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Healthcare Appointment Scheduling: What to Look for When You Outsource


Outsourcing appointment scheduling can be a smart move for many providers and health plans, especially those associated with Medicare and Medicaid programs. Annual well visits, lab and other diagnostics, vaccinations—all of these scheduling issues can overload internal teams.

Handing scheduling off to external teams that have healthcare and motivational interviewing experience can not only free up internal teams, but also raise the contact center and engagement performance standards for your organization.

So how do you find the right engagement solutions provider, often within a tight timeframe? By drafting and issuing a strong Request for Proposal (RFP).

Below, we’ve highlighted a few of the key factors to ask vendors about in your request. For a complete guide to writing engagement services RFPs, be sure to download our comprehensive ebook, Health Plan Member Engagement: A Guide to the Most Critical Questions to Include in Your RFP. Even though the guide is focused on health plans, it offers guidance for providers and other healthcare organizations, as well.

First: What to ask about experience and healthcare contact center capabilities

At the heart of your appointment scheduling RFP should be the evaluation of the capabilities and experience of possible partners. This is all about finding out what a vendor can do for you and how they can serve your specific population.

Vendors should be able to demonstrate that they are committed to creating healthcare experiences that people want to engage with and have proof they’ve done this in the past. (Engagement case studies work well for this purpose.)

Consider asking the organizations that respond to describe:

  • Number of years of experience in healthcare engagement in general and specifically the time spent deploying the type of program you’re launching
  • Current or past client stories, including outcomes they helped achieve
  • Population segments they specialize in (particularly important for Medicare and Medicaid audiences)
  • Their contact outreach strategy, including the touchpoint cadence and number of interactions
  • Any technology or software platforms that will be leveraged
  • How they plan to avoid engagement fatigue and consumer abrasion
  • What other languages engagement teams can speak and/or how translation is handled
  • Any partnerships they have with third-party vendors that will be used to achieve your program goals

Don’t forget: Ask about member satisfaction measurement

How will the responding vendors measure the consumer experience during your appointment-scheduling outreach program? How do they gather member/patient satisfaction information related to their scheduling programs?

You’ll want to know that a vendor will have the same commitment to your consumers’ satisfaction that you do. Transparency in their experience measurement protocols will reveal how they approach this important factor.

What about healthcare consumer engagement reach and activation rates?

One of the most challenging parts of healthcare engagement is getting in touch with people. Outreach can be especially tricky because of contact abrasion concerns or contact data quality issues. That’s why vendors should be able to explain the techniques and technology they use to successfully contact members. Plus, they need to be able to tell you how they ensure that once a person is reached, they are influenced to take action—i.e., agree to schedule an appointment, whether via three-way conference calling while they are on the line or another channel.

It’s a good idea to ask for a potential partner’s overall average reach rate and activation rate (appointments scheduled of those reached). But those rates often don’t tell a complete story and can vary greatly depending on a variety of factors. You may be better served to also ask them to provide their average rates by communication channel if applicable, any specific plan populations you’re interested in (commercial, Medicare, Medicaid), and audience demographics if important to your project.

Perhaps most importantly as it relates to performance stats, you’ll want to know how vendors plan to improve reach and activation rates during a program, as optimizations are needed.

Another important factor: Quality assurance

Ask how often potential partners monitor their engagement teams’ performance (daily, once a week, etc.), How do they hold their teams accountable for ongoing interaction quality?

These are important questions because a well-articulated commitment to providing services as promised is vital to a successful appointment scheduling initiative.

Additionally, ask for information that will tell you:

  • Does the vendor have a quality management system in place with recording, auditing and coaching tools that assist with continuous process improvement?
  • Are all calls or other types of communication recorded?
  • What best practices do they follow to ensure their teams understand their role in quality assurance?

In a detailed way, vendors should be able to state how their strategies and management practices ensure the highest levels of consumer satisfaction and engagement.

This is just a start

These are just a few of the areas you’ll want to focus on in a comprehensive appointment scheduling RFP. Learn more about what to include in an engagement program request for proposal by downloading our complete guide.

If we can answer any further questions about healthcare engagement programs, please let us know.