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Connecting patients with medical staff during an emergency


How technology like AI and cloud queuing can ensure business continuity even when call volumes skyrocket.

phone, stethoscope, keyboard | © Africa Studio - stock.adobe.com

© Africa Studio - stock.adobe.com

When there is a health-related crisis, serious car accident, terrible injury, etc., people’s gut reaction is to call emergency responders or medical professionals. Baked into this reaction is the assumption that there will be someone on the other end to help. But what if there isn’t someone available? What if the connection is down because of a natural disaster or an overloaded contact center? Research shows that adding just five minutes to an emergency response time can increase the odds of fatality by nearly 50%.

Healthcare practices and hospitals are keenly aware of the necessity of having an always-available contact center – nevertheless, finding the communications technology to support such resiliency can be challenging. Ideally, medical professionals should implement a communications automation platform (CAP) that utilizes AI and cloud queuing to handle sudden spikes in phone traffic, quickly redirect callers and automates routine requests, ensuring continuity amid medical emergencies.

Cloud queuing: What is it? How does it work?

Many emergencies would cause callers to flood a hospital’s contact center, just as numerous uncontrollable factors can put one offline. For example, the frequency and severity of natural disasters continue to increase; cyberattacks are also rising due to the greater prevalence of connected devices. Both natural disasters and cyberattacks can disrupt contact center operations, not to mention a sudden uptick in callers reacting to a local emergency, like a large car wreck or shooting.

Cloud queuing allows healthcare practices to maintain communications in the face of such issues. Patient calls will pass through a cloud workflow before reaching the hospital’s contact center, and if calls have reached a pre-decided volume, they’ll be placed in a waiting room queue, thereby preventing a crash from high traffic. Once an agent is available, the caller will be routed to them. Healthcare organizations can also apply predetermined priority criteria, enabling critical callers to always get through to an agent during an emergency.

Additionally, cloud queuing safeguards against localized disruptions, like power outages. Because the queueing occurs in the cloud and not on-premises, calls will automatically failover to alternative locations or departments – even if there is an ice storm outside a caller’s home, they will likely speak with an agent experiencing a cloudless sky. Likewise, these solutions permit hospitals to send status updates (which can be prerecorded) to anxious callers queuing in virtual waiting rooms, diminishing fears and reducing call abandonment rates.

AI enhances communication during crisis

When time is of the essence, speed is everything – lost seconds could jeopardize a patient’s well-being. Luckily, best-in-class cloud queuing solutions use AI-powered automation. Instead of operators manually rerouting callers, eating-up precious time, AI can automatically direct people to a better location or department. This call-routing capability keeps contact centers operational, maintaining fast response times and avoiding overloads.

Not only is AI faster at routing calls than a human, but it is also a job that agents shouldn’t have to worry about in the first place. Medical contact centers can be highly stressful – particularly during abnormal call volume. Just as the callers expect their call to get answered quickly, agents should not have to worry about receiving non-emergency questions like a hospital’s billing policy. AI-powered self-service solutions enable healthcare practices to ensure their agents only handle the critical calls and tasks that necessitate a live person.

Similarly, having alternative, self-service communication channels reduces the likelihood of a medical contact center getting overrun by monotonous, non-emergency requests. Case in point, there is a significant difference between someone asking when they can stop by for a prescription refill versus a caller describing symptoms of an overdose that would require the immediate attention of a qualified agent. An AI-enabled self-service solution stops a large portion of non-emergency calls from taking up spots in the cloud queue or wasting the valuable time of an agent.

Best CAP offerings bundle AI and cloud queuing together

An innovative CAP will deliver both AI and cloud queuing capabilities. The solution layers over the top (OTT) of existing on-premises, cloud, and hybrid communication infrastructure, meaning hospitals and healthcare practices can enhance their current contact center without having to rip and replace any parts. Of course, not every CAP vendor has OTT orchestration or built-in AI functionality.

Given the unpredictability of emergencies in our society today, healthcare practices must maintain contact center operations in the face of disruptions. To that end, they should prioritize those CAP offerings that are driven by AI and include OTT integrations for cloud queuing.

Matt Edic is Chief eXperience Officer at IntelePeer

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