Archive for December, 2008

Looking for an Affordable, Quality Phone Answering Service

December 8th, 2008

When I was growing up and my parents needed to contact our family doctor after his office closed, they picked up the phone and dialed him directly. Gone are the days of that personalized after-hours service and you will now be hard pressed to find a physician who easily hands over their personal contact number to patients…just in case.

Physician offices are understaffed, underpaid from managed care organizations, and overwhelmed by the medical and social needs of the patients they serve. Many physicians feel “chained” to their practice and work long hours each day. Sickness and illness occur twenty four hours a day, seven days a week and often can not wait until the office opens. Physicians and patients alike rely on phone answering service to receive calls from patients and relay messages to the on call physician. A quality phone answering service performs this function seamlessly, integrating itself into the workflow of each physician office that it serves. Unfortunately, affordability of these services is often a prohibitive factor as well as the human error that can occur when an phone answering service is used.

Common physician complaints about live answering services include:

  1. Messages from the service are relayed to the wrong physician on call, sometimes repeatedly waking up this person throughout the night
  2. Patient names are not transcribed correctly
  3. Answering service staff are not well versed in medical terminology therefore incorrectly relaying chief complaints or presenting symptoms
  4. Calls are not triaged appropriately, with non urgent calls being lumped together with more acute calls, putting physicians more at risk for medical liability
  5. Patients and physicians are kept on hold for long periods of time
  6. Front office staff receive an influx of sick patient calls for appointments during the first hour of the practice being opened (the busiest time) from people referred from the answering service
  7. Cost of answering message service does not equal the quality of goods provided

Besides receiving after hour calls directly and never getting a break from patient care, another cost-effective option is to invest in a 24 hour, 7 day a week virtual answering service. These services cost a fraction of what traditional answering services cost minus the human error factors mentioned above. They have the ability to separate urgent from non-urgent calls and immediately connect calls without bundling them and relaying them at specific intervals. You won’t hear patients express frustration at being on hold for too long with these services because they handle multiple calls simultaneously and can even make appointments for the patient calling in. How is that for decreasing your front office burden in the morning, particularly on a Monday and improving your overall medical practice management?

Many considerations have to be put into your selection of an answering service. These include cost, efficiency, degree of worry, and the ability to care for your patients most effectively when you can not be there 24 hours a day, 7 days a week…just in case.


December 7th, 2008

Wanted: Experienced medical office receptionist for busy local practice. The qualified candidate must be available 24 hours of the day, seven days a week. Vacation days are not offered. Sleep will not be tolerated. Requirements include perfect coordination of all medical appointment scheduling without error. All individually tailored patient information must be memorized and accessed at will. The successful candidate must be multi-lingual. Pay is less than competitive.

How many responses do you think you will get with a help wanted ad like this? Even in a down economy you will not be interviewing many medical receptionists. Of course, all clinics would love to have a medical front desk receptionist with all of these fantastic qualities, but it’s just not realistic, right? Wrong. A Virtual Medical Office Receptionist is all of these things and more.

Modern web-based doctor appointment scheduling services perform most of the mundane tasks needed to run a medical practice. Your new “medical receptionist” can be a virtual answering service that your patients will love since they are never left on hold again. Plus the natural dialogue is pleasant. When your clinic has a staffing crunch due to illness, vacations or turnover, your new Virtual Medical Office Receptionist is the back up answering system that covers the gap.

Acting as 24/7 medical reception, your automated answering service will field all calls assign them to emergency or non-emergency status. Patients calling urgently in the middle of the night are already stressed out. They either need access to you or someone that can help. They need to know that their physician will return their call or make sure they are helped. Remember that calls do not just come at 2 AM; they also come at 5:01 PM, just as your current medical receptionist is pulling out of the parking lot. You need to have an inviting, fail-proof answering service that can triage all of your calls.

Has your office calculated how much revenue is lost due to missed appointments? When appointments are missed, there tends to be a gap between making a new one. How many patients would have made their appointments if they had a reminder? Now, your patients can receive fully automated appointment reminder calls or emails. Reducing no-show appointments not only helps your bottom line, but also ensures patient continuity of care.

A virtual receptionist service organizes each patient’s information to identify preferences. With secure privacy restrictions in place, your patients’ preference for email or phone appointment reminders is stored. Whether they would rather call the office or use self-service patient appointment scheduling by phone or internet is noted. Plus, the best programs are multi-lingual and interact with patients in the language of their choice.

The perfect doctor office receptionist is available for immediate hire. You do not need to place an ad to find such an exceptional medical receptionist. Web-based medical scheduling programs can greatly improve your office’s efficiency. Place a want ad for a new medical technician instead. Sit back and witness the morale of your office staff soar as they are freed from redundant, monotonous tasks. Your patients will appreciate the smooth appointment scheduling, the friendly staff and the overall quality of care.

