Have you been thinking about using a medical office answering service for your practice? As with any potential investment, it’s important to spend time researching the advantages and drawbacks. This article will discuss medical answering services, including available features, benefits and drawbacks, and alternative options. At Weave, we offer a diverse range of software solutions for healthcare providers, including Weave Phones, our innovative phone system. With cutting-edge features like advanced call analytics, customizable options, and much more, Weave can drive your practice’s efficiency, growth, and profitability.
What Is a Medical Office Answering Service?
A medical phone answering service is a telecommunications technology that helps healthcare providers handle incoming calls from patients, performing an essential customer service function. Most answering services feature live agents (like a virtual receptionist), allowing patients to speak to a real human being when they make a phone call to their doctor instead of waiting on hold or listening to a pre-recorded menu. It’s important to use a HIPAA-compliant answering service that is experienced, knowledgeable, and professional.
However, medical call centers are more than just answering services that handle incoming calls. Essentially, medical answering services act as a 24/7 assistant to a doctor’s office or medical facility. They ensure everyone receives the personalized attention, care, and excellent customer service they deserve. The responsibilities of a medical answering service include the following:
- Answering patient calls 24/7
- Recording messages
- Appointment scheduling
- Sending automated appointment reminders
- Managing overflow calls
- Recording calls
- Ensuring HIPAA compliance
Benefits of Using a Medical Office Answering Service
Using a live answering service can provide several benefits for a medical office, including the following:
24/7 Availability for Callers
Patients often need to contact their healthcare provider after office hours or on weekends and holidays. With an after-hours answering service, callers can speak with a live person 24/7 and have their questions answered by a knowledgeable professional instead of reaching a voicemail or answering machine. Ensuring around-the-clock availability for callers (even at a late hour) improves the level of customer service your medical practice can provide, establishing a positive reputation. Plus, whenever a patient needs to make an emergency call to their doctor, a medical answering service allows them to speak with a live person instead of a computer or voicemail.
Reduced Staff Workload
Receptionists at a medical facility often have a heavy workload and numerous daily responsibilities. They must interact with everyone who comes in for an appointment, handle paperwork and filing, answer phone calls, verify insurance information, and more. Trying to handle all this without technological intervention can be a challenge.
Using a medical call center service can decrease the workload your front desk staff and receptionists must complete daily. The result is a much less stressful and hectic work environment. Furthermore, using a medical answering service frees up time for your staff, allowing them to provide more in-depth patient care and better service.
A doctor answering service reduces the workload your receptionists must handle, contributing to a more manageable and positive work environment and lowering turnover. If your medical office has a high level of turnover, it negatively affects patient satisfaction and customer service. Even worse, turnover can result in serious losses for your practice, including costs related to hiring, training, and lower productivity. Studies estimate that the minimum financial cost of turnover in the healthcare field can be up to 5% of the annual operating budget.
Downsides of Using a Medical Office Answering Service
While there’s no denying the benefits of using a physician’s answering service in a healthcare facility, there are certain drawbacks, including the following:
Relying on a Script
Many answering services require their agents to follow scripts when they speak with patients. Following a script can result in patients having an impersonal customer care experience, negatively affecting their satisfaction. Furthermore, there may be situations where live agents can’t properly answer questions or concerns, adversely affecting your practice’s reputation even more.
Dependence on Third-party Providers
Medical answering services are third-party providers that aren’t technically affiliated with your practice. As such, they don’t have the same level of accountability or care as the staff working directly under you. Therefore, there’s a higher chance of patients having a negative experience or speaking with a staff member who doesn’t genuinely care about the outcome of the conversation.
Using a medical answering service limits your control over patient service. While answering services are third-party companies that aren’t technically a part of your medical clinic, their actions still impact your reputation. Ultimately, if someone has a negative experience with a medical call center agent, they’re going to assume they’ll have the same poor experience during an in-person doctor appointment. Also, patients aren’t speaking with a medical professional, which means they could receive improper or harmful advice.
One of the biggest cons of using a medical answering service is the increased financial cost. Many of these services aren’t cheap, piling on bills and expenses for your practice. While a basic telephone answering service can be relatively inexpensive, it doesn’t provide the in-depth range of features and medical knowledge as costlier services.
Alternatives to Outsourcing to a Medical Office Answering Service
If you think a medical answering service isn’t the right option for your practice, you have plenty of alternatives to choose from, such as the following:
Interactive Voice Response (IVR)
One alternative to a healthcare answering service is an interactive voice response (IVR). IVR is an automated phone service that uses a pre-recorded message and computer-enabled system to provide information and transfer each patient call to the correct department. Callers can use their voice or keypads to select different menu options based on their needs. IVR systems can automatically transfer calls, record messages, and more. If you’re interested in IVR, Weave Phones includes this by offering Phone Tree Dial Options and many other features, (to see more about Weave Phones and its features, click here). IVR is one of the most commonplace technologies, particularly in healthcare, and can help receptionists to have more free time to spend on complex tasks and patient interactions that automated systems can’t solve.
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Remote Comms and Phones
Remote communication systems are another popular alternative to the ongoing financial expense of a medical answering service. Previously, only high-end call centers offered the advanced features and functionalities you can now get from a remote communication system, also called a VoIP system.
With a VoIP system, your staff can make and answer calls from anywhere via smartphone, laptop, or desktop. Common features include call analytics, advanced calling capabilities, call forwarding, auto call distribution, and more. Weave makes it easy to leverage those innovative communication methods with our Phones and Texting software, benefiting your receptionists and patients alike.
Software To Improve Call Efficiency and Quality
When deciding which phone system and features are the best fit for your practice, don’t forget to consider factors like call efficiency and quality. Now, you have the option of using integrated software platforms that can help your medical office improve call quality, preventing issues like dropped calls and static. Furthermore, you can increase efficiency by reducing the number of missed calls from patients, which benefits your bottom line.
For example, Weave Phones includes the Call POP feature, which provides in-depth information about each person when they call, such as their name, whether they need an appointment, and whether they have an outstanding balance. Even better, every time you miss a call from a patient, you can send them an automatic text message, ensuring you keep in contact with them and follow up as quickly as possible.
While a medical answering service can perform tasks like patient scheduling, you can take it one step further and make it even more convenient for patients with Weave’s Online Scheduling tool. Your receptionists will no longer need to spend time and effort manually scheduling each patient. Instead, patients can use your website to schedule their appointments whenever they want. This process allows for greater flexibility and automatically adds the appointment to your calendar, simplifying everything for receptionists and patients.
Combination of Options
At Weave, we provide end-to-end solutions for our clients, improving operational efficiency and streamlining workflow. Here’s the best part: You can combine all of the alternatives we just discussed by opting into the Weave Medical Software platform. You can leverage Phones, Online Scheduling, Digital Forms, Payments, and so much more, maximizing the benefits and advantages our cutting-edge technology provides for your practice. Curious to see our innovation in action? Schedule a demo today with our sales team and take the time to read some case studies from our clients.
Don’t Wait – Invest in Your Future Success Today With Weave
While using a medical office answering service provides tangible benefits, it’s by no means the only available option. Now, you can consolidate all the benefits a medical answering service provides and more into one user-friendly software platform with Weave. We help medical professionals improve communication, maximize call efficiency, provide superior service, and more. Call Weave now at 866-308-2039 now to schedule a demo with our sales team.