The Overview of IVR in Healthcare & Improving Patient Experience

May 31, 2024
Automated IVR system

Convenience and superior patient experience seem to be the theme for 2024 and the upcoming years, as the healthcare landscape is fast-paced and abreast with technological advancements, becoming a top priority for providers. In an era of comfort and convenience at the tips of our fingertips, there have been many game changers, impacting and creating a standard for the way patients interact with healthcare facilities.

According to a recent survey by Research Nester, good customer service converts one-time customers into ardent brand defenders for 86% of businesses. One of the latest customer support services in the healthcare industry to have such an impact has been the rise of IVR (Interactive Voice Response) system. With the huge demand for these advanced technologies and their ability to ease and strengthen operations for healthcare organizations, it is necessary to adopt these indispensable tools to provide the required experience for patients.

Our blog highlights the A-Z of interactive voice response systems, their impact, their real-world applications, and the effects of their implementation on patient satisfaction for all healthcare organizations.

Inside this article

What is Interactive Voice Response (IVR)?

Have there been times when you have called up a service center, and you're immediately attended to by a human-like voice who answers all your questions and re-directs you on an emergency basis? Now, that's an interactive voice response system.

Interactive voice response (IVRT) is a technology from the Information Age. Advances in speech recognition technology now enable input and replies from the spoken word. IVRT has become a way of patient communication and data gathering that is increasingly acknowledged as a breakthrough in health information technology.

IVR system in healthcare allows patients to easily access self-service, live assistance, or other options by verbally expressing their needs. Intelligent automation enables firms to handle large call volumes and better use their people. If the interactive voice response system cannot retrieve the requested information, the programmed menu options can assist in call routing, directing callers to the proper representative for assistance. IVR software, which integrates computer and telephone technology, can enhance call flow and reduce wait times, improving overall customer satisfaction.

Current State of Patient Interactions

Experience is everything, and in healthcare, the interactions from the first to the last will base their continuation on their experience. A recent survey by RingCentral states that hospitals with lower patient experience scores receive a 2.5% return on investment (ROI). In comparison, hospitals with the highest patient experience scores receive an ROI of over 4%. Today's healthcare firms place a higher value on providing a great patient experience. Poor patient experience results in disengagement and poor health outcomes.

It is not only the patient's health that is at risk. Poor patient experiences have a negative influence on your organization's financial health. These numbers show it. Some of the most common challenges faced by patients leading to poor experiences are the patient interaction flow-

  • Long wait times on hold
  • Confusing and multi-layered phone menus
  • Difficulty reaching the right department or representative
  • Billing in-efficiencies
  • Non-availability of representatives

Complex systems can create frustration and negative reviews for patients, especially during emergencies when reaching a live person is crucial. This can damage a healthcare provider's image. However, with advancements in IVR technology, there's an opportunity to create a solution. By implementing a user-friendly IVR system, the goal can be to streamline patient interactions and deliver a positive experience, even during urgent situations.

Types of IVR Transforming Patient Interactions

With the IVR system, there is no need for human agents to be constantly present and pick up calls in times of patient calls, as these automated systems immediately solve any and every patient query on an immediate basis. Smart IVR, created for healthcare, greets callers with "How can I help you today?" and allows them to respond organically. The three types of IVR systems created are with the primary intent of solving patient interactions:

Types of IVR

Direct dialogue: This IVR gives callers particular speech prompts based on their inquiry. For example, the recording may inquire, "Are you looking for a particular item or the location?" The caller may reply, "Location."

Touch-tone replacement: This technology prompts callers to access information using a keypad. For example, a pre-recorded message might say, "Press one for location information," and the caller would press "One."

Natural language processing: This modern IVR system employs speech recognition to understand user requests better. For example, the system prompt may inquire, "What information are you looking for today?" The caller may respond with "I'm looking for location information" or similar words. To which further conversation would continue.

Benefits of IVR

Intelligent IVR saves your staff time by taking up 80% of their calls and dealing with queries immediately. The system increases efficiency while lowering operating costs, and with the extra time saved with these systems, you can boost employee productivity and focus on value-based patient care. Some of the benefits are:

Benefits of IVR
  • Improved patient experience- With the help of IVR, patients are immediately given solutions to their queries without having to wait or listen to caller tunes, as these automated voice systems are fed with programmatic menus with immediate answers. In case of a need for a live agent, they are immediately re-directed to the staff in a moment and are available 24/7 for any query.
  • Consistent Workflows- With the help of IVR, patients are immediately attended to and familiar with the flow. With the IVR holding conversations individually, with the right destination in mind, the patients are directed to their destination in shorter timeframes without human intervention.
  • Reduce Operational Costs- With the help of IVR, healthcare organizations can attend to patients outside business hours and deflect calls for live agents, thus freeing their time for valuable patient care. With IVR, healthcare organizations can re-assign their staff for other tasks, boost productivity, and even reduce headcount.
  • Immediate Patient Feedback- With post-IVR call feedback surveys, providers can understand how their IVR systems work, train the systems based on feedback, and provide better assistance.
  • Data Collection- All patient requests are immediately recorded on the Patient 360 Analytics dashboard, further providing opportunities for analyzing the commonly asked questions and deeper insights into these issues.

