Archive for the tag 'answering service'

Psychiatrists love virtual answering service

November 25th, 2008

Many small to medium sized psychiatrist practices struggle with balancing fiscal responsibility with legal and ethical obligations. Though some providers in some areas are legally required to offer an after-hours answering service, many professionals cannot afford to pay someone to cover phones after hours. The labor and benefits expense is likely too much given the fact that no revenue is generated while the office is closed. The challenge then is for psychiatrists to meet the need of offering an after-hours call service without bearing the expense of paying someone to deliver it. What is the “answer”? A top of the line virtual answering service is the best solution to efficiently answer calls with only an up front cost and little to no ongoing maintenance.

A virtual medical answering service is a technology that is able to handle multiple phone calls at one time, while working with callers to set up new appointments and transferring them to providers in cases of emergency. Given the unstable nature of some of the patients that psychiatrists work with, the ability to be efficiently contacted when a patients is in dire situations is vital. Obviously, the provider does not want to sit by the phone all day. A virtual call answering service is typically more efficient than even a live receptionist at transferring emergency calls as it skips delays and interruptions.

Along with the fact that a virtual answering service requires little ongoing investment, it also does not struggle with human limitations. Psychiatrist clinics can sometimes be stressful places. Receptionists often deal with patients, phone calls, office tasks, and insurance paperwork. Juggling all of these can be stressful and exhausting. People may become irritable and inefficient when stressed or tired. The medical answering service does not face these limitations. It performs endlessly and tirelessly despite being able to take on multiple calls at once and never getting a break. Additionally, many virtual answering service solutions come equipped with a multilingual answering service capability in order to effectively respond to calls from a population that is become more and more diverse in culture and in language.

The business advantages offered by a best in class virtual call answering service are many. It is not only a good tool for use as an after-hours answering service, it can also function well as a backup receptionist. If the live receptionist is away from the desk, working with a patient, or on another line, the virtual answering service steps in to take the call. Although most people would prefer to talk to a live agent if one is readily available, they also prefer to work through a virtual answering service if it is immediate, effective, and hassle-free. It is better to let a great virtual answering service help your patients set up appointments than to make them wait on hold or face a repeated busy signal every time they call your clinic. The virtual medical answering service can improve appointment scheduling and reduce the stress for your live receptionist.

Improving Medical Practice Efficiency Through Automation

November 20th, 2008

When I decided to move to appointment scheduling software for my medical practice, I approached the decision much like I make other business or budgetary decisions: Get everything that I need for the best possible price. At first I found that many appointment scheduling programs had some, but not all of the features that I needed. I also realized that in order to make the process truly cost effective, I should integrate all of my needs into one software package.

I first needed to clearly define everything that I needed in a medical appointment scheduler. Since I run a solo internal medicine practice by myself, I am always making business decisions when I should be caring for patients. One area that I particular hated was the hiring and firing of my medical reception. I firmly decided that I needed a program that provided self-service patient appointment scheduling. This way, patients could simply call me or log on and schedule a time to see me.

Since I had decided to move to a web-based doctor appointment scheduling system, I decided that a package should offer an automated appointment reminder. If patients were doing their appointment scheduling online, I should be able to have an automated reminder for those appointments. Instead of having a medical receptionist make calls, I asked myself, why not get a package that would do it automatically and without error? I could then use it for keeping track of my schedule, as well. It seemed silly to go paperless for appointment scheduling and then waste paper by printing out my list of patients at the start of every day.

As I was researching the various programs and their features, I found that the level of sophistication in these programs was pretty impressive. The larger packages make it so that I do not really need to have a front desk receptionist at all. Some programs provided the equivalent of 24/7 medical reception. Now you may think that would be impersonal but it really is ideal. Patients hardly miss a live front desk receptionist because my medical technicians greet them when it is time for their appointment and begin intake right away. Since appointment scheduling is automated, the practice runs much more smoothly, and patients are not kept waiting nearly as long as they had been in the past.

Since I was moving towards automating just about every medical receptionist duty, I decided that should probably also consolidate my physician answering service into the same program. Why pay for a live answering service when I would have to manually input patient appointments into the now online appointment scheduler?

With all of these features, I realized that I was really asking a lot from a single piece of software or a single online service. I wanted a virtual receptionist, a reminder program, a 24/7 medical answering service and 24/7 patient scheduling. I may have been able to sacrifice one of these, if I had not found them all in a single package, but I had to have a package that was secure. In order to make the move to automated appointment scheduling, the entire program of service had to be fully HIPAA compliant. Regulations have gotten extremely strict over the past five years or so and I cannot afford to have fines or lose clinic days for a violation.

