The Affordable Care Act and the always-evolving Medicaid landscape have changed the healthcare continuum at all levels. Among these changes are more outcome-driven and preventative care mandates, vastly changing fee structures and incentives for providers, increased patient loads, and even thinner financial margins.
The implementation of patient-centered medical home (PCMH) care models and the Accountable Care Organization (ACO) are two growing trends meant to increase efficiency among providers while improving patient outcomes. Medical answering services must play a key role among the healthcare players in these organizations as their effectiveness hinges on improved patient/provider communication.
Benefits Of Using Medical Answering Services For Your Healthcare Practice
In the PCMH model of healthcare delivery, a team of providers including physicians, nurses, nutritionists, pharmacists, and social workers collaborates to meet a patient’s health care needs. The goal of this enhanced primary care delivery model is to achieve better access, coordination of care, prevention, quality, and safety within the primary care practice. At its center is the creation of a stronger partnership between the patient and primary care physician.
While the ACO is also based around a strong primary care core, it is made up of numerous primary care providers, practices, specialists, and hospitals in order to be able to control costs and improve health outcomes across the entire care continuum. Since they are designed to better manage the care for a greater population of people, ACOs are accountable for the cost and quality of care both within and outside of the primary care relationship.
In order to achieve their goals, both models rely on extended office hours and increased communication between providers and patients via email and telephone. The goal of which is to increase care coordination and enhance overall quality, while simultaneously reducing costs.
Individual healthcare providers are already taxed in terms of incoming patient communication. Medical answering services are a major source of improved patient communication/satisfaction as well as providing flexibility in the prioritization of tasks in terms of staff. The advent of the PCMH and ACO models means that providers must find ways for a more coordinated approach in communication.
If doctors only worked a regular nine-to-five schedule, they might not need to rely on physician answering services, programs that make it possible for their patients, hospital administrators, and other professionals to get in touch with them after hours. In fact, physician answering services could help distinguish a physician as a leading practitioner in the area where she practices medicine. It’s this type of perception that builds and strengthens a brand, gaining a physician a larger client base.
This is why administrators at hospitals, medical clinics, and emergency centers contract with Anserve to implement their physician answering services. Advantages the services offer physicians, whether they operate a private practice or work at a major hospital, clinic or emergency center, include:
- 24/7 telephone answering services
- Forwarding of telephone messages to key persons via fax, text or email
- Recorded Calls (Anserve stores recorded conversaiotn for two and a half years)
- Capability to offer live-agents who speak Spanish
- Free call forwarding numbers
- Caller identification
- Ability to check messages in real time via online portal
Recorded conversations are particularly helpful should physicians have to respond to insurance companies or legal inquiries. Call forwarded services make it possible for physicians to receive urgent messages as soon as possible. And, of course, as the United States becomes increasingly diverse, bilingual services ensure professionals answering doctors’ telephones speak in and understand the language a large segment of the American population communicates in.
In addition to the aforementioned services, doctors and medical administrators who partner with Anserve can, upon request, receive additional services. For example, they can have patient examinations, check-ups, and other services scheduled, and get their telephone calls answered on the first ring.
It’s these and other medical answering services, offered by Anserve, that have made it possible for the communications firm to service more than 40 Medical Centers, 900 practices and 9,000 physicians. As many as eight medical schools depend on Anserve to manage their telephone, electronic, and fax communications.
Improve Doctor Patient Communications with Medical Answering Services
With cost savings as a cornerstone of these models, it becomes beneficial to look at a collective relationship with a single medical answering service in order to better coordinate patient-to-provider and provider-to-provider communication while lowering overall costs. This better serves the goal of coordinated care for patient populations by preventing provider care redundancies and eliminating potential treatment gaps.
These two areas have been historical challenges in patient populations where patients see several specialists and other healthcare providers in addition to their primary care physicians in order to treat and manage chronic illnesses. When hospitals are added to the equation, pre-admission and post-discharge medical care also is improved due to improved provider/patient communication via the support of the medical answering services.
Increased Inbound and Outbound Communication Opportunities that Serve Patient Well-being
By working with a medical answering service that meets these criteria, healthcare providers can more effectively direct patients to the appropriate care in a 24/7/365 cycle as it pertains to an inbound communication from patients. In addition, outbound communication can also be enhanced by the medical answering services in terms of vital communication that affects healthcare outcomes as well as preventative care goals.