IVR Applications for Patient Engagement

Software Advice survey revealed that 88% of patients want to schedule appointments themselves, using tools like phone menus (IVR) or online booking. This strong preference highlights the importance of healthcare providers embracing technology to cater to the changing demands of today's patients. Some real-world applications for this system are listed below:

  • Appointment Scheduling & Confirmation- Patients can now call their respective providers and converse with the IVR system. The interactive system can do everything, from scheduling a patient's appointment to canceling the appointment or even re-scheduling and confirming the appointment, which would help reduce the no-show rates.
  • Medication and Prescription Inquiries- IVR systems enable patients to seek prescription refills over the phone by following prompts. Patients can submit their prescription numbers or other identifying information, and the system will determine their refill eligibility. This reduces administrative demands on healthcare professionals and allows easy communication for patients.
  • Bill payments and insurance inquiries- Patients can check their E-statements and account records and make different account-related inquiries without speaking directly with medical staff. Patients can utilize the IVR system to check their medical history, see itemized invoices, ask questions about insurance coverage, and look into payment options. This self-service option allows patients to track their account information easily and increases healthcare openness.
  • Patient Text/IVR Reminders- Patients often forget their upcoming appointment or payment. Still, with the help of these automated text reminders and IVR reminders, patients are immediately alerted to their schedules and payments and pay off their dues.
  • Self-Service Options- Many patients prefer self-service for payments and telehealth visit preparations. With IVR guiding them on their schedules, it becomes incredibly easy for patients to complete their consultations and processes without waiting for their turn.

AI-Driven IVR to Personalize Patient Experience

AI assistants transform how businesses communicate with their patients, and intelligent virtual agents are at the forefront. This AI software in IVR systems simulates human discussions while interacting with patients, allowing healthcare organizations to extend their personnel, address customer concerns faster, and provide a better patient experience.

Intelligent Virtual Assistants are software programs trained by artificial intelligence, machine learning, and Natural language processing to imitate human-like conversations and provide automated and personalized assistance for all users. These virtual assistants are very unlike traditional chatbots as they are trained to properly understand the context of conversations and queries and provide natural answers rather than automated pre-tuned prompts.

Think of IVAs as an upgrade to IVR, as these start right off where IVR ends. The main difference between IVR and IVA results in their response intent:

AI-Driven IVR to Personalize Patient Experience

With the help of Natural Language, IVAs interpret not just a patient's query but even their intent, which leads to a natural conversation instead of pre-recorded prompts. Through detailed conversations, IVA can gather specific information, tailor responses accordingly, and guide them toward self-service options like scheduling appointments, refilling prescriptions, or accessing health information portals. These can lead to positive outcomes:

  1. Faster Resolution Times: IVAs can rapidly handle basic inquiries and activities, freeing healthcare workers to focus on more difficult situations. This reduces wait time and irritation.
  2. Reduced Frustration: Using natural language and eliminating complicated options results in a more user-friendly patient experience.
  3. Improved Patient Satisfaction: Shorter wait times, easier access to self-service options, and individualized communication all add to a better overall experience.

Self-service solutions allow patients to manage their healthcare requirements autonomously, giving them greater autonomy and ease.

User-Friendly Implementation Designs for a Positive Patient Experience

While IVAs hold immense potential for personalized patient experience, a user-friendly IVR platform is much more feasible and holds the foundation for a positive patient experience.

  • Simple Navigation: Complex menus and imprecise prompts annoy, especially for stressed patients with poor technological skills. User-centered design focuses on giving clear, brief instructions and a basic navigation structure that everyone can readily understand.
  • Easy-to-understand language: Avoid using medical jargon and unnecessarily sophisticated words. Use clear language that patients can understand, regardless of their educational background.
  • Avoid robotic voices: While IVRs are automated systems, a more natural-sounding voice can create a more human-like interaction. Using calm tones can reduce the user's anxiety and help confirm their queries in the system.
  • Always provide the human option: There are times when patients desperately need to speak to a human, so always enable the staff option so patients don't get frustrated.

By prioritizing user-centered design, incorporating elements of empathy, and offering a clear path to live support, IVR systems can become valuable tools for improving patient experience in healthcare.

User-Friendly Implementation Designs for a Positive Patient Experience

Future Advancements in IVR Technology

Enhancements in Interactive Voice Response systems have been incredibly propelling the Healthcare industry towards game-changing possibilities of providing superior patient care and experiences. Here are a few notable enhancements that have been implemented across healthcare organizations:

  • Voice Biometrics- The days of tough security questions and the preamble to remembering your long-set password are gone. Voice biometrics enable secure patient identification. This technology uses unique vocal features such as pitch, tone, and speech patterns to accurately authenticate a patient's identity without relying on standard authentication techniques such as passwords or PINs. This tech adds extra security to ensure that critical medical information is secured.
  • Integration of NLU- Advanced natural language processing and machine learning capabilities enable IVR systems to understand and reply to patient requests more intuitively and context-awarely. This enables personalized interactions based on individual patient requirements, preferences, and medical histories, developing empathy and trust in the healthcare professional.
  • IVR-EHR Integration- IVR systems can be linked to electronic health records (EHRs) and other healthcare databases, giving patients real-time access to their medical information, test results, and appointment schedules. This level of transparency and accessibility enables patients to take an active role in their healthcare management, resulting in improved health outcomes and higher patient satisfaction.

How Can AnodynePay Benefit You?

With personalized Patient Text Reminders & IVR Calls from AnodynePay, there is no holdback or waiting time, and practices can strengthen their one-on-one patient interaction. AnodynePay IVR calls remind patients of their upcoming appointments, payments, and confirmations with personalized options.

AnodynePay provides feasible IVR technology to improve patient experience and build a robust, strong practice. The numbers speak for themselves: 75% increase in patient satisfaction and an 80% increase in patient collections. All these are due to automated reminders where your staff can focus on patient care, and you can increase your bottom line.

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Lakshmi Narayana

Lakshmi Narayana has 17+ years of experience in Revenue Cycle Management Operations. He has a hands-on leader with extensive expertise in revenue cycle management, patient financial services, credentialing, training, reporting, business process analysis, and quality. Lakshmi has a proven record in project management of the U.S. healthcare process.

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