Now that I had this tall order to fill, I went online and spoke to colleagues to find out the best programs available and at the best price. The programs available today are very advanced and I was able to find one that provided all of those features and did so securely. When I considered the savings in terms of personnel costs and hassle, I wish I had made the move to automated appointment scheduling sooner.

Benefits of a Medical Answering Service

November 17th, 2008

An answering system is an important communication tool in modern medical practice. As a medical practitioner you should be aware of the features such a system can provide you with when shopping for one for your own practice.

  1. A good answering system will help you respond to patient queries in a timely manner and must be available 24/7. It should free you from having to depend upon live receptionists all the time. As a backup to live receptionists, you should be able to forward your business calls to your answering system on BUSY (when your line is taken), on NO-ANSWER (when you can not pick up a call), or IMMEDIATE (when you are off work or on vacation).
  2. Advanced medical answering system can help you acquiring new patients even on after-hours. Some system can engage in natural language dialog with callers, plays your voice instruction giving a list of accepted insurance policy. Allows caller to reserve a new patient appointment after they have heard your instruction.
  3. Many answering systems can make patient reminder call. In addition, if your see patients who speaks language other than English. You can make your reminder calls friendlier to them by using a phone reminder system that has multilingual capacity.
  4. A medical answering service enables you to attend to questions and messages even when you are short-staffed. The service helps you maintain a schedule and keep your staff happy so that they can enjoy their lunchtime, breaks, sick leaves, holidays, unforeseen emergencies, etc. It frees your staff so that they can attend to matters that contribute directly to patient well-being and your clinic’s bottom line.
  5. You can customize your medical answering service to reflect your specialty in the medical field – so whether you are an obstetrician, oncologist, or cardiologist you can get an answering system that reflects the significance, delicacy, and specific nature of your calls. Customizations such as managing and viewing multiple doctor schedules; defining individual appointment profiles and rules for telephone messaging, etc are also possible. You can also define the rules for managing emergency calls.
  6. You can gather valuable data on a variety of issues with the help of a medical answering service that can be programmed to ask questions to callers. You can inform patients on healthcare specific to their condition. You can subtly advertise your practice and refer other physicians to the caller.
  7. A medical answering service that helps you achieve HIPAA compliance in a systematic manner is a great asset. You can breathe easy about the privacy and confidentiality of patient records.
  8. Physicians depend a lot upon referrals to boost their medical practice. A medical answering service keeps them in the loop about new cases even if they are not present to receive the calls themselves.
  9. A virtual medical answering service that works 24 x 7 and can be deployed to do the shifts when live receptionists are not present is a great cost-saving investment. In the long term it works out cheaper than employing human receptionists. Such a service is free from the limitations regarding language and number of calls that can be handled at a time.
  10. If the medical answering service offers digital recording of all phone conversations, it places you in a better position to treat patients, tackle complaints, and maybe lawsuits from irate patients as well.

Thus, for a medical practitioner, there are many positives that come out of having a medical answering service to work in conjunction with the front-end reception desk managed by live personnel.

My Search for a New Doctor’s Office.

November 16th, 2008

I’m in search of a new doctor’s office to be my family physician. I have had so many issues with the current doctor I am seeing. Every time I call in, I get recordings that say, they are busy and can’t take my call. I have to leave a message on an answering system and wait and wait and wait to gat a return call. Sometimes they don’t return calls and I have to call back again, still reaching a recording just to leave a new message. When I do get a live person, they are so short and quick; they don’t seem to have the personal touch I want in a doctor’s office. I get so frustrated trying to get a prescription refilled. So, that’s why I’m in search of a new family physician.

I’ve called lots of offices and talked to several of the front desk receptionist as well as the answering services attached to the offices. Believe me; I have called every office in my area looking for just the right one.

Well, I think I have found them. I called this one office and didn’t get a live person, but I did get an automated system that was so helpful. This virtual medical office receptionist actually made an appointment for me. The voice was so friendly and caring, I had the feeling the entire office would be the same way. I actually got a telephone reminder call from the 24/7 patient scheduling system.

I went to the doctor’s appointment and talked to the staff about the electronic system they had. They absolutely love it. One of the ladies in the front office says the 24/7 medical reception system is the best there is. It frees them up to do the hands on things that are needed when the patients come into the office. She said they do answer the phone when they are free, but when patient’s need care, that need comes first and the 24/7 backup receptionist is turned on the patients can receive the best of care. The care you receive is so important to the entire staff.

I found out that the system is set up to automatically answer the phone, make appointments and take messages for the nurses. The nurses really love the system too. They are able to have the automated system make the reminder calls for them, which does cut down on patient no shows. Believe it or not, a lot of people do forget their appointments and just a little appointment reminder call, really makes a difference. And you know the more patients they see, the more money is made. Happy patients lead to a happy doctor, which leads to happy staff members.

