For- and non-profit health clinics, in-hospital clinics, and after-hours clinics all struggle with rising costs and increasing patient populations. Their shared core mission is to maximize value for their patients by achieving the best health outcomes at the lowest cost. Many of these clinics around the country are realizing that they can implement affordable medical answering services that help to fulfill that mission.
Reigning in operational expenses and inefficiencies are a top priority for all businesses, but these aspects are critical factors for health clinics. Often short-staffed with a rotating on-call practitioner schedule, there are numerous health clinics that do not have dedicated receptionists. If they do, the likelihood is that they are often overwhelmed by the walk-in nature of clinics as well as the high volume of calls.
Of course, these clinics need more than just a standard telephone answering service. These medical answering services must have the best technology for their back-end systems to provide a great deal of flexibility to the clinic. One aspect of this flexibility is the need to reach the on-call physician who may not be at the facility when the call arrives. Another aspect is the regular need to relay messages from hospitals or imaging centers regarding patient information that must reach the right person promptly and flawlessly wherever they may be regardless of time of day or night.
Patient personal health information and its privacy as mandated by HIPAA is also a prime consideration for clinics. While private health information may not be formally shared when patients call, it may be necessary for the patient to describe their health problem generally or specifically to the medically-informed receptionist.
Patient names and updates may be part of messages to on-call physicians or to affiliated healthcare providers working with the clinic on behalf of the patient. Not only must this information be kept private, the messages themselves must be securely archived in the event of any need by the clinic for legal reasons or statistical data associated with funding or payments.
A surprising outcome of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is that while clinics initially thought that it would mean lower numbers in their patient populations, the opposite has been true. Depending on the state where they live, financially marginalized populations may or may not qualify for any of the ACA programs in their marketplace or have a robust Medicaid program that does not let them fall through the cracks. In addition, the current economic recovery hasn’t reached many of the poorest people who may still find ACA plans too expensive even with provided subsidies.
Dealing with this larger patient population when budgets are so severely constrained requires the clinic to find a way to efficiently handle the walk-ins as well as a high volume of patient calls without compromising patient health outcomes. Today, the telephone answering service that specializes in supporting medical practices and healthcare facilities can provide medical answering services that fit their needs and their budget. From the ability to provide daily faxing or email of messages to on-call personnel or the clinic personnel, automated on call scheduling, and toll-free message retrieval at no cost can all be inexpensively included in a minimal package that these clinics can afford.
Having the ability to understand how a specialized medical practice operates and to tailor their protocols to the clinic based on their needs allows the clinic to make changes as on-call and staff personnel schedules change. The structure to handle after hours and weekend calls as well as to respond to sudden surges, such as during flu season when the medical answering service is needed more, can be easily accommodated.
Since the telephone answering service expenses can be based on the number of incoming calls, the clinic is essentially paying for a virtual receptionist only when they need them. The savings over hiring a dedicated receptionist that must be trained and provided with a salary and benefits can make the difference in treating more patients within the budgetary constraints.