While most telehealth organizations would agree that quality assurance (QA) is key to ensuring a positive patient experience and measuring staff performance, many teams are convinced that comprehensive QA is simply untenable given their limited time and resources.
And who can blame them? Manual telehealth QA audits can take hours, and even when teams prioritize QA, most still only have room to review a small sample of telehealth calls, leaving them in the dark about the quality of most interactions.
Thankfully, though, things have changed. While infrequent QA audits and small sample sizes may have been an unfortunate but unavoidable reality in the past, innovations in conversation intelligence and automation now make it possible for telehealth teams to not only QA 100% of telehealth calls, but also do so in a fraction of the time.
Now that these solutions exist, comprehensive virtual care QA should no longer be seen as a “nice to have” or something even the best teams only wish they could do. Instead, detailed QA on 100% of calls should be seen as the bare minimum, a must-have for organizations that truly want to prioritize improving patient experience, health outcomes and staff performance and satisfaction.
Here’s my take on what’s made QA so difficult for so many telehealth teams and why the availability of new tech solutions makes implementing comprehensive QA processes imperative if we want to give patients the best possible care.
- Many organizations are unaware of options for automated QA and think infrequent, manual QA with small sample sizes is their only realistic option. However, new technology can make the QA process fast, easy and — most importantly — comprehensive.
- QA not only helps teams identify problems before they impact patient satisfaction or health, but can also help staff feel more confident in their work and get a better sense of their performance.
- Now that technology allows for fast, comprehensive audits, telehealth leaders should see QA on 100% of calls as a must-have for improving patient outcomes.
What’s been stopping us?
Telehealth organizations have long struggled to fit comprehensive QA into their workflows, and this problem has only gotten worse with the huge shift to virtual care that came with the pandemic.
To start, there’s the sheer volume of data that must be monitored. Traditionally, teams have had to rely on managers to sift through and manually audit hours’ worth of recordings, messages and care team notes spread across multiple platforms and devices just to get a sense of whether calls are consistently meeting an organization’s quality standards.
This process is also dependent on managers noticing trends, providing feedback to individual staff members and folllowing up to ensure improvements are made and standards maintained over time. For many telehealth teams — most already stretched thin — this has simply been unrealistic.
There are also the challenges of standardization and training. There is often no clear consensus or limited communication within an organization on what constitutes the “best practices” against which teams should measure call quality. As a result, it can be difficult to get everyone on the same page when implementing QA measures.
Virtual care is also still a relatively new field, so care teams need guidance on what makes for a quality telehealth visit. Without the right feedback loop and QA processes that take into account the unique challenges of telehealth nursing and other virtual care roles, staff are forced to rely on trial and error or regular re-trainings (another time sink few teams have the luxury to implement).
Despite these challenges, it is essential for healthcare organizations to find ways to improve their QA processes. The stakes are simply too high to continue doing things as they’ve been done in the past. With the right tools and approaches, it’s possible to overcome the challenges of QA in telehealth and ensure that patients receive the best possible care.
QA on 100% of calls is no longer a fantasy
In a world where manual call audits and constant trainings were the only way to ensure virtual care quality, it makes sense that many teams saw QA as something they wished they could do, but simply couldn’t fit into their workflows in a comprehensive way. However, new conversation intelligence tools now make QA on 100% of calls not only possible, but practical for many virtual care teams.
These tools are designed specifically for the call center or virtual care context and can analyze every staff-patient interaction, compare it with an organization’s best practices and create a comprehensive report for each indvidual call and staff member or for the virtual care team at large. In the time it once took to review a few recordings, managers can assess call quality and staff performance over weeks and across thousands of calls.
As I see it, now that such solutions are available, QA has become an absolute necessity to ensure patients receive the best possible care.
First and foremost, QA is necessary to protect patients. At the most basic level, when standards are in place and are being followed, it minimizes the risk of errors and potential harm — a real concern given the relative lack of telehealth-specific training for nurses available at the academic level and the high turnover rate at many healthcare contact centers. When done correctly, QA can help create a culture of safety in which everyone — from front-line staff to senior leaders — is committed to continuous quality improvement.
QA is also important for improving patient outcomes and satisfaction: When care is of a high quality, patients are more likely to experience positive health outcomes, and when patients receive care that meets their needs and expectations, they are more likely to be satisfied with their overall experience. This makes it more likely they’ll seek the care they need and minimizes the risk that health issues go untreated or concerning symptoms unnoticed.
QA can also help to identify potential areas for improvement within a healthcare organization so that changes can be made to further improve care quality. Regular QA can give staff clearer guidance on best practices and more timely feedback on their performance, allowing them to feel more confident in their work, get the coaching they need for continuous improvement and enjoy the kudos they deserve for consistently high performance.
And while our primary focus should be on patients, consistent QA can only help virtual care ROI. If quality standards are maintained, increased satisfaction rates among patients could lead to improved retention rates for programs down the road: Happy patients tend to tell their friends and family about their good experience, which could promote an organization’s organic growth.
By investing in QA, virtual care teams can improve the quality of care they provide, build trust with their patients, reduce the risk of negative health outcomes and find more confidence and satisfaction in their work.
Bottom line: Virtual care QA is now a must-have
QA in virtual care is no longer a “nice-to-have” but instead is essential for care teams that want to ensure positive patient experience and health outcomes, staff satisfaction and program ROI. Thanks to conversation intelligence tools that leverage AI and natural language processing to automate QA on 100% of calls, care teams finally have a practical way to ensure consistent call quality and give patients the best virtual care possible.
Now that technology has made QA on 100% of calls a reality, how can we afford to sideline it?