Psychiatrist New Year’s Resolution: Get an online scheduler

December 5th, 2008

As psychiatrists contemplate what changes to make in their practices, an online scheduler should be at the top of the list for consideration. This resolution is not just one that would help them personally and professionally, it would also be an outstanding service opportunity for patients and employees. An automated scheduling software tool allows the psychiatrist to offer prospects and patients the ability to schedule appointments through the web, and it also presents an automated way to send important email reminders.

Web-based business transactions are growing. After remaining stagnant for a while, internet business has doubled as a portion of total business sales since 2006. In 2006, the internet accounted for about three percent of all sales. As of late 2008, the internet generated six percent of sales. Internet sales are also growing at a 20-25 percent annual rate, a trend that most analysts expect to continue. Why is this happening? Many credit the strong growth in internet business to more creative internet marketing from non-internet based businesses.

Industries, like transportation, hospitality, and yes, healthcare, have recognized the growing trend and the opportunity to generate traffic and sales through a new channel. Though psychiatrists deliver their services in an office, they can reach out to new prospects and book appointments through a web-based doctor appointment scheduling solution. There are definitely advantages to using the solution, and the benefits affect the psychiatrist, his staff, and patients.

Patients are the ones using the web who should be targeted with the efficient ability to schedule appointments online. With an online scheduler, busy people can make appointments on the web 24/7 and avoid the hassle of calling and getting a busy signal, being left no hold, or dealing with a stressed and overworked receptionist. With an automated appointment scheduler, the patient is able to quickly setup an appointment using the customized scheduler available to providers to use. Using the advanced security measures delivered by a top solution, the patient also shares a bit of personal data, including an email address when scheduling. This provides the psychiatrist with patient data that can be backed up, used for follow up and appointment reminder emails, and used other marketing and operational needs.

Receptionists appreciate the online scheduler as well. Patients schedule via the web allows receptionists to focus on personalized care, complex phone calls, insurance paperwork, and other important office management tasks. The reduction in stress and burden makes receptionists more satisfied and effective.

Finally, the psychiatric practices benefits from the business benefits of the online scheduler. The technology offers an efficient connection to a large audience. A good online scheduler comes with a moderate up front investment and requires little to no ongoing maintenance. The modest cost and maintenance combined with the enhanced customer service and employee morale create a great value. Plus, the ability to deliver email reminders helps reduce patient no-shows and improves revenue generation. This is more effective than a receptionist half-heartedly or while exhausted, making reminder phone calls.

Eye doctors should add patient reminder to holiday wish list

December 5th, 2008

As the holiday season rolls around, eye doctors should consider adding patient reminder to their holiday wish lists. Although not as exciting as the latest movie or music player, or television set, patient reminder is a practical business solution that can improve profit and reduce stress for any optometry practice.

A patient reminder is a common tool long used by many medical providers to reduce the percentage of patient no-shows for appointments. The problem is that receptionists that are often relied on to deliver the calls are overwhelmed, stressed, tired, and irritable. This means that the reminder calls are often neglected, delivered inaccurately, or even worse, delivered with an irritable tone that turns of patients. Consistent and timely telephone reminder calls are crucial to confirming appointments with patients who might otherwise forget an appointment or neglect to cancel in advance. This is a big drain on revenue for the practice.

A better solution in today’s high-tech world is an automated phone reminder. Yes, people can always offer a more personalized approach, but they also have limitations and emotions, as noted. An automated reminder can be set up to quickly make reminder calls. It also allows the patient to confirm or cancel the appointment, ensuring a better chance the scheduled time will be used, one way or the other. Are there important messages for a first-time patient or a patient with a follow up visit? A best in class automated reminder program can also be programmed to include the notes in the reminder telephone call.

Reminder calls are not just important to confirm appointments either. Eye doctors rely heavily on follow up appointments and repeat traffic for long-term business success. The automated reminder can be used to follow up with patients who need to reschedule appointments. Many people try to avoid or forget about the importance of follow up care with their vision and eye needs. A simple reminder call can help remind these people to schedule an appointment and return for the visit. The ability to help people come back again and again with the use of an efficient automated tool is an excellent opportunity for the optometry practice.

The automated reminder also does not struggle with the human limitations and stressors identified. It knows no stress and works diligently as it’s told with no complaints. More great perks? A great automated reminder solution does not have to cost a lot. A good solution can be acquired for a moderate up front investment. More importantly it requires very little ongoing maintenance, expense, and coaching. The same cannot always be said about live agents expected to make the appointment reminder calls. This combination of benefits and modest expense makes the automated reminder a great solution to deliver important reminder calls. Thus, despite the glitz and glamour offered by other gift ideas during the holidays, an appointment reminder software is the gift that keeps on giving for many optometrists.

