In the past, medical practices had very little in the way of options to handle after hours phone calls by patients. One option was to use an answering machine, which limited the message the patient could leave as well as the information the doctor could hear.
Additionally, with the old answering machine, there was no way for a patient to communicate with an on-call doctor. This is why the vast majority of medical facilities went to the use of answering services and later the bigger healthcare call center services.
This option did provide more of the “personal touch” with the call center staff reading a specific script, recording the patient phone number and information, or escalating the call to the emergency on-call physician. Often even with a simple recording of phone numbers and patient information mistakes are made, leaving doctors and office staff with incomplete or inaccurate information.
The Human Issue
While definitely a step up over a basic answering machine for patients, a healthcare call center has a lot of potential problems. There is always the HIPPA compliance issue to consider, and many centers use staff that is not HIPPA trained or compliance in the way they manage patient information.
Even more importantly for your patients, there is the human factor at work. Patients are aware they are talking to a complete stranger, not the medical staff at the office, clinic or facility, and they may be less likely to provide all relevant information.
Finally, there is the issue of the human error on the part of the call center employee. This often includes escalating non-emergency calls to the on-call physician, resulting in frustration for the doctor as well as for the patient just wanting to leave a simple message.
A more effective option that is very different than an answering machine or a healthcare call center is an automated answering service. These systems provide options for the patient calling in to choose emergency or non-emergency messages, to listen to personalized greetings and doctor information, and to also leave a message that the doctor will hear in the patient’s own words. To make it even more effective, each patient will have the call answered on the first ring, something that even the top call center cannot guarantee.
These systems eliminate the issue with talking to a stranger, and also provides patients with the ability to escalate the emergency nature of the call. The doctor on call will be alerted to the message in seconds, and with the system allowing for call backs, the patient will see their trusted medical office number come up on caller ID, ensuring the call is answered.
Today, more than ever, automated systems offer options human call centers simply cannot. Lower cost, more effective and more patient-friendly, they are the wave of the future in after-hours call management.
No More Phone Tag is one of the first automated systems offering specialized services for medical facilities and doctors in the United States.
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