When you call a medical practice and reach a courteous, polished receptionist, you generally feel more confident and at ease, knowing that your issue will be handled promptly. This level of organization is often associated with larger, more established practices. Despite this association with larger practices, the reality is that any medical office can provide this level of service.
With a few simple steps, deploying a medical answering service to handle your calls professionally is well within the reach of even the smallest medical offices.
This guide will show medical office managers and healthcare professionals how easy it is to set up their answering service and benefit from the professional level of service typically reserved for more established organizations.
By employing a call center to handle some of your calls, you can ease your patient communication responsibilities, run your office better, make patients and providers happier, and save a lot of money.
First things first: You aren’t running an answering service; you’re hiring one
This statement is true for large healthcare organizations and small practices alike. Unless you have the resources and skills necessary to run your call center, it’s best to seek out an established company to provide service on your behalf.
Countless companies provide answering services for medical practices, companies that exist solely to provide telephone customer service for healthcare organizations.
There are plenty of reasons why outsourcing the telephone answering aspect of your office administration duties makes sense:
- Answering service equipment is expensive, and the technology can be confusing. Having one person in your office take calls may be easy, but once you include call routing, scripting, integrated software, and call distribution, it quickly becomes more sophisticated. Established answering services have this all taken care of.
- Hiring employees is costly and time-consuming. If you hired a medical office receptionist to take your calls, there’s a good chance you would pay him or her more in one day than it would cost you to use a medical answering service for a month.
- Managing a medical call center operation takes skills you don’t have (and don’t have time to learn). Handling call volume, staffing, quality assurance, software customization, etc. – these are things that call centers deal with every day.
- You’re best at running your practice. As the above points indicate, it takes a lot to run a call center. You’re doing what you do because you’re good at it, so taking time away from your core responsibilities directly impacts your business performance. Handing this work to another company allows you to stay focused on running a smooth operation and prioritizing patient care.
So find a company with experience working with medical offices, preferably experience with practices with your specific needs, and enlist them to operate your medical answering service.
Next: Customize the service and make sure it meets your needs
Here is where a lot of medical practices make a mistake. Not taking the time to ensure your new call center works for your business is a recipe for disaster. Medical answering services impact many people, and all of these stakeholders need to be considered, including patients, practitioners, office staff, on-call doctors, and other facilities with which you interact.
If you send your callers to an unprepared answering service, you will be the next example of customer service outsourcing gone wrong.
You can’t treat the vendor as a separate company solely responsible for meeting your customers’ needs. That isn’t their job. Their job is to perform your front desk phone duties cost-effectively and professionally.
The keyword in that last sentence is your; they’re performing your front office processes. So before you can use them effectively, you need to know what your processes are and ensure they address the issues faced by your patients, staff, and other callers.
If you run a multi-physician practice and callers constantly call to speak with their doctor, you should have a system for taking messages or routing calls to an on-call physician when warranted. With that system in place, you can easily instruct the answering service on handling these calls: Take messages and hold them for the office when they aren’t urgent, then escalate to an on-call doctor when certain stipulations are met. Just like that, the answering service performs a simple task that you would normally do in your office.
Another example is appointment scheduling. If you have patients calling you to schedule or change appointments, don’t hire a call center to take a message; use a cloud calendar system and give your call center access, allowing them to schedule appointments based on your availability.
Automated medical answering service features like IVR systems, auto-attendants, and intelligent dispatching can also be utilized to customize and improve your contact center setup. These technical solutions can reduce errors, save time, and automate repetitive tasks.
The above examples can be summarized as follows:
- Set up systems ahead of time that address the types of calls and scenarios that you expect to encounter
- Determine which calls and scenarios the answering service will be responsible for
- Work with your answering service to integrate the systems into their operation so that they can mirror what you do in your office
There’s certainly tweaking that needs to be done to get things right, but repeating the above steps for the different situations that arise will ensure your answering service remains in line with the rest of your business.
Lastly: Take time to listen and refine the patient experience
While it is ideal to set up your answering and let it go, it would be irresponsible not to check in and ensure things are running as planned. You owe it to yourself, your physicians, your patients, and your call center to do your part in ensuring the success of your medical answering service operation. By listening to calls, getting feedback from patients and physicians, and working with your vendor to make improvements where necessary, you can continually improve the effectiveness of your service.
And there you have it. You’re on your way to providing a world-class patient experience whenever a call is made to your practice. I hope you find this guide helpful in improving your practice, reducing costs, and enhancing the service your patients receive. Treating the answering service as an extension of your medical practice and partnering with them to meet your objectives will make their services extremely worthwhile.
If you have any questions regarding the process or how a medical answering service can work with your business, please get in touch with us to speak with an account representative and learn more about how we can help manage your call volume.