Having an answering service is essential for the typical medical practice. But what about your regular call center? Do your front desk personnel answer the phone? Do you have a dedicated receptionist? Or a formal call center?
Outsourcing services seem to be on the rise and medical practices are beginning to realize some cost savings just like other businesses.
The trade-off of course can be the perception of less personalized service. Some functions which can be outsourced include:
- Information Technology (IT)
- Facilities services
- Nursing and Nurse Anesthetist services
- Medical Billing
- Call center
Your call center functions can be complex, depending on your practice situation. But some things are fairly universal: If you work with any practice management consultants, one of the first things they will recommend that you do is stop having your front desk/checkin personnel answer the phone. This makes a bad first impression on patients and treats them like a mere distraction. Small practices may disagree with this and insist that they don’t have enough staff to segregate the functions of checkin and answering the phone. But these consultants will stress the importance of good internal marketing and giving new patients a memorable positive experience.
The person designated to answer the phone can:
- Answer incoming calls, make appointments or triage clinical problems
- Call patients to remind them of their upcoming appointments or testing
- Enter new patient information into the computer
- Perform transcription functions
An alternative to having a live person make appointment reminders is an automated reminder system. These typically use a computer that makes calls a patient and then presents them with a touch-tone menu for either confirming an appointment or canceling it. We have tried both ways – live and computerized – and still haven’t decided which way is best. The automated system can save you staff-hours. On the other hand, beware if you have a predominantly geriatric patient population: many older patients don’t like dealing with a computer and would rather deal with a live person.
As far as outsourcing the answering of your inbound calls, this depends on the size of your practice, the volume of patients you see, and the number of providers, among other things.
Peter J Polack is an ophthalmologist who blogs on medical practice management and electronic medical records implementation on Medical Practice Trends.
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