This vital outbound communication can include status checks for post-discharge patients, medication/care protocol reminders, and more. In addition, routine tasks such as appointment reminders, patient-centered health information, preventative care messages, and health program opportunities can be communicated via outbound communication efficiencies derived from medical answering services.
In the new landscape of the healthcare continuum, improved outcomes, healthcare crisis prevention, and a more stable bottom line for providers all hinge on coordinated provider/patient and provider/provider communication. It is increasingly apparent that the medical answering services will play a huge part in helping the healthcare continuum deliver on those goals.
Reduce Healthcare Facility Expenses and Increase Productivity
Medical answering services could reduce a physician’s payroll expenses, and other expenses such as real estate, office supplies, employee healthcare insurance, and worker’s compensation expenses. Employee healthcare insurance and worker’s compensation insurance is reduced or eliminated as physicians rely on Anserve’s medical answering services to screen their telephone calls and respond to patients, saving physicians from having to hire receptionists and medical assistants for this work.
If you’re in charge of phone communications in a hospital and find that your staffing fees are out of control, or if you manage a medical practice and hear phones ringing all day long because you don’t have the personnel to answer them, consider the benefits of professional medical answering services.
Whether you’re a CFO, an IT or communications manager, a practice administrator, or an office supervisor, you can count on Anserve to handle your phone calls 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Our medical answering services professionals are trained to solve some issues over the phone and to send immediate messages to the proper individuals and departments when there’s an urgent circumstance.
HIPAA Regulatory Compliance
Another primary challenge to the PCMH and ACO models of patient care is the mandate of ensuring that patient information is protected in accordance with HIPAA regulations. Consequently, it becomes imperative for individual providers as well as those PCMH and ACO model providers to utilize HIPAA-compliant medical answering services.
This ensures that confidential patient information is protected while enabling healthcare providers to better share patient information. The medical answering services that meet these criteria are also fluent in the language and needs of the patient and provider communication within the healthcare continuum. The growing non-English speaking patient population in the U.S. only heightens the need that providers belonging to these healthcare models have bilingual support via a medical answering service.
24/7 Patient Access
Medical emergencies can come any time, after hours, on holidays, or on weekends. Therefore, it is very important for healthcare practitioners to be available for patients. However, as a human being, it is not possible to be available 24/7. That is what medical answering services are made for. This service helps healthcare practitioners by answering their patient’s calls and questions. It filters the urgent and non-urgent calls and responds to them accordingly. 24/7 live answering services can increase your patients’ trust and satisfaction in your practice. Patients can reach your service whenever they need or feel the urgency, and a human receptionist will be there to answer their queries. Advanced technologies used by medical answering services provide privacy and protection for your patients’ data.
Medical Answering Services for Dentists, Psychologists and Other Healthcare Professionals
Aside from their shared characteristic of healing the mind and body, disparate health practices, like those of dentists and psychologists, share the commonality of meeting their patients’ needs. These patients often defy routine scheduling and communications.
From open until close, every successful dental practice sees a non-stop succession of patients coming in for everything from routine check-ups to surgery. Receptionists are kept busy checking in new appointments, performing clerical duties, and answering nearly non-stop calls.
When this happens, a medical answering service with a live call agent is more than a convenience; it is a necessity to ensure the best customer service possible. When you consider the need to field calls for emergencies in a 24-hour business world, the implications to customer service as they relate to the bottom line are obvious.
Like any healthcare practice, a successful psychologist’s office must put a great deal of planning into patient appointment schedules. Due to the often specific nature of appointment durations, this requires an extra layer of communication to ensure that schedule changes are promptly and courteously conveyed to patients.
Many psychologists’ patients may be in the hospital for treatment of medical conditions that require some level of counseling in order to address emotional issues stemming from illness or injuries. Working through these issues before and/or after their hospital stays may require more impromptu counseling with psychologists. This can prompt a need for unscheduled counseling support that requires them to contact their psychologists’ offices to set an appointment.
