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A common complaint we hear from healthcare organizations is that their medical answering service fails to follow instructions and that these mistakes are negatively impacting their practice. 

This brief guide will outline three ways to reduce errors, mistakes, and other issues that may arise when working with your medical answering service

1. Double-check instructions and ensure all parties are on the same page

It may seem obvious, but instructions are subject to change, and what worked at one point in time may no longer be accurate. It’s also possible that two parties have a different idea of what the instructions are or should be, resulting in mistakes that are just miscommunication. 

For example, let’s say a medical practice with multiple physicians tells the answering service that every call dispatched to the on-call doctor should follow the same procedure. They should send a text message and a phone call if the on-call hasn’t cleared the call in 15 minutes. 

But what if one physician wishes to receive a phone call first because they don’t check text messages? The first time the answering service communicates with them using the instructions provided by their practice, they will be upset. However, in this instance, the answering service followed the instructions. 

The instructions themselves either weren’t accurate, weren’t complete or weren’t communicated to all the relevant parties. 

Office personnel, providers, patients, and the answering service should all be on the same page regarding how calls will be handled and the expectations of each party. 

It’s always worthwhile to visit all of the instructions provided to your answering service to ensure they are accurate. Then communicate with everyone impacted by those instructions to ensure they are understood. Keeping everyone on the same page with up-to-date information is critical. 

2. Personalize instructions for every situation

As the example above shows, there are situations where a one-size-fits-all approach to your medical answering service will not work. This extends beyond on-call instructions for individual providers and can impact every element of your service. 

You may have different instructions for calls that the service may handle, such as urgent and non-urgent calls, or even instructions for every critical and non-urgent situation. 

You may also vary your instructions based on the day of the week or time of day. Depending on the situation, urgent calls may have different on-call providers or relay instructions. Non-urgent calls may be routed differently depending on when they’re received. 

For example, even though appointment-related calls aren’t urgent and should never go to the on-call doctor, you may decide that they should be emailed to the office immediately if they are received within an hour of the office opening or closing since office staff may still be available to address them. 

Personalizing your answering service as much as possible is essential to account for your organization’s unique needs. 

An experienced provider will help you develop call scripting, dispatching instructions, message delivery options, and on-call procedures. However, it’s also crucial that you work with the answering service to surface your practice’s unique needs. 

By personalizing the answering service as much as possible from the forefront, you will be less likely to encounter situations where the answering service is unsure of what to do and ends up acting differently than you would have preferred. 

3. Utilize technology to automate as much as possible

Make no mistake: answering service agents are highly trained and skilled at reacting to various situations, from emotional matters to urgent medical emergencies. 

But they’re also human, and mistakes can happen. That’s where technology and automation come into play. 

Ideally, your medical answering service should use intelligent call scripting that changes based on the nature of the call and how callers answer specific questions. This dynamic scripting will ensure that you always receive the information you need. In addition, the software will guide agents instead of requiring them to have instructions memorized. 

Call dispatching and on-call procedures are other areas where automation is critical. While it’s certainly possible to have agents read each on-call provider’s instructions before sending them a call, it’s much easier to have the system automatically present the appropriate next step. For example, instead of manually checking an on-call calendar, on-call scheduling software can do that and automatically populate the on-call provider’s contact number. 

This step is critical because it’s essential to personalize your account as much as possible, but personalization also creates complications.

An effective medical answering service should accommodate almost unlimited personalization while ensuring that those changes don’t increase errors. The best way to do that is through technology. 

Are you experiencing problems? An experienced, tech-savvy medical answering service can help.

Followed the above tips but still experiencing trouble with your medical answering service? CMS can help. We have been working with healthcare organizations since 1967 and utilize industry-leading technology with highly trained live agents to deliver error-free service—view plans and pricing to learn more.

By Last Updated: November 21, 2022Categories: Blog4.2 min read