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Addressing the burnout in healthcare’s contact centers

August 08, 2022
Artificial Intelligence Business Affairs
Patty Hayward
By Patty Hayward

Employee burnout has become endemic in healthcare. A recent AMA survey of clinicians shows that more than half are experiencing high levels of stress due to time constraints, overwork, poorly designed technologies, inefficient workflows and the emotional weight of dealing with patients who themselves may be stressed, confused or scared.

Many of these same factors impact healthcare contact center support agents. These workers routinely deal with patients and health plan members who may be under great duress and even pain because of their physical conditions or inability to obtain test results, get answers to questions regarding insurance benefits and coverage, or schedule an immediate appointment for an oncologist or other chronic care specialist. Though clinical staff are usually the focus of most research into healthcare burnout, recent studies show non-clinical staff, especially those who deal directly with patients, experience similar occupational stress.

There’s nothing more personal than healthcare. Whether you’re a clinician or a contact center support agent, you are there to help people with issues concerning their physical and mental well-being. The stakes are high for patients and health plan members, which increase their anxiety. For contact center workers, being empowered to assist these people efficiently and empathetically is vital to both delivering exceptional service and feeling enabled and valuable at work.

Unfortunately, many contact center support agents work with technology that is not user-friendly. They are overwhelmed by call volume and an inability to find the information a patient or health plan member needs because of inefficient workflows.

The pandemic only intensified these challenges for healthcare contact center agents, contributing to burnout and high rates of turnover that can cost organizations from $10,000 to $20,000 for each departed agent, according to a McKinsey report. Even when agents who are burned out don’t quit, they can cost healthcare organizations because they are far less likely to perform at their best, particularly if they lack sufficient support, tools, and training.

A survey conducted for the McKinsey report found that “contact center employees who are satisfied with their job overall are four times more likely to stay with their companies for at least a year.”

It’s clear that healthcare organizations have a huge stake in retaining contact center agents. So, what can healthcare providers and insurers do to reduce contact center agent burnout and turnover and enable agents to fulfill their desire to help patients and plan members? Here are several strategies they can deploy:

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