Archive for December, 2008

Strategies for Medical Practice Efficiencies

December 30th, 2008

After a recent review of some of the new medical technology devices for 2009, I was impressed with how technology continues to drive and pave the way for efficiency in medical practice management. The new devices range from in house rapid laboratory analyzers to bio-waste concentrators to handheld ultrasound equipment. It is hard for some physicians to see these tools working in their practice when they are struggling with issues such as staffing, morale and meeting the demands of a busy practice.

In today’s economy and low insurance reimbursement rates, it is difficult for most practices to hire and pay for more staff. If you are one of the many physicians who are delicately balancing your payroll with incoming income, hiring more staff is not a consideration. Conversely, if you are able to meet a higher payroll, the risk of staff turnover and inconsistencies in job performance exist. One option to consider meeting the demands on your medical practice is to incorporate the use of a virtual medical receptionist.

A virtual medical receptionist can be an effective part in running your practice and redirecting the focus of office staff to hands on patient care. By loading software on an office computer, the virtual receptionist can begin working without any orientation or training and is maintenance free. You will no longer have to worry about staff turnover in this position or the occasional late starts with opening the practice in the morning or after lunch. Other benefits to having a virtual receptionist include:

- Ability to make appointment reminder calls which decreases patient no-show rates. How do no-show or late-show appointments affect your practice revenue and inconvenience imposed on other patients?

- Handle multiple calls simultaneously without long patient hold times. How often do your patients complain that they call the office and get put on hold for long periods of time or get incorrectly transferred?

- Free medical staff to perform common functions such as bringing patients back to the examination room, taking vital signs, drawing laboratory samples, and focusing on overall patient flow. Imagine having your office staff available to focus entirely on direct patient care delivery.

- Increase staff morale by allowing them to focus directly on patients and not the phones. Does your staff occasionally comment that they have not had time to match laboratory test results up with charts or order necessary supplies because they had a busy “phone” day?

- Decrease overall practice overhead associated with providing benefits to staff that can include paid days off, bonuses, and medical benefits. How do additional compensatory staff benefits affect your ability to keep your practice afloat?

You have the ability to slowly incorporate other medical management efficiencies into your practice by changing the way that the medical receptionist position in your office is staffed. Until this change occurs, it may be a challenge to bring new technologic devices into your practice unless you either hire more staff or incorporate a virtual medical receptionist.

A New Era in Medical practice

December 20th, 2008

Everywhere that I can think of technology has entered every aspect of our lives. The way we watch television has changed with the advent of TIVO, the way we drive is different now that GPS devices are readily available. Our phones are now like pocket computers and the games that our children and grandchildren now play are so far advanced compared to the Atari systems that we clamored for. How do you envision incorporating technology into your medical practice management in the New Year?

We know that technology in a medical practice equals more efficiency and better productivity. Look at how incorporation of electronic medical records can change the way a practice operates, both big and small. Perhaps you are thinking that you do not have enough money to invest in an EMR, or you do have an EMR and don’t see the need to incorporate any other process flow changes into your practice. Let me tell you about some other medical practice management tools that can be a tremendous resource and asset and can easily be incorporated into your practice.

Virtual Receptionist

Initially this concept sounded so out of synch with how I envision a medical receptionist. My first impression of a great medical receptionist is one who remembers patients’ names and shows up on time to open the office and greet each one with a smile. This person would also require little on the job training and orientation. And most importantly, they would be efficient at what they do and be able to multitask and jump in where needed. However, the more I thought though of what my actual experiences are with medical receptionists I realized that I am used to high turnover in this position and lower job satisfaction whether it’s due to being overwhelmed, receiving little pay, or dealing with sick and sometimes difficult patients. A virtual receptionist is a cost effective way to consistently have high standards of care delivered. What it cannot provide in face to face interaction, is certainly made up in its efficiency and ability to be a value add to any practice.

Automated On-Call System

A virtual on-call system really sells itself. Imagine not being bothered at various times of the evening or night because you were incorrectly contacted by your on-call service? Think about the struggles you sometimes face with finding a service that is affordable and has the ability to triage urgent from non-urgent calls and transmit names, numbers and chief complaints accurately. An automated system does all of this for you in addition to scheduling appointments for those complaints that are not urgent. This has tremendous benefits for the front office staff of a practice.

Automated Patient Reminder System

Another concept that I immediately took to was the idea of an automated patient reminder system. This system can call patients and remind them of an upcoming appointment. Incorporating the process of visit reminders into your practice can cut down on no-show rates and frees your front office staff up to do other more importantly things. All of this at a fraction of the cost that you would expect given the return in value.

