We hear an awful lot about value propositions in modern business. Business experts encourage companies to add value in order to grow. We couldn’t agree more. In our industry, there is one particular area that we believe needs to have a lot of value added: medical answering services.
The medical answering service is a staple of American healthcare. Private practices, group practices, individual GPs, and family doctors have relied on answering services for decades. But over the years, little has changed in the medical answering service environment. Perhaps it is time to update service standards to add more value.
With all of that in mind, here are four key components of a value-adding medical answering service:
1. The Clinician’s Representative
The basic premise of a medical answering service is to act as the clinician’s representative on first contact. Doctors, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants rarely have the time to field phone calls and visit with patients in the office. The phone never stops ringing in most offices anyway, so doctors couldn’t keep up even if they wanted to.
As the clinician’s representative, the person answering the phone is also their voice. This is where the first value proposition comes into play. If phone representatives can provide the same compassion and patient interest as the clinicians they represent, patient satisfaction will be positively impacted.
2. Improving Call Management
A second value proposition is offering a medical answering service as a way to improve call management. Calls from patients, vendors, and colleagues all need to be filtered and responded to accordingly. Calls also need to be prioritized. And when all is said and done, clinicians must get the information they need from those calls to do what they do.
Call management also involves HIPAA compliance. Remember that federal law dictates what types of information can be shared over the phone. A professional medical answering service should not have any trouble with compliance, making for better call management where privacy and security are concerned.
3. Answering Calls with Virtual Reception
A medical answering service can do just the bare minimum by taking names, phone numbers, and messages, then forwarding information so clinicians can respond. Most answering services do at least that much. But a value added service goes further. Rather than just answering calls, they provide virtual reception services.
Virtual reception mimics what staff receptionists do during normal office hours. Virtual reception schedules appointments, handles prescription refills, forwards questions to doctors, handles records requests, and so forth.
It stands to reason that there may be limits on what virtual reception can do. But as far as an answering service is willing to take it, virtual reception can be a game changer.
4. Giving Time Back to the Clinician
Perhaps the most important value proposition for medical answering service is its ability to give time back to the clinician. Like any other industry, a certain amount of time clinicians spend on the phone is wasted. Proper call management can change that.
Some of the calls fielded by an answering service do not actually have to be forwarded to clinicians. In the case of setting appointments with patients and vendors, trained answering service personnel can handle that. In essence, the more phone-related tasks an answering service can take on, the more time a clinician has to devote to more important things.
A value-adding medical answering service does not merely take messages and forward them. It provides a selection of additional services that ultimately prove invaluable to the clinician. Do it right and both clinicians and patients enjoy better outcomes.