By Theresa Szczurek, PhD

The increasing complexity and variety of medical devices is not only elevating health care costs, it’s also complicating biomeds’ jobs. In addition to supporting a wider array of equipment—including IT systems and imaging devices—biomeds must also be more efficient. They must know more and do more in less time, even as the pace of integrating new equipment and tools accelerates.

So how can biomeds keep abreast of ever-changing and increasingly more complex medical equipment? And how can health care organizations, equipment vendors, and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) improve biomeds’ work experiences, efficiency, and effectiveness? Learn how below.

Current ‘Tech Help’ Support

Given today’s technological landscape, biomeds typically have access to the Internet and communication devices, such as smartphones and tablets, at work. It’s a welcome change, experts say, since it allows them to seek technical support from others and obtain advanced help from the equipment manufacturer, if needed.

After all, as every technology manager knows, equipment downtime costs can be exorbitant—leading to idle medical staff and loss of revenue. Consequently, it’s essential that biomeds have access to continuous technical support in both self-service and live assistance modes. Biomeds must react quickly to any breakdown of essential tools, especially when there’s an accident or emergency. And they often require complicated information that varies for each piece of equipment, device, or software.medsupport_main_menu

To avoid trial-and-error fixes for specialized tools, biomeds frequently need vendor or OEM guidance for specific, detailed support. While some OEMs offer online technical support, it may not be as specific or systematic as the biomed needs. Although many OEMs do provide tech help by phone—either via automated instructions or live tech support—biomeds often find that the information is too complex to understand in a voice-only or text-only mode.

Next-Generation Tech Help

Seeing visuals—graphics, diagrams, photos, or step-by-step instructions—can be enormously helpful when discussing or performing a specialized repair. It’s often said that a picture is worth a thousand words. And biomeds who call a tech support line can understand six times better when they both hear and see complex information, according to John Medina’s 2014 work, Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School.

Better understanding leads to speedier fixes, which reduces downtime and improves organizational efficiency. Being able to do better, faster fixes may also lead to greater job satisfaction and loyalty to the equipment manufacturer.

Especially when calling an OEM for technical support, biomeds want unambiguous guidance that translates to better customer experiences. In these situations, better customer experiences mean that their repair work is done faster, better, and with greater satisfaction. It’s like Steve Jobs once said; “You have to start with the customer experience and then work back to the technology.” And a better customer experience (CX) makes biomeds more efficient, effective, and satisfied.

As Peter Kriss explained in a 2014 Harvard Business Review article: “Customer experience is a major driver of future revenue.” For transaction businesses, he said, “Customers who had the best past experiences spend 140% more compared to those who had the poorest past experiences.” When providing a subscription-based service, such as Software as a Service, to health care firms, membership (renewals) is driven by good customer experience. Those with low CX scores renewed for one year and those with the highest CX scores renewed for six years.

Some business pundits believe that the cost to create higher CX is prohibitive, but the opposite is true. Unhappy customers are expensive, return purchases, and require more support. In fact, Kriss said, “Sprint reduced customer care costs by 33% with improved customer experience.”

Requirements for Visuals with Voice

Adding visual capabilities to a health care organization’s existing or new interactive voice response (IVR) system and/or live agent contact center allows biomeds to see what tech support is talking about. Depending on the visual IVR and visual live help, biomeds can see visuals while talking or texting via a mobile or native web app on a smart device, or simply using any phone and a browser on a smartphone, tablet, PC, or Mac. It’s a welcome change to call or chat with a tech support line and both see and hear information.

When considering how to amp “tech help,” keep in mind that a true visual IVR provides callers with: easy-to-navigate, tappable visual menus; easy-to-submit visual content; easy-to-understand, fast visual responses from the IVR; and easy transfer to a website or live tech support, if needed. And for health care organizations, vendors, and OEMs, a true visual IVR also sends caller data to live agents, if a call is transferred, and upgrades existing or new IVRs via script changes only, with no new hardware or source codes. It also realizes significant IVR cost savings by eliminating some of the text-to-speech conversions.

Other visual communications requirements include:

  • To improves both self-service and live agent calls
  • To originate calls to or from any phone and any network
  • To launch via a phone call, a mobile app, or a website
  • To provides secure, fully encrypted data transactions
  • To be HIPAA-compliant
  • To be compatible with the existing infrastructure and allow callers to use any phone/device or network
  • To be able to save visuals for a later use

Using Tech Help with Visuals

Consider this scenario: Suppose a biomed is servicing existing CT equipment in the ER and has difficulty calibrating it. The biomed then calls the OEM for technical support. An IVR answers and says, “Thank you for calling. Have a pen and paper ready.” After hearing seven options, the biomed selects option 2. Now, the automated voice lists nine more specific options. After selecting option 7, the biomed tries to understand and scribble down detailed information, hoping to fix the calibration problem.

But here’s an even better scenario: The OEM uses a visual IVR on top of its current IVR infrastructure. When calling the OEM tech line and listening to the automated voice, the biomed instantly sees visual menus and scrolls through them to quickly receive the desired information.

The biomed:

  • Sees and hears automated options on a smartphone via true visual IVR
  • Selects the “Medical Imaging Information” option from the visual menu and then selects “CT imaging”
  • Receives visual and oral information, including step-by-step written instructions with a diagram and saves them for future reference
  • Selects “Talk to Support,” if he or she has more questions. The call is then transferred to a live visual support engineer, who explains and sends more visual information. As a result, the biomed efficiently finishes the repair and puts the equipment back into service.

The result? Voice with visuals communication delivers shorter equipment downtime, greater satisfaction for biomeds and ER staff, and faster care for patients—which may, in turn, reduce costs and improve patient health.

Efficient and Effective Tech Help

It’s clear that biomeds’ calls to action often require additional support from OEMs or other tech support. Organizations equipped to share visual information when providing “tech help” by phone and chat are able to provide more comprehendible, actionable support for better biomed/customer experiences. After all, less downtime, more effective repairs, and higher quality assistance lead to greater customer satisfaction and—in many cases—greater customer retention.

Theresa M. Szczurek, PhD, is the CEO and founder of Boulder, Colo-based Radish Systems.