For some of us including me, getting pulled into this new technologic era has come with some hesitancy and reluctance. But, the more that I explore and find out how these cost effective advances can be combined with medical practice efficiencies that increase a bottom line and also contribute to good patient care then I am more of a believer.

Your Medical Front Desk Receptionist Is the Tip of the Spear

December 19th, 2008

Think about what your medical front desk receptionist does all day long and you will realize how critical this presumably straightforward staffing position really is. They are on the frontline of your medical practice and deal with the day-to-day, hour-to-hour and minute-to-minute needs of your callers. Every one of these callers believes their reason for calling is THE most important matter to be dealt with and front desk receptionists are often juggling two or three calls at once!

Separating incoming calls and in-office patients is a mind-bending burden for the health care receptionist especially if the practice is an established one. They must be courteous, relatively outgoing, and even friendly without losing their professional edge. Each patient expects to be treated with respect and given the time of day. If they have been going to the same medical practitioner for some time, chances are they know the medical front desk receptionist as well or even better than the doctor.

It is an understatement that the medical receptionist’s job is chaotic but many medical practices now institute online voice recognition software to lighten the load. Virtual medical receptionist software is the answer for a busy medical practice that wants to keep its professional edge yet maintain a personalized atmosphere within. Allowing your receptionist the luxury of turning on your remote receptionist service every once and a while will give them the freedom to catch their breath and focus on important in-office functions when things get hectic.

The busier your practice becomes, more tasks will inevitably fall on the shoulders of the front desk receptionist. If this employee becomes overwhelmed, having the virtual medical receptionist system as a backup will make them more productive. If staff training were taking place than having the back up receptionist available would be helpful during on the job training periods.

Training your medical front desk receptionist to take on more office challenges is normal for a growing practice so this backup receptionist capability will be a windfall. Being able to trust that your valuable patients are well cared for not only in the examination room but also in the reception area makes for satisfied patients. Having a virtual receptionist as back up for your employee will improve the office environment by ensuring in-house patients are treated personally. As a medical practitioner your focus is your patients’ health and worrying about office operations is simply unacceptable.

Building a medical practice is not easy and requires a plan of action starting with the medical front desk receptionist. They are representative of the kind of practice you are trying to achieve so streamlining their effort with a virtual medical receptionist as back up will increase efficiency. Medical visits are stressful and wait times can be long, so having a virtual medical front desk receptionist frees your staff to provide in person assistance. Your call-in patients will not suffer because of a busy waiting room either.

Back up receptionist duties are vital to any medical practice especially newer or growing practices since staffing levels are being tested constantly by an increasing workload. You could hire a part time receptionist but this will add to your expenses. Considering the use of a remote receptionist service as your medical practice grows and prospers would be a prudent measure.

Virtual Receptionist Easiest Hire You’ll Ever Make

December 19th, 2008

Hiring staff employees can be a time consuming burden on your organization or business practice. You need to place a newspaper ad or online advertisement and depending on the position like say, a medical receptionist, it could become costly. When you start fielding phone calls or sorting emailed resumes and snail mailed CV’s you soon realize the burden this all has on your time.

The hiring burden does not stop there. You or someone else on your staff will need to choose a number of reception desk candidates to then interview by phone and eventually, choosing three or four for an in-person interview. You could also call an employment service and they will charge you the first month’s salary or more to find your medical office receptionist candidate but you will still need to interview them. There is a lot of work involved in hiring someone and it is all so unnecessary.

Hire a virtual receptionist! You will be free of all of those hardworks!
A virtual receptionist is a 24/7 back up receptionist you can count on! For the time and money it would cost to hire even a part time or back up receptionist, a virtual receptionist can be ready to handle your front desk receptionist duties in a fraction of the time it would take to hire someone qualified. Your initial investment and set up will be minimal in comparison.

A virtual receptionist will save you money like you won’t believe. Automated voice recognition software never takes a vacation and you will not pay any benefits. You won’t need to worry about scheduling and paying extra hours for a part time versus full time employee. Human resource issues regarding payroll will be non-existent. It is not nearly as costly as it sounds to start using virtual receptionist software and it’s actually simple to learn and use.

With a virtual receptionist, you can avoid staffing issues like maternity leave. You will not experience the frustration of having to arrange for a long-term temporary front desk receptionist when your regular employee informs you of her “happy event”. There are no sick days with a virtual receptionist. So even last minute sick day calls mean a simple switch over to your virtual receptionist and you will not lose any valuable business.

You maintain professional control of all the functions of the virtual office assistant and can even have different languages available. You can program your virtual assistant to ask and answer questions callers may have and set up immediate paging for emergencies. Whenever you leave your office unexpectedly you can be assured your call in clients, patients or general inquiries are being looked after.