They also told me that next time I needed an appointment; I didn’t even need to call in. I can get online, which I am very comfortable with and make my appointments for the entire family. I can even request prescriptions refills on line.

The neat thing about this new system is it can separate my emergency calls from the regular ones, so I’ll get the quick help in my time of need.

I’m thrilled with finding a local doctor that uses this great virtual receptionist system.

Find Efficiency and Effectiveness in Virtual Answering Service

November 14th, 2008

Essential ingredients in your medical practice are your staff members. These individuals are the backbone of your office. They are what keep patients, paperwork and telephone calls moving in an orderly fashion.

In an ideal world, your medical staff would be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You are well aware of the fact that this is not possible. In those moments where the staff is pre-occupied with other tasks, you need a reliable go-to service option. Look no further than a virtual answering service.

Efficiency of Automated Answering Service

At times when you or your office staff is unable to take incoming phone calls, there is the risk of patient calls being dropped. You could turn to a live agent answering service. This type of service will simply take down the message information and move on with the day. The chance of calls and messages falling through the cracks between their service and your office is high. Patients will be left wondering when or even if your office will get their messages. The end result is lost productivity as your staff scrambles to fix everything that the live agent did wrong.

With a virtual answering service in place the end result would be significantly different. As patient phone calls come in, the service would determine the nature of the call. Based on a patient’s response, the phone answering service can distinguish between needing an appointment scheduled, needing non-emergency medical service and needing immediate medical attention. Each call will then be handled accordingly. Patients can breathe easy knowing their medical needs are getting the attention they deserve.

Effectiveness of Automated Answering Service

A live agent answering service is only as good as the person answering the phone call. Outside factors such as fatigue, illness, hunger and jam packed phone lines greatly affect how incoming calls are handled. A live agent service experiencing any one of these factors can equal misplaced or mishandled telephone calls. Patients on the other end of the phone are given the cold shoulder.

On the other end of the spectrum is the virtual answering service. It is immune to human factors like fatigue and illness. Crowded phone lines are never an issue. The service is skilled in handling multiple phone lines ensuring each and every call is properly handled. This service will provide a level of reliability that has your patients feeling respected and validated. An end result such as this will instantly carry over towards the way your patients view your service, your staff and your overall medical practice image.

There is a common misconception in the medical profession that patients want a live person on the other end of a phone called placed to their doctor’s office. While this may be true in some circumstances many patients simply want the call handled efficiently and effectively. This leaves them with the peace of mind that they are a valued asset to the doctor and the medical staff. Trusting this patient aspect to a live answering service agent is risky business. In the event a call gets lost or a message gets misplaced, patients will start to feel lost in the system. Give yourself and your patients the value each deserves with a virtual answering service.

Phone Answering Services Virtually Tend to Callers Needs

November 12th, 2008

Have you ever been placed on hold and forced to endure that horrible elevator music that is too loud and out of sheer frustration, you hang up or worse press ANY extension number just to avoid the dreaded silence of being forgotten on hold? Imagine needing an appointment with your doctor or medical practitioner and the medical receptionist places you on hold and accidently hangs up on you.

A virtual answering service can be the right choice for many business offices and particularly medical offices where appointment scheduling is the lifeblood of the practice. An answering service can relieve the stress of an overtaxed human staff and give them the peace of mind to look after the in office patients with the professionalism they deserve.

Many businesses insist that their employees always answer the phone regardless of the number of clients waiting in queue for assistance, never leaving a potential client waiting on his or her phone. Others practice the opposite theory of letting the calls go unanswered while they tend to clients/patients already in the office. Someone will always pay the price for not having a better call answering service policy in a professional office environment.

In the past, answering service technology was less than practical and full of bugs making it more frustrating for callers than anything else. Convenience over professionalism was acceptable to the public and the professional practice, however poor it was. Today the call answering tech expertise is without a doubt a vast improvement over what it once was and there are so many added features because of the internet and advances in telecommunications.

Answering services or an answering message service can now send out appointment reminders with a professional yet casual voice message that does not sound robotic but is natural. The human voice recognition software used is improving all the time, far more advanced from earlier versions. Appointment schedulers are automated so you will never lose an important call or infuriate callers.

A virtual answering service will save your business money and your current front office employees’ valuable time. Your professionalism will be enhanced by virtue of your efficient and respectful handling of all callers’ time. When you close your doors at night, you can feel good about your virtual answering service taking care of after hours callers and routing them to where they need to be. Your patient and client care needs well looked after by your answering service.

From an outside callers perspective you want to be sure your message is heard and acted on. You would like to think your call IS important to them just as the messages say they are. Your time is just as valuable to you as the professionals time is to them so you want to be treated with respect. An answering service that is quite functional, quick and concise, that continually proves its value to return callers is significant.

