Any medical practice exists to care for patient needs, which often includes dealing with patient calls after hours. While you want to reassure people and avoid emergencies, after-hour calls can take a big bite out of your free time, add to payroll, and tie up other providers.
Fortunately, there are a few ways to minimize after-hours calls and client interruptions. How? Try some of these strategies.
When many people call a medical practice outside of business hours, they feel that their situation is an emergency. If presented with few options — and no person to talk to — they’re more likely to consider their needs as urgent and opt for emergency status. Help them identify when they don’t actually have an emergency that requires your staff by having a live person with a script and the ability to kindly direct customers to another option.
So-called static information is generic data that covers a number of common questions about your practice or current events. It often includes your address, hours, fax number, or website information. You may also want to add static information about seasonal medical issues like outbreaks in your area, when you provide vaccination clinics, or weather-related business notices.
You should include this static information at the beginning of your automated system — before a client is transferred to your answering service — or as one or more options in the phone tree.
Your after-hours services may not all come free to the client. If a situation is not deemed an actual emergency, notify clients that your office may charge a nominal fee for consultations outside of business hours. This fee should be reasonable, and it can be waived at your discretion. But even a small fee will help deter the small percentage of clients who tend to repeatedly call after hours and require more provider time than average.
Before implementing this procedure, explain it to your patients in a thoughtful, kind, and well-executed letter. Explain why this procedure is important and how it can help them receive more quality care. Then, start the system during a provisional period of six months to one year to see how clients respond before full implementation.
You should treat your answering service as an important part of your practice. Keep them well informed about any changes to the practice, such as changes in providers or services. They should also know if you receive a large amount of inquiries about a particular health problem, like during cold and flu season, so that you can work with them to draw up a specific script.
Make sure the answering service has options to direct calls to the most appropriate providers or employees, rather than just a single end point. By knowing how to better direct calls, the service can help get people in touch with someone who can reassure them or give them sound advice until the office reopens.
Prescription services are a large part of most practices’ ongoing business. They can also represent the reason behind a large percentage of calls outside of normal hours, since many patients use their prescriptions in the morning or evening. How do you manage your prescription refills? Can you rethink or automate this process to free up employees’ time?
You can automate requests in a few ways. You may be able to use a portion of a phone tree or provide the answering service with a script with which to enter an online order form. If you have a larger practice, you may want to use dedicated software (often known as “e-prescribe”), a patient portal, or a separate phone tree.
At Professional Answering Service
, we can help you manage all your after-hours phone challenges. We provide a variety of services that you can customize to fit your needs and those of your clients. Call today to learn more.