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Healthcare Needs To Embrace Customer Service, BYOD

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All businesses, whether they know it or not, have a customer service element. There might not be a contact center, per se, but there are undoubtedly channels of communication - email, voice - that are used to connect with clients, but also allow them to reach the company in question.

Healthcare is an interesting field because of what the phrase "customer service" means in this specific context - the "products" in question are technically the customers themselves. A person's well being - not to mention that of their loved ones - is generally very important to them. When queries are placed regarding patient status and records, there is a level of importance to the information that one generally does not see when on hold with the cable company. 

Because of this, hospitals, doctor's offices and other related facilities need to invest time and resources into strengthening their unified communications platforms. As more machines become able to provide their users with more information, there are going to be countless instances where the medical world will be required to harness new methods of data collection and make them available to patients in whatever instance is most convenient.

"Failing to improve the initial contact a healthcare organization has with a patient or family member increases frustration, decreases trust and introduces unnecessary anxiety, all before human interaction occurs," wrote InformationWeek contributor Meg Grimes. "Unfortunately, this is a too-common scenario - and a missed opportunity to create a good patient experience."

Healthcare professionals and the facilities that they work for need to realize that, even if they do not have a designated department to field queries and establish contact with patients, they can still benefit from the call center software that enables modern customer service.

Nurses Are Changing With The Times

One of the biggest signifiers that medical institutions need to be increasingly connected lies in the same bring-your-own-device culture that has permeated through other industries. Nurses, bound commonly by a once-cutting-edge pager system, are beginning to embrace BYOD by leveraging their personal smartphones and tablets in their duties.

But, just like in enterprises around the world, this can create several complications. According to research conducted by the Spyglass Consulting Group, 89 percent of hospitals do not allow their staff members to use personal devices. Yet, the same study also found that 67 percent of these facilities also reported that their nurses were using them anyway.

"I suspected nurses were using their devices," said Spyglass managing director Gregg Malkary to Health Data Management. "I just didn't realize how widespread it was. And it's not just nurses, it's doctors as well. Nobody wants to use a secure text messaging app. They don't want to have to use two apps, they want one, and the prevailing attitude is that unsecured SMS is just fine."

If all of this sounds familiar, that is because it was the same conundrum faced by corporations and organizations when these tools first started appearing in their offices. Even if there was a ban on them, employees - newly enabled by the consumerization of IT - found ways around the restrictions, effectively putting the fate of the entire company at risk. Simply put, it is almost too easy to operate app-based interfaces. The freedom created by the mobile world can cause people to unknowingly make bad decisions that can infect their machines with viruses and malware.

This means big trouble for hospitals, who deal in especially sensitive information on a daily basis. Unregulated BYOD can - and will - bring down even the most prepared medical practices. According to Spyglass, only 4 percent of hospitals are currently using smartphone-based nursing systems.

Hospitals Are Catching On

But thankfully, the healthcare profession is catching on much faster than other industries have, historically speaking. Spyglass also found that 51 percent of respondents were interested in exploring mobile technologies as a means for productivity. 

This means that, if voice networks have not been upgraded or supplemented with VoIP phone service, now is going to be the time for hospitals to do so. Part of the flaw to using consumer solutions or standard phone calls on a personal smartphone is that these lines do not exist within the digital protection of firewalls and anti-virus software. Bringing in VoIP will be a critical step to enabling proper unified communications in the field of medicine.