety of ‘products’ that must be planned, many more competences to manage, many more stakeholders that are involved (medical department, nursing department, patient administration, logistics, etc.), and last but definitely not least, there is the patient.

Which tools and methods do we use to manage this complexity? Do we bother with predictions? Do we align the OR planning with the bed counts or vice versa? What about the consultation planning? Do we plan strategically? Do we monitor the bed capacity minute by minute? Do we dismiss the patients at the right time? How do we align the effort of the nursing staff with the number of patients? How do we ensure that there is flexibility among the various medical services/nursing units? It’s just… so much more based on intuition than from a well-organized planning process that is supported by the right tools.

This is why we at Möbius feel so strongly about integral capacity management in the healthcare sector and real-time steering of the available capacities. And to do this, we use intelligent tools, like HOTflo (www.hotflo.nl). We combine our expertise with regard to planning with a good tool that allows us to make better predictions, to plan better, and to ensure that the deployment of the nursing staff is aligned with the actual needs. Does this yield anything? Most definitely: better bed occupation, better distribution of the workload through time and therefore allow the healthcare providers to get some rest, (temporary) reduction in beds, having the most competent healthcare provider treat the patient in the right bed, etc., all of which improves quality for the patients. Smart algorithms can support the human brain in this difficult process, just like in a contact center… just with more impact. After all, there is still a difference between a customer who doesn’t have to be put on hold for too long on the phone and a loved one who gets the best healthcare in the right bed from a competent, ‘composed’ healthcare provider. This is why I like working in the healthcare sector so much.

Thanks for reading

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