If these calls come in while the receptionist is on another call, or more likely, with another patient, it is important that each patient be greeted with a live calm sympathetic voice. Similar to the receptionist’s job, the live call agent’s job is not to take any details from the patient other than name, contact info, and priority requirements. The point is to be able to keep the patient calls from going to voicemail while ensuring that the messages are immediately relayed to the psychologists.
- Privacy Control – Like all healthcare settings, psychologists, dentists, and other healthcare professionals are bound by HIPAA privacy regulations when undertaking any communication with clients or potential clients. And leading medical answering services have the technology and the training to ensure the practice’s HIPAA compliance is paramount.
- In terms of technology, our medical answering services are always recording and archiving calls intended for the practice. Healthcare professionals using these services are able to protect patients’ privacy with encrypted archives. In addition, medical professionals can listen to the actual call playback at their convenience to make any determinations as well as review how the live agent handled the call.
- Manage Overflow Calls – Practices are experiencing high fluctuations in staff availability. Whether it be seasonal in nature, pandemic-related or just costly to keep the full-time employees you once did, Office Managers are forced to miss calls or stress their reception staff to quickly move from one incoming call to another. Anserve’s solution is to re-route your phone system during office hours. If your staff doesn’t pickup, our live agents can. We can also have alternate programming available for you. How we manage your volume during business hours could be different than after-hours. Don’t frustrate your patient population, don’t stress your staff. Anserve has no change in fees to do so.
- Quick and Fast Response – Anserve’s medical answering services live agent can provide a level of specificity as to when the caller will hear back directly from the doctor. This can range from less than an hour to any estimate under 24 hours. This is particularly helpful with after-hours emergency calls.
- Health professionals can set up protocols for the best ways to reach them so that they can respond to the caller based on priority. This can include direct calls to designated numbers, emails, or voice messages. In all instances, they can access the original archived call before they respond to the patient.
- Cost Effective- Since the expense of having this level of collaborative support via medical answering service is based on specific calls fielded, it is highly cost-effective by any measure. When it is measured by its ability to ensure patient comfort, customer service, and privacy, it inevitably reflects a healthier bottom line. This is possible because the level of care results in higher patient retention and growth through the spreading of positive word-of-mouth encounters.
Strategies to Minimize No-Shows Patients at Your Healthcare Practice
Research shows that patient no-shows cost healthcare providers approximately $150,000 each year. It’s no secret that patient no-shows are one of the biggest frustrations for healthcare practices. From the valuable time wasted on preparing for an appointment to loss of revenue, no-shows often throw off the daily routine of your practice and hamper your productivity. So, how can you tackle the no-show problem? Below are six ways to minimize no-show patients at your healthcare practice using a medical answering service.
- Allow Appointment Delays – There are times when patients are late for an appointment, and the reason for the delay is inevitable. In such cases, instead of shutting the doors for them, provide them with a grace period and allow appointment delays. The fear of being late for an appointment often translates into a no-show.
- Send Automated Reminders – In continuation of the first point, sending a quick but polite reminder to patients about their upcoming appointment can ping their memory. It is also an effective way to take a step toward patient loyalty. Automated reminders can cut down patient no-shows and signal the patient that you care about their well-being.
- Reduce the Waiting Time – There’s no denying the fact that everyone is super busy these days. In such a busy scenario, expecting your patients to wait for 30-40 minutes for an appointment is too much to ask. If your patients don’t feel you value their time, they’ll definitely not value yours. This is another critical factor that can lead to a no show which is equivalent to a lost patient. If you want to minimize no-show patients, make sure you reduce the waiting time at your clinic and value your patients’ time.
- Focus on Patient Satisfaction – Another proven way of reducing no-shows is paying extra attention to patient satisfaction. Once an appointment is over, make it a point to follow-up with your patients to check if they’re satisfied with your services. Many patients do not turn up for an appointment if the previous appointment was a disaster or they simply did not find it valuable for the money they’re spending. Remember, exceptional care goes a long way in patient satisfaction and engagement. The more you’re invested in them, the more committed they would be toward your healthcare practice. Keep them updated about the current updates in the healthcare industry by sending them weekly or monthly newsletters. Offer valuable healthcare tips from time to time.
- Assign Patient No- Show Follow-up to the Best Resource in Your Team – Assign someone on your team with excellent communications skills to follow up. Make that person accountable for following-up with patients who did not show up and finding out the reason for the no-show.
