Recruiting, staffing, and training the right scheduling specialists in the medical field is difficult to achieve, especially if you own your own outpatient practice. It becomes increasingly difficult to offer great patient care—especially after-hours—while setting boundaries for you and your staff to prevent burnout. One way to provide great care during your practice’s off-hours is to work with an after-hours answering service.
An after-hours answering service for your medical office can be a great way to save time and increase efficiency while improving patient outcomes and overall satisfaction with your services. It can also open up new avenues of revenue that you didn’t have before. Depending on the provider, they might offer additional services such as workforce management, scheduling optimization, and patient scheduling.
Here are some benefits of using this type of service:
1. It frees up staff time, so they can focus on patient care
While there are many different types of answering services, a medical-specific one will have patient care specialists who are trained to handle a wide variety of topics specific to your field. That way, you can guarantee that any patient who calls after hours gets the answers they need. Plus, you are confident that all after-hour calls are handled correctly and on time.
This not only allows patients to get their questions answered right away, but it helps with back office work each day. Instead of coming in and having staff follow up with vague messages, you can get a report of the calls that occurred and allocate one person to make any necessary follow-ups, if any. The rest of the staff can focus on immediate care for patients coming in that day.
An after-hours answering service also helps you keep your back office more organized and efficient. You can avoid confusion over who needs a returned call with automatically sorted and routed messages. This helps any staff who need to make necessary follow-ups; they can easily look at notes from the after-hours service to provide the best patient care.
2. Patients get their questions answered, even after your office is closed
27% of unanswered calls don’t ever become your clients; even if they call after-hours. However, an after-hours answering service for your medical office provides convenience for your patients. By offering this service, you can guarantee that your patients have access to help, no matter the time of day or night. You can also guarantee to always have your door open for your clients and for prospects.
More anxious patients can call even with minor questions and get answers quickly. If something is more serious, the answering service can route calls to an emergency line or your on-call phone.
This type of after-hours care gives you an edge as the best healthcare provider for their needs, leading to the next benefit:
3. It improves the patient experience and satisfaction rates
In addition to reducing missed or unanswered calls while your office is closed, it keeps your patients happy. Patient satisfaction is an important metric to keep a pulse check on; it affects the livelihood of your practice and can help bring in new business.
By offering an after-hours call service to your patients, you can increase communication and address their needs immediately. The result is a better experience and health outcomes for the patient, which translates to more satisfaction with the service they got from your facility.
It’s also a great way of showing your patients that you want to prioritize their needs and health. When someone experiences this level of care, they are likely to tell their family and friends about it, which contributes to new patients.
What to look for in an on-call after-hours answering service for your medical office
With so many on-call after-hours answering services in the market, choosing the best solution for your needs may feel overwhelming. However, these five essential considerations can help with your selection process:
Working with non-HIPAA-compliant business associates can expose your organization to numerous civil and criminal lawsuits, not to mention associate fines/penalties and a damaged reputation.
In order to avoid a run-in with the Department of Justice, your answering service partner needs to be HIPAA-compliant. Because this has an immediate effect on your practice if it is violated, HIPAA-compliant is the first thing you should look for with an answering service.
Most service providers typically have a badge on their website attesting to their HIPAA compliance, which is plenty of proof in most cases. Still, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services insists on conducting proper due diligence to confirm whether a service provider/business associate is HIPAA compliant, so make sure to prioritize this.
If you are looking to potentially expand answering services to business hours to help with scheduling or answering patient questions, you’ll want a provider who can meet the Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard.
While PCI certification isn't required by law, it's a good practice to ensure patient security and privacy from unauthorized eyes. Plus, if you are not compliant and experience a data breach, it can hold your practice liable to fines or a complete ban on the major payment platforms.
Working with a PCI-certified provider opens up a new realm of attention and care for your patients. For example, patients can pay bills when speaking with patient care specialists from your answering-service provider.
Great average handling time
One of the most critical aspects of an on-call answering service is the average handling time. This is how long it takes for a call to be answered. In the health sector, it's a vital metric considering the discomfort or pain patients may suffer when trying to reach your office.
The standard average handling time in the healthcare sector is four minutes or less; look for a partner that meets or exceeds this metric.
Experienced patient care specialists
A good after-hours answering service should have a team of specialists who can adequately deal with questions specific to your field and help with emergencies. In addition to technical training, they should be able to empathize with patients and communicate calmly and professionally.
The specialists should also be able to provide accurate information and help resolve any issues as quickly as possible, 24/7.
Additional services such as business intelligence and workforce optimization
Healthcare data is the new gold, but are you taking advantage of it? The right after-hours answering service can help you do just this.
By deliberately collecting patient and facility data and analyzing it using artificial intelligence (AI) data analytics, an answering service can transform your facility's operations from unpredictable to data-driven.
The benefits can translate into a more optimized appointment scheduling, better ways to manage your workforce, refined customer success management, and more insight into possible revenue gaps and solutions to them.
CCD Health: Your after-hours medical answering service
CCD Health is a nearshore medical answering service and healthcare support services firm that has worked with 3 of the top 5 radiology practices in the United States. We use our proven best practices as a knowledge provider to not only help transform workforce management with healthcare analytics but provide top-notch patient care.
Contact our team to learn how we can help answer your calls in less (both during and after business hours) than a minute and double your patient satisfaction score