The benefits of an automated virtual receptionist versus a call center live agent

December 5th, 2008

Call center is one of the most frequently heard complaints by small business owners or medical practices these days. And one of the most frequently heard complaints about call centers is that you can never make yourself understood.

Whether the company you are trying to reach has made call center outsourcing to Scotland, or Mexico, or Bangalore, having a simple conversation such as making, checking or cancelling an appointment can sometimes become a real hard task. This is no reflection on the person on the other end of the telephone, as doubtless anyone would have the same problem if they worked for a foreign company whose customers were based abroad.

Even if the call center is based on home soil, there is the potential obstacle of regional dialects and accents confusing both caller and operator, or human factors such as the receptionist having a cold, or a sore throat that may make them less intelligible.

However, the fact remains that in the current financial climate, a centralised medical answering service is a viable and sensible way to save your practice money. So why not cut out the risk of your patients not being able to make themselves understood through an automated virtual receptionist?

A virtual medical receptionist uses Interactive Voice Response (IVR) software to speak to patients naturally, in their own language, and in a neutral accent. If you have used IVR in the past, you should know that speech-recognition technology has come a long way in the last few years in terms of the quality of IVR based self-service systems.

But perhaps one of the greatest advantages of a remote receptionist service is that it has back-up options.

If your patient calls a live agent call center and struggles to make themselves understood, they have little option but to get frustrated with the situation, slam the phone down and hope that when they try again – if indeed they do ever call again – they reach a different agent who might understand them better.

There is no such problem with a virtual receptionist, as they have a process to go through in the unlikely situation that your patient cannot make themselves understood.

On the rare occasion that the IVR software fails to communicate with a caller, perhaps when their medical complaint prevents them from speaking or hearing clearly, a virtual receptionist will firstly re-prompt the question and ask the caller to try and answer the question again.

If this fails, it will give the caller the option of entering the answer via the telephone keypad – something which in nearly all cases will solve the problem.

However, if for some reason they can still not get their message across, the patient will be immediately connected to a live staff person immediately.

There is even a backup to the backup.

Every call that is made to a virtual receptionist is detailed and recorded on the instant call log.

This log files all the details provided (name, phone number, time of and reason for call (i.e. emergency, appointment or voice-mail). Therefore if a patient is unable to be connected to live staff, someone can always call them back to resolve the situation.

Medical Appointment Scheduling For the 21st Century

December 4th, 2008

Patient satisfaction or employee well-being…if you had to choose one over the other, patient satisfaction would have to come out on top. Medical scheduling means you don’t have to choose one over the other. Patients should be happy making their own medical appointment scheduling and your front office staff can be freed from the stressful non-stop calls that interrupt their other office tasks.

Online scheduling has come a long way since it first came on the market in the 1990’s. Technology advancements are happening fast and furious and new versions of medical appointment scheduling voice recognition software with added features are reaching the market regularly. Beta testing new components is an ongoing occurrence. This is good news for forward thinking medical offices that are using older versions and looking to upgrade.

If you are in charge of a busy medical practice imagine the advantages of having an automated email appointment reminder available to your patients saving you time and keeping your office staff free to focus on more important issues. You would be able to track all outgoing emails and verify scheduling changes and cancellations. You would simply preprogram your automated medical appointment scheduler software and let it take care of business for you.

Medical scheduling with automated systems is big business and vendors have made sure they comply with those agencies with a vested interest in the medical community and patient care. That’s why you should consider purchasing your medical appointment scheduling system from a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act [HIPAA] compliant vendor who specializes in online doctor schedulers.

These medical appointment schedulers are designed to be safe and secure even though they are handling the most basic of patient information, you can be assured it will be locked down. In basic terms, SSL security means if you need to comply with privacy and security requirements an SSL Certificate enables encryption of sensitive information during online communication. Each SSL Certificate contains unique, authenticated information about the certificate owner and has two Keys, public and private. The public key enables encryption of information and the private key allows for deciphering of encrypted message at the server level. Patient information is safe.

Your medical appointment scheduler also comes with a feature that will provide data back ups for your peace of mind. In the event of a server malfunction or some other service interruption, you can rest assured that your online information could be reproduced with little fuss.

Customization of the features includes but is not limited to language preferences so you can communicate clearly with those patients whose first language is other than english. Messages can be changed to suit your practice or purpose.

Medical scheduling has never been more innovative and if used only in a back up capacity can change the morale of an office overnight. You will be content with the knowledge that your phone calls are being handled 24/7 by modern technology designed for your industry.

