Employee Turnover in Health Systems’ Contact Centers


By Chris Profeta, MPH

 Retaining employees has long been considered an important managerial strategy. Strong employee retention helps build positive culture, boosts engagement and productivity, fosters better staff-manager relations, and reduces operational costs in the form of lower recruitment and training costs. This is especially true for a health system contact center. A higher turnover rate in a contact center typically leads to lower performance as it is challenging to quickly replace agents and replicate their production due to the intensive training required for the role.

Based on research by the Patient Access Collaborative, the turnover rate for the contact centers serving academic health systems and children’s hospitals has been on the rise. As reported in 2023, the median employee turnover rate was 27.3% for academic health systems and 25.0% for children’s hospitals. (Members, click through for more detail about the historical performance.)

The contact center has historically been an entry point for new employees into a health system. Last year, Vivian Zhao, Senior Director Operations and PI, asked to measure a subset of turnover: employees who leave the contact center but remain with the health system in other roles. This “internal turnover” was reported by 30-member health systems to be 9% (median). Merging the data insights reveals that a substantial portion of our members are contributing to the health of the system (by employees who transfer to other internal positions). The loss of an employee, however, is challenging regardless of the path they take.

 Health systems are searching for ways to reduce staff attrition. A typical remedy for high turnover is some form of retention bonuses, but this can be a challenge for many institutions facing difficult post-COVID budget constraints. The high turnover rate has forced many PAC member health systems to continuously recruit, hire, and train new staff on a rolling basis to maintain service levels and support their patient population. This hire-ahead strategy is vital for some of our member health systems, but others are required to wait until employees depart before recruiting. Recently, members have reported an inability to even fill open positions, as a reaction to the financial woes of the health system. This puts more pressure on existing employees and lowers performance, but perhaps the creation of this perfect storm can lead to new investments in contact center innovation that will decrease the tether that binds us to human resources.