The increasing focus on maintaining wellness as an antecedent to the continuing role of treatment has had a major effect on patient accountability. This has had a discernable impact on how physicians and the healthcare continuum as a whole utilize the doctor’s answering service to communicate with patient populations. The question becomes, can practices fully utilize these services as a way to increase patient accountability by making it easier for both patient and provider to fulfill their roles in achieving ongoing health outcomes?
Increasingly, insurance providers (both independent and federally based) are demanding quantifiable outcomes as the basis for remuneration in both procedurally-based encounters as well as wellness-based encounters between patients and providers. While this can be empowering for the patient, it still falls to the practice to provide the direct means of facilitating patient accountability. This is where full utilization of a doctor answering service can be of the greatest benefit.
The two–way communication for all physician/patient encounters cannot start and end with internal staff in all cases. This is due to the increasing patient loads and increased demands of personal interaction and quicker response from their healthcare providers. Without this level of communication, outcomes-based payment suffers as well as the response from patient populations that are quick to seek a more responsive healthcare provider.
For instance, scheduling and follow-up calls for appointments must be anticipatory, responsive and informational in order to begin the process of patient accountability. What this means is that internal staff cannot handle all incoming calls for appointments as well as outgoing calls for reminders for wellness appointments, procedural appointments and reminders for both in an efficient manner without support.
While the recorded message and automated callback system have traditionally played a role, live interactions will always result in fewer missed appointments. This is because speaking directly with a patient or even leaving a live voice message on their smartphone encourages them to meet appointments or reschedule immediately.
When this happens, practices can keep schedules full while ensuring that all patient visits are productive in terms of wellness checks and procedural visits. The result is most often a positive effect on the bottom line that charging fees for missed appointments cannot match. This can only be done effectively and in all case with the support of a well-directed doctor’s answering service.
Practices and healthcare providers must make it simple and immediate for patients to schedule appointments and receive reminders via their preferred communication channel such as phone or online chat that is accessible from their preferred digital device. This makes it easier for them to fulfill their obligation in term of accountability for their own part of the journey to desired health outcomes.
The success of wellness maintenance for patients is predicated on patient understanding of the options and advance notice to fit them into their personal schedules. This can mean providing information for healthy lifestyle practices promotions such as smoking cessation, fitness, and nutrition classes. It doesn’t matter if the practice is sponsoring the wellness endeavor or it is provided by a third party, patients will only take part if they are informed and provided with options.
Adding this to the list of calls for internal staff is not only burdensome but impossible to facilitate accurately, quickly and personally. Once again, utilizing a doctor answering service to pick up the slack can be a big part of ensuring quantifiable wellness outcomes. In all of these scenarios, patients are empowered to take a more active part in their health while simultaneously helping them to be more accountable for their health.
The personal interaction facilitated by a doctor’s answering service will always yield more information than just an automated system. As patients demand more personalized care and human interaction, a highly trained call center agent that can accurately represent the practice and appear to be part of the staff can make this achievable for growing patient populations. This ultimately leads to fewer patient defections, increased patient responsiveness, better patient/physician communication and a much healthier bottom line.