- Routinely Provide Flexible Healthcare Services – Flexible healthcare services are especially critical to older patients or those who have physical challenges that make it impossible for them to visit your clinic. Anserve, a small business, has joined forces with Bluestream Health to provide patients with telehealth services. They’ve come up with a convenient platform where a patient and a healthcare provider can connect using audiovisual telecommunication technology. Through the means of real-time videos, patients can now communicate with their providers virtually and skip in-person appointments. Real-time videos can be leveraged for both diagnostics and consultation. Telehealth services can help a great deal in reducing patient no-shows.
Why You Need A Medical Answering Service?
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) has impacted healthcare settings in many ways. One major way that PPACA impacts healthcare is in internal and external communications. Consequently, medical answering services will need to play a larger part in the day to day operations of every type of healthcare setting.
- The growth of retail health clinics over the next several years and the rise of new patients are likely to put strain on primary care physicians, not to mention the already overloaded ERs will also mean greater strain for clinics. Medical answering services will become a more integral part of these retail healthcare settings by providing a friendly, knowledgeable voice to route overflow calls as opposed to longer on-hold times.
- Although a licensed practitioner is always on duty during a retail healthcare clinic’s hours of operation, sudden patient surges or after hours emergencies must also be accommodated in operation plans. Medical answering services can provide communication for patient routing to other facilities and hospitals as well as the ability to contact practitioners that may be off duty to provide assistance. This ultimately maximizes the effectiveness and continuity of care between the retail clinics, hospitals and practices.
- Medical answering services may be particularly needed after normal practice hours in order to field calls, answer questions, take messages and route any emergency calls to the cell phones or home phones of designated personnel.
- Even a dedicated receptionist in a practice has other duties that will increase in a busier office. Consequently, utilizing medical answering services will help mitigate late appointments, annoyed patients and staff as well as productivity loss. In addition, these practices will be able to provide these services with structured talking and information points based on specific practice protocols for new and existing patients.
The Affordable Care Act introduced many changes, including billing codes, meaningful use reporting, and electronic medical record systems and many practices struggled internally to bring their systems and personnel up to speed. Consequently, medical answering services have become an integral part of their ability to keep pace with changes.
How Do Anserve’s Medical Answering Services Work?
Anserve provides medical answering services to many private medical practices, clinics, hospitals, and other health facilities across the country. In our efforts to provide medical professionals with fast and efficient communication solutions, Anserve has integrated its medical answering services with half a dozen third-party secure messaging applications to send PHI directly from our system to healthcare professionals.
Communication applications provide healthcare facilities the means to securely communicate digital PHI to doctors, nursing staff, and patients. These applications produce repeating notifications, sounds, and visual acknowledgments to ensure that messages never get lost and senders know when their messages have been read.
These platforms are ideal for sending information after business hours, and to coordinate care among groups and affiliates. They are compatible across all devices: mobile phones, tablets, and desktop computers. They’re also great for coordinating care among groups and affiliates.
As the largest call center in New Jersey, Anserve provides seamless medical answering services for medical facilities of all types, from clinics, to dental practices, to hospitals and healthcare systems. Our phone agents handle incoming calls using customized scripting to answer calls in the exact manner our clients request. Anserve’s live agents are professional, in compliance with HIPAA regulations, and also prompt, helpful, and polite.
We provide services to more than 40 hospitals in the United States as well as hundreds of their affiliates. Our medical practice clients number in the thousands and more than 9,000 physicians count on us so they’ll never miss a call.
If you’re debating whether medical answering services would benefit your facility, we’d be happy to supply you with references you can contact and learn specifically how we’ve helped them to save time, lower their operating costs and be more productive.
The nature of the business of hospitals, clinics, and private medical practices dictates the need for seamless phone communications with patients, colleagues, laboratories and others. For example, patients having medical emergencies absolutely do not want to call their doctor and get a recorded message or be put on hold. They need a caring voice on the other end who can handle their needs.
If it’s time for your medical facility to step up the quality of its phone communications, Anserve is here to help. We’ll be happy to tell you more about our medical answering services and show you how to reduce your operating expenses, increase productivity and enhance caller satisfaction.
For more information about Anserve’s medical answering services and how we integrate with medical communications platforms, contact us today.