If you run a medical practice, dental office, chiropractor clinic, naturopath clinic, or any other form of out patient facility in the medical field the virtual office assistant will seem like it was created and engineered just for you. The virtual receptionist will fit right in to your practice…but you will still have to get your own coffee!

Patients Will Find Your Automated Appointment Scheduling Therapeutic!

December 19th, 2008

If you can remember the last time you were placed on hold and left there to simmer when you had better things to be doing then you will appreciate the relief your patients will experience when they use your new online appointment scheduler. No longer will your medical receptionist be placing callers on hold while she tends to the multitude of other tasks that fall under her pay grade. Everyone involved will appreciate your foresight and progressive business sense when you commit to investing in an online doctor appointment scheduling service.

If you have patients whose first language is other than english you can customize the messaging for a selection of different language options all delivering the same message. When patients need the services of a medical doctor chances are there is a certain amount of anxiety associated with making an appointment. If the process is a simple permission system for online appointment scheduling then your patient will spend less time making the appointment call and get back into their routine.

I have spoken to a number of people about the intrusiveness of some live medical receptionists and the verdict is unanimous that they feel violated when asked about the nature of the appointment or “why do you need to see the doctor?” Frankly, this is none of their business and with an automated appointment scheduler; the patient is free to arrange an appointment without the inquisition from a live receptionist.

Self-service patient appointment scheduling will make the appointment process simpler for your patient and they will appreciate the fast service and confidence that their appointment is set. They have avoided embarrassing questions from the medical receptionist, the automated scheduling software questions were easy to understand, and they were given a chance to verify their answers.

The beauty of this online doctor appointment scheduling is the patient is given choices and if they are elderly, they will be able to take their time answering questions or checking their calendar for suitable dates without feeling rushed. If a patient is in an emergency, the online appointment scheduling service can direct the call to a medical attendant or the doctor (in case of emergency) directly if they are that available for patients.

Another advanced feature available with automated appointment scheduling services is if you have a dual practice you can set up the appointment scheduling software so patients are directed to the proper medical provider. Patient calls will never go to the wrong doctor. Medical staff can check the online scheduler anytime to confirm or verify appointments, reschedule appointments, and arrange for callbacks for various reasons.

A patient’s time must be respected these days. Folks are always complaining about how much time they spend sitting in doctors’ offices and it is even worse for someone with a chronic condition that needs regular monitoring. The least you as a medical professional can do is streamline the appointment scheduling process so it is convenient for your patients. It can also prove to be profitable for the overall medical practice as you will find out.

Dealing with seasonal demand with a virtual receptionist

December 16th, 2008


With the holiday season upon us, you may find that your medical or dental surgery is experiencing lager-than-usual custom, especially by phone. Whether it is someone calling in to say they won’t be making an appointment because of a festive duty, or the opposite, someone calling to make an appointment because of some winter-related injury, this time of year is often the busiest.

So rather than take on new staff, or risk your current reception desk becoming over-run, why not put your patients in the safe hands of a virtual receptionist.

In the same way that you can now order a pizza or check your bank balance by telephone, you can now offer your patients a 24/7 medical answering service and online appointment scheduling by employing a virtual receptionist.

A virtual receptionist can answer and log calls, make appointments, direct calls to the correct recipient and even telephone patients to remind them of their appointment.

Human error is known to be one of the biggest problems in improving productivity, efficiency and quality of service. You only need to look at the improvements we now enjoy thanks to inventions like cash machines, vending machines and self-service supermarket checkouts.

The same principle can now be applied to your medical reception desk.

Your current receptionist is only human, so can only handle one call at a time. That means that if you have an exceptionally busy day, some patients may not be able to get through to you.

These problems are a thing of the past with a virtual receptionist, which is able to handle any number of simultaneous calls, regardless of the call length or reason. No longer need you worry about missing out on calls due to telephone congestion, as all calls are handled simultaneously, with exceptional service and dependability.

Also gone from your practice will be the constant sound of ringing, unanswered phones from your medical front desk. Your staff, rather than being always glued to the receiver making appointments and attending to callers, the virtual receptionist will handle your patients’ every need, leaving your medical reception staff free to concentrate on patients who are actually in the building.

In addition to answering your calls, a virtual receptionist can contact your patients to remind them of appointments, in their own language and in a clear and informative manner. The automated receptionist also detects the difference between human voices and answering machines.

While a human receptionist is limited by the hours they work, the virtual receptionist will retry unanswered calls at different times of the day until they get through to your patient, and logs all calls, attempts and results with efficiency and accuracy.

