Pick Your Virtual Doctor!

                   By Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View/ UC Strategies Expert

I have long expected that health care would become an important driver for Mobile UC because patient interactions with health care personnel (doctors, nurses) will require all modes of contact to replace expensive face-to-face visits whenever possible. This recent article in the Los Angeles Times shows that health care is rapidly becoming able to do that.

Since health care affects all consumers, once they start exploiting Mobile UC for that purpose, they will rapidly want similar capabilities for all their personalized interactions with other business activities, including financial, government, education, shopping, etc. (Or, maybe it will be the other way around, i.e., they will want to do the same with healthcare visits as they can do with online shopping!)

Doctors and Nurse Practioners In “Virtual” Health Care Contact Centers?

The legacy “contact center” has traditionally been a way for “agents” to handle simple customer needs, including questions, information requests, and business transactions. For anything more complicated, the agent would then involve a “subject matter expert.”  Automated online self services and “mobile apps” have started to take over that basic agent responsibility, coupled with the option to “click-for-assistance” when necessary, e.g., Amazon’s “Mayday button” for their tablets.

With health care increasing demands for doctors and nurse practitioners, it is now becoming important to make interactions with patients less dependent on expensive face-to-face office visits, and more available remotely or from convenient walk-in local venues.  This is particularly practical, when a patient simply needs a prescription for common ailments.

So, we are now starting to see UC becoming a fundamental capability within various forms of direct, person-to-person communications between consumers and specialists (aka subject matter experts), rather than just through an available agent. This approach must therefore also give consumers more direct control over the choice of health care specialist they need, including a listing of available doctors or nurse practitioners, their qualifications, and current availability. (This capability will fit in well with Interactive Intelligence’s OrgSpan technology, which lets customers with smartphones or tablets see such information on a screen.)

Most importantly, we won’t expect doctors and nurses to work in a “contact center,” monitored by supervisors, etc., but rather independently from their home offices or wherever they prefer to work. On the other hand, we will be able to record all patient interactions to evaluate and compensate health care personnel for their services, as noted in the L.A. Times article.

Summary

Business communications are now becoming differentiated by the specific needs of the individual consumers/customers/patients, the self-service “mobile apps” involved, the business processes that control direct contacts between people, and the skills and availability of the individual service experts. This is becoming very important to providing more efficient and less costly health care to consumers, as doctors become less available and health care costs rise. By becoming more “virtual” and UC-flexible in interacting with patients, health care resources can now be more efficiently and cost effectively provided to the consumer public.

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