Hospital System Sees Call Center as Marketing Tool

Heads turned and ears perked up by what the hospital’s VP of marketing said during a roundtable discussion at a recent convention: “Our call center is measurably our most cost-effective marketing tool.”

The unspoken question on everyone’s mind was, “How?”

“We look at the cost of each marketing initiative: direct mail, print ads, targeted online advertising, broadcast media, and billboards,” he explained. Then we compare it to the number of new patients added and ancillary services provided. Based on what we can track, the ROI (return on investment) isn’t that good for any of our marketing efforts. Looking at its cost, our call center produces almost five times the results, a five-fold improvement in ROI, over our traditional marketing.”

Here’s how:

Telephone Triage: People call healthcare hotlines when they have a perceived health concern.

When in-person follow-up care is needed, the nurse directs patients to the facility appropriate to their need within the hospital’s network: ER, urgent care, specialist, or primary care doctor. This points patients to the most cost-effective treatment, keeps them within the system, and guides those outside the system – or with no healthcare provider – into the system.

When an office appointment is recommended, the nurse schedules the appointment during that call.

When in-person care is not needed, the nurse asks patients if they have other healthcare concerns or have a regular doctor, directing them as appropriate.

Physician Referral: For callers new to the area or who lack a primary care physician, the call center can make recommendations. Call center agents or nurses refer doctors based on geographic location, appointment availability, gender, tenure, or any other criteria callers may have. The goal is connecting callers to providers and solutions within the health system.

Appointment Scheduling: Too many people don’t see their doctor because they put off making appointments or forget to call when the office is open. A healthcare call center can schedule appointments 24/7. Imagine the peace-of-mind a concerned caller can receive at 3 a.m. knowing the doctor can see him or her at 8:45 that morning. (Plus this fills openings in physician schedules.)

Billing: The cost of healthcare concerns everyone. Having a one-number solution for patients to call for invoice questions, insurance filing status, payment options, and past-due resolution speeds collections and reduces bad debt write-offs. Too often people ignore medical bills because they don’t understand them and are overwhelmed by what to do.

411: Healthcare systems are intimidating for patients to navigate. Their interwoven network of providers, clinics, and locations confuses most. A call center that offers a 411 information line can help alleviate concerns and put callers at ease who are overwhelmed by the system’s complexity.

“Our call center’s primary mission is facilitating healthcare and nothing will stand in the way of that, but new patient acquisition is secondary.” The results cost-justify the call center.

If your healthcare system lacks a call center or doesn’t provide all of these patient-facing services, a quick and cost-effective option is to outsource these calls to a healthcare call center that specializes in helping hospitals and healthcare systems.

Janet Livingston is the president of Call Center Sales Pro, a premier sales and marketing service provider for the call center industry and who provides a healthcare call center matchmaking service. Contact Janet at or call 800-901-7706.  Peter Lyle DeHaan is a freelance writer from Southwest Michigan.