Medical Appointment Scheduling Can Help Build Your Practice

December 4th, 2008

Scheduling appointments is the lifeblood of any business and your medical practice certainly qualifies as a business. The Hippocratic Oath aside, if a medical office is not generating patient appointments your shingle will soon come down. There will always be people in need of medical attention, but will they continue to arrange their medical appointment scheduling with you if they are inconvenienced by long delays or unanswered calls?

Satisfied patients are a great source of word of mouth or viral business growth. By allowing your patients the opportunity to use an automated appointment scheduler could pay long-term dividends in referrals. I think if you ask anyone who requires regular visits to the doctors’ office what he or she dislikes about the responsibility, medical appointment scheduling will rank in the top three.

Medical offices are beginning to integrate many different and functional technologies in their practices to assist in the day-to-day organization and work flow. Utilizing a medical appointment scheduler just makes sense because of the amount of time staff will spend on the phone with a patient trying to book suitable appointment times. Employee utilization can be improved dramatically if they are on the phone less with patients and more with insurance companies, coordinating patient tests, pharmacology queries etc.

If a virtual medical receptionist is online in a busy office and the phone is constantly ringing you will rarely miss an appointment because staff is over taxed. I suspect that in many medical offices it is not unusual for callers to be placed on hold in a queue when office staff is busy with in-house patients. The theory being they will call back if it is important or even worse if it is an emergency they can go to a walk in clinic! Are you certain your own staff isn’t thinking this way? Patients should always be treated with the respect they deserve and medical appointment scheduling software will aid your staff significantly.

Medical appointment scheduling software is an Internet-based application, which means virtual access to appointments from anywhere. If you are at a medical conference somewhere or even working from home, you will have access to your patients appointments online anytime 24/7. The same is true for your patients who require appointment scheduling. If they work shifts for example and sleep during the day, they would have the opportunity to call your office at 4:00 am on their coffee break for an appointment if they needed to.

Appointment scheduling is crucial for patient satisfaction offering the contentment that comes from being able to book their appointments anytime and hassle free. Your own staff will appreciate your thoughtfulness for their personal well-being when they hear the reasons why you wanted to install online appointment scheduling to assist them.

Medical appointment schedulers come with many features including appointment reminders via email. How great would it be for your patient to be notified by email that their appointment was coming up? Everyone has busy schedules these days and many folks carry PDA’s to keep them current, receiving an email appointment reminder would be a courtesy they won’t forget, and it speaks volumes about your professionalism.

Dentists lose patients, turn to virtual answering service

December 4th, 2008

Imagine the following scenario: You arrive home from work on a Tuesday at around 5:00 o’clock. You have been feeling a sharp pain in your tooth that continues to become more intense. Finally, you decide you cannot take the pain anymore so you call your dentist’s office. You know they are open until 6:00. The first two times you call, you get a busy signal. The third time, a receptionist answers and responds “Hold please”. After three minutes of waiting, you hang up the phone. Finally, you make a connection at five minutes until close only to have an abrupt receptionist tell you the office is now closed and to call first thing in the morning.

The aforementioned scenario happens many times a day in dentist’s office across the country. Why? Because overwhelmed and stressed receptionists, working with simplistic phone capabilities are unequipped to effectively manage the multitude of patients, phone calls, and other tasks that come their way. The solution? A virtual answering service that essentially serves as a backup receptionist can be the saving grace for a dental practice.

A virtual answering service is a high quality technology that operates as a backup call answering service in the event a live agent is away, on the phone, or unable to respond to a caller for some other reason. Many of the phone calls a receptionist receives are for routine needs, such as appointment scheduling. A call answering service is extremely well-developed to assist callers efficiently and accurately with scheduling an appointment. In fact, most people would agree that it is much better to work with a quick and effective virtual answering service than to face busy signals, delays, or abrupt receptionists. Keeping patients happy is obviously important to the long-term viability of any dental practice.

The best virtual answering service solutions are actually more capable in many situations at handling calls like the one described above. Whereas handling an urgent need call can be a challenge or a process for a receptionist, a virtual answering service can answer multiple calls at once and is designed to immediately connect the caller to the appropriate care provider in the event of an emergency or urgent need.

Does this mean a live receptionist is no longer needed in a dentist’s office? Absolutely not. Personalized care, completion of complex office tasks, and processing of insurance claims paperwork are among the many important jobs that receptionists must attend to on a daily basis. However, assistance in managing appointment schedule and immediate transfer of emergency calls are tasks that can be effectively performed by a medical answering service. This frees up the receptionist to focus on key responsibilities and give better attention to the needs of patients and more complicated situations. Plus, a virtual answering service can be acquired with a moderate up front cost and requires little to no ongoing maintenance, making it an excellent value as a backup receptionist. Receptionists are more than happy to have the support.

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