It would be business-savvy for any professional office to try out a demo of the automated answering services available as many offer free trials. You will always need a full time human employee to perform inner office needs, but in time, one can envision the entire reception-front desk staff being completely virtual.

The efficient after-hours answering service

November 12th, 2008

Many medical providers operate in industries and areas that require them to offer a 24/7 medical answering service. This can be quite challenging for some doctors, optometrists, chiropractors, dentists, and other healthcare providers. There are many issues that make providing an efficient after-hours answering service difficult. Hiring additional receptionist staff to provide a live answering service after-hours sounds great, but can be a practical nightmare.

Employees are costly. Additionally, some full time and part time employees require benefits. Employees are also real people with real emotions. Even good employees grow tired, have stress, and can be overwhelmed.

All of these live answering service challenges can potentially be overcome with a best in class virtual after-hours answering service. A virtual answering service use advanced technology to answer phone calls from live patients. It can effectively handle and manage appointment calls, emergency calls, and other common needs phone calls. A virtual answering service can multi-task and answer several calls at once. This means that patients will not be turned off by delays in setting up appointments in the evening. More importantly, it means that patients in an emergency do not have to wait for busy or slow live agents to connect them with a busy provider. The virtual answering service can directly connect an emergency caller to the appropriate provider.

There is more good news about the 24/7 medical answering service. Since it is an intelligent technology, the virtual medical answering service does not struggle with human emotions, stress or fatigue. It can work tirelessly, accurately, and efficiently, day or night. Though there will be a modest up front expense or a modest ongoing service fee, a virtual answering service requires very little to no ongoing maintenance. The ongoing expense and time involved in using and managing the virtual answering service is much less than it would be with a live agent.

Customer service has taken on a new meaning in today’s fast-paced and internet-driven environment. People still do appreciate a quality, personalized service experience. Sometimes, only a human can respond to the unique needs of a given customer. However, busy people also would prefer the efficiency and accuracy offered by a virtual answering service if it means they could avoid time consuming phone calls, being left on hold, being treated abruptly by a stressed employee, or the like. The virtual after-hours answering service can meet these demands of the busy person and is an essential part of operating a well-rounded customer service medical practice with costs and resource requirements that are doable from a business standpoint. The virtual answering service is also a great friend to the live agent who can focus time and attention on more demanding patient needs and completing laborious insurance paperwork and filings.

Virtual Receptionist Features to be Considered

November 12th, 2008

The evolution of the Internet has opened up new avenues in medical practice management. The concept of a virtual receptionist has made it possible for medical practitioners to streamline their operations and cut costs. Doctors who have opted to deploy a virtual medical receptionist either as a backup to their front-end reception or as a replacement for a human receptionist have reported increased efficiency and greater productivity in their work which has translated directly into improved care for the patients and better earnings for the doctor.

If you are a medical practitioner, whether established or still growing you need to be aware of the real benefits that a virtual assistant can offer you. If you are planning to invest in an online receptionist service then you should be aware of the features to look for.

  1. Compare virtual receptionist products and services for cost and feature benefits. Basic features to look for include scheduling, canceling, and conforming appointments; reminder calls; call transfers; new patient registration; 24 X 7 availability; and maintenance support by the company. Cost of course is a basic consideration and you should evaluate services based on fee requirements; hidden costs, if any; and any hardware or software installations to be done on your part.
  2. Check the success rate in handling calls. Your virtual receptionist should have at least an 85% success rate in call handling. Make use of the demo services offered by the provider to get a feel about the quality of interactivity offered by the system. The virtual receptionist should be such that in the event of a communication failure the call gets transferred to a live receptionist.
  3. The virtual medical receptionist that you opt for should be customizable to your specialty as a health-care service provider. It should allow you to set restrictions for the day and duration of appointment; enable the patients to set their own appointments; include any special information from the doctor to patient, when required; and the rule-based online scheduler should work in sync with the virtual receptionist.
  4. The virtual receptionist should be adept at not only managing existing patient accounts but also adding new patients to your existing base of patients. Find out whether the process for registering new patients is smooth or cumbersome. Your virtual receptionist is the first point of interaction for a new patient and its imperative that the system creates a good impression of your service.
  5. Data and service migration should happen smoothly without loss or corruption of data. This is an important consideration as often data migration comes at a cost of time and money. Ideally, the migration should happen right the first time itself with zero data error. It’s a great help if the virtual reception system is compatible with MS Office tools like MS Excel.
  6. Consider ease of use for the patient as a top feature requirement. As in any business, retaining an existing customer is far easier than acquiring a new one and your virtual receptionist should also be able to double up as CRM tool for you. It should be able to handle multiple calls simultaneously so that patients are not put on hold; multiple language support should be present; and self-service features such as scheduling and canceling an appointment by a patient should be made available.

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