It’s fair to say that most medical practices use an answering service of some sort. The degree to which your practice relies on your call center will depend on your needs. You may employ an answering service to handle only emergency calls after hours, or use a healthcare call center provider to answer every inbound call to your office. No matter what level of service you subscribe to, your healthcare call center is a critical partner because it represents a touch point between your practice and your patients. Properly managing your customer touch points is important because your patients’ perception of your practice will come from the sum of these interactions. If any of these interactions fails to live up to the standard of an in-person visit then the practice-patient relationship will suffer. Likewise, if the messaging between the touch points is out of synch, then your patient can become confused and be left with the impression that your practice doesn’t have its act together.
It may be that your practice only requires after-hours inbound answering for emergency calls and outbound dispatch. Larger practices or those that are minimally staffed might be able to benefit from more advanced outsourcing such as appointment setting or patient registration. Think holistically about your patient communications and how a healthcare call center partner can help reduce your costs and improve the patient experience. Be open to a phased relationship with your call center provider. As you get to know and trust your answering service, it may make sense to expand the relationship so that your highly trained internal staff isn’t distracted answering routine questions over the phone.
Your answering service should have a process to bring your practice on board which establishes protocols for the various scenarios that operators will encounter. Choosing a medical answering service which has an expertise in working with medical practices is important, not only for HIPAA compliance, but because they should be able to leverage their historical knowledge in helping to establish protocols. In any case, you should be certain that every scenario is properly accounted for and documented in writing. Furthermore, you must ensure that all operators assigned to your account have been properly oriented to your protocols. Be aware that some answering services may operate multiple call centers. Be sure that every possible person that can answer a call made to your office can properly represent your business, and that your patients receive communications that are in alignment with the conversations that they would have with your direct staff.
When you think about an answering service, most people typically concentrate on the job of the operator. This is only natural, as the operator’s expertise is the “end product” that you are purchasing. However, in order for that expertise to shine, there often is a great deal of telephony and networking setup that needs to take place. Make sure that your answering service can properly address how to achieve the necessary setup in a way that won’t cause business disruption, and which will work properly when all is said and done. The communication tools you utilize, such as iPhones, pagers, faxes, e-faxing, voice mail, etc., need to be included in your procedures and tested prior to activation.
If your healthcare call center isn’t providing reports that give you insight into call outcomes then you have a potential blind spot with this important patient touch point. Typical metrics that should be provided by your answering service are answer time, hold time, completion time, and abandons. Note that there are not “typical” or “acceptable” values for these metrics as they will vary according to your protocols and your budget. The answering service should record all interactions so that you can on occasion audit calls to verify that the protocols are followed in a professional and courteous manner.
Since we’re discussing how to best integrate your answering service for a seamless experience, it is worth mentioning that this must be evaluated in terms of ROI and your budget. To see what is meant by this statement, consider your current in house cost for the selected duties compared to the out-sourced costs of your answering service or call center. Be certain your service provides the necessary reporting to determine ROI. Reports showing the number of calls both inbound and outbound and the time used will enable you to have a good understanding of how effective your protocols and procedures are and gauge effective agent involvement. These reports will also document first call resolutions – one of the best indicators of effective communication and time management. Because time means expense, you will have a valuable tool in also controlling costs. To optimize ROI paying only for the time an agent is actually working with a caller means that you have a service that is scalable whether your need is “on demand anytime” or full-time.
24-hour answering service company located in Chicago, Illinois. We are top among healthcare call centers and satisfaction is at the center of mission. Our agents are available 24/7 365. We never close. For 25 years, Unicom has worked with companies large and small to discuss their needs. To understand their processes allows us to determine how we can deliver value. With Unicom, simply request an answering service quote. Together we can determine if there is a good fit to manage patient phone calls.