A virtual receptionist also eliminates other potential pitfalls your patients may encounter, such as regional dialects and accents which can confuse both caller and operator, or human factors such as the receptionist having a cold, or a sore throat that may make them less intelligible.

Due Diligence Necessary When Selecting an Appointment Reminder Service

December 14th, 2008


Not all appointment reminder services are created equal. When you begin your quest for the optimum automated appointment reminder system, take the time to try the demos the vendors offer before you buy. Committing to appointment reminder software that is sub par will only reflect poorly on your ability to make good choices. Take the time to find what is right for your office.

Seek the assistance of your fulltime medical office receptionist or speak to whoever is on the frontline of client and patient calling in your office. Your staff could guide you on whether the medical reminder systems you are trying are worth the investment. Count on your employees to offer their opinions. Consider them carefully as part of your due diligence process.

Make sure the company you decide to do medical reminder business with has a reputation for customer service and longevity in the marketplace. The last thing you need is to hook up with a vendor and find they are out of business when you require their help. If possible, make your initial inquiries with the main company directly; let them choose a specific reseller for you. It is preferable to deal with someone who is exclusively committed to the sale and service of appointment reminder services.

Some appointment reminder services will ask you for a long-term service contract and this should be avoided like the plague in today’s tight economy. Try to research the company’s viability by finding out how long they have been in business. Do a Google search of the company name and read about what has been written about them in reviews. Beware of penalties charged for early service cancellation and try to arrange a pay for use or month to month invoicing.

Determine if you are capable of training yourself on automated appointment reminder software in house. Some medical reminder services require you set up the service yourself online in connecting to your current network. Do you need this added responsibility or would you prefer that the appointment reminder service vendor set everything up? Both options have their valid points to consider.

If you are time or technically challenged then Internet based appointment reminder services will be perfect for you. These systems are generally simple to learn, quickly activated by staff, and are maintenance free. Technical support is usually only a toll free call away and appointment reminder service tech support is usually available without much waiting or fuss.

Every business or medical practice has special needs for an appointment reminder service. You should be sure that your system has all the features for your particular business. For example, email is far more prevalent today than it was only 5 years ago; you must cater to the needs of patients who have their Blackberry’s glued to their palms. Email and phone reminders may be essential to them. You will be amazed how an appointment reminder service will assist your practice but do your homework.

Appointment Reminder for Your Practice

December 11th, 2008


The complexities of running a medical office can be daunting. Practices, particularly solo practitioners, are finding it harder and harder to cover their overhead expenses, pay staff and malpractice insurance while still maintaining a full focus on patient care. Changes in staff, disgruntled patients, and low insurance company reimbursements often leave physician friends of mine questioning why they went into the practice of medicine. But in the end, their love for patients and desire to provide quality care always outweighs the rest. They continue to juggle and provide care while managing the pressures of running a practice and smaller things albeit important don’t get done.

Key to managing never-ending workloads, patient call backs and demands that are squeezed in between fifteen minute appointments, is the ability to utilize innovative methods and resources that focus on cost effective practice improvements. It is important that any change in practice patterns or medical practice management have a high yield, big benefit and can be incorporated seamlessly.

One of the things that I have found that make a big difference is appointment reminder calls. These have tremendous benefits all around. A 2006 study that evaluated the effectiveness of patient reminder calls showed that the rate of no show appointments significantly reduced when patient reminder calls were instituted. How do “no show” appointments currently affect your practice? Or, better yet – how do you accommodate patients who come in on the wrong day or time for their appointment because they were guessing about when to come? Lastly, has your practice tried to perform reminder calls in the past but found that they were haphazardly done when other more pressing priorities arose? These scenarios can greatly impact projected cash flow or cause disruption in patient flow.

If you had trouble answering any of the questions or find that you are looking for more ways to increase your practice’s efficiency or productivity, you should consider investing in appointment reminder. Online appointment reminder service does not require maintnance and are cost effective and pay for themselves. They can free up front office staff so that duties that are more hands on can be focused on more intently. You’ll find that office staff are more productive and may welcome one less “task” to perform. They can focus for instance on things like more accurate claims submissions for proper reimbursement from insurance companies.

Additionally, patients really appreciate appointment reminder. Often they themselves are multitasking and juggling multiple doctors’ appointments for family members and can easily loose track of when their own appointment is scheduled. The connection with the patient and great first impression can then begin before they even walk in to the practice. This helps to ensure patient loyalty and a higher degree of patient satisfaction which can also decrease medical liability.

As you can see, so many things come into play when a appointment reminder is instituted. It is very simple, easy to maintain, requires little upkeep, and has a big payoff.

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