Solving the Top Healthcare Transfer Center Challenges

Though patient transfers are a common process in the course of patient care, healthcare transfer centers often encounter substantial communication and logistical challenges that hinder referring providers, operators, and receiving departments/facilities. These common challenges are caused by a variety of factors and can lead to negative outcomes like patient care delays, higher referral leakage, and lower provider satisfaction.

How do you combat these issues and empower both operators and referring physicians to see the transfer center as an intuitive point of contact that facilitates efficient care delivery? Let’s look deeper at some of the common transfer center challenges and ways to mitigate them.

Common Healthcare Transfer Center Issues

Legacy Systems Often Struggle

Outdated, on-prem operator console technology can be a major contributor to poor patient transfer operations. This is due in part to limited functionality—such as lack of support for integrations—and the often-convoluted processes that are implemented to work around it. But no matter the reason, outdated tech opens the door to operator queue buildup, long hold times for referring physicians, and delayed patient care. These are frustrating outcomes that can lead to an increase in referral leakage and revenue loss over time.

What’s the best way to avoid these problems? Invest in a modern operator console that supports a wide variety of integrations to streamline communication. An operator console should integrate with other key hospital systems that play a role in supporting or coordinating patient care and the people who provide it, including: 

  • On-call schedules
  • Clinical directories
  • Secure texting
  • EHR

Convoluted Workflows = Care Delays

Legacy operator consoles inhibit patient care with inefficient workflows that delay communication. If operators have to jump between multiple programs to manage call queues and reference directories, click fatigue, frustration, and errors are almost inevitable. The stress becomes even worse if operators are frequently met with outdated schedules, which makes it that much harder to find the right person to contact. All of this workflow confusion serves as an impediment to efficient transfers.

So, how can a health system address this issue? Invest in a modern operator console for the transfer center that simplifies communication workflows with an updated UX. With improved functionality, operators can: 

  • Access accurate, real-time provider schedules
  • Easily manage and track call queues
  • Give referring providers a much-improved call-in experience with shorter wait times
  • See the clinical directory, schedules, call queues, and more all in one place to limit click fatigue
  • Quickly send messages to the patient’s nurse, on-call physician, hospital unit clerk, or another member of the care team

Communication Gaps

Effective communication is vital for all patient care processes, and transfers are no exception. But legacy operator consoles often lack a unified communication platform capable of tracking message delivery. Uncertainty about message status leads to delays, higher abandonment rates, and discontent among referring providers, all of which open the door for a loss in transfer revenue. What’s more, if an audit is needed, communication trails are muddy at best. This kind of poor communication hygiene is too rudimentary to adequately support patient care operations in today’s healthcare environment.

What’s the best way to fix this common struggle? Invest in an operator console that empowers operators and care teams to collaborate within a unified communication ecosystem equipped with modern features. This solution should: 

  • Allow operators to monitor when messages have been delivered and read
  • Be accessible even during power outages, updates, and other emergencies
  • Boost operational efficiency by streamlining operator and care team communication
  • Improve bed allocation for incoming transfers 
  • Enable healthcare organizations to put the right teams and resources in place for inbound patients

Improving Hospital Transfers with Powerful Solutions

If you’re sensing a common theme with these challenges—namely, dated tech that makes real-time communication far too difficult in already complex transfer situations—you’re onto something. Everybody involved in patient transfers means well and understands the importance of expediting care, but when operators don’t have the right interface at their disposal, coordinating a transfer can easily become a manual, multi-step process that takes far too long and may or may not be successful in the end. Far too often, on-prem solutions don’t prioritize interoperability, and they often don’t have the modern features required to make transfers an efficient experience.

To get a deeper understanding of what causes these common transfer center hurdles, and to learn how modern technology can vastly improve the transfer process, download our guide for improving hospital transfers. You’ll get a free, easy-to-reference PDF that will help you on your path to making the transfer center a well-oiled machine.

Nurses of Note 2023: The Acute Neurovascular Advanced Practitioner

PerfectServe’s Nurses of Note awards program honors nurses who deserve recognition for their service, sacrifice, and devotion to their patients and colleagues. For the third year of the Nurses of Note program, PerfectServe is highlighting nurses who’ve gone above and beyond the call of duty and whose resilience, creativity, and determination inspire others to do the same.

These honorees are outstanding representatives from the field of nursing, and the stories they share help paint a picture of the difference they make for their patients and communities every single day. Of the 200-plus winners from this year’s program, we’ve selected a handful to engage with more in-depth profiles that will be published throughout the year. These are their stories.

The Acute Neurovascular Advanced Practitioner: Kathleen Furlong, NP | Mission Viejo, CA

There are many nurses who specialize in certain areas of medicine. For Kathleen Furlong, it’s neurocognitive memory care. Because September is World Alzheimer’s Month, we thought it would be a perfect opportunity to learn more about a nurse like Kathleen and what she does every day, from memory care to treating patients with other brain health conditions.

Kathleen has provided care in many departments and specialties, including cardiothoracic surgery, heart failure, and adult primary care. An Acute Neurovascular Advanced Practitioner since 2011, she focused on both cardiology and neurology care before moving to the Neurology, Concussion and Memory Clinic at Mission Heritage Medical Group (MHMG), a part of the Providence Health System.

In her role, she treats patients who need acute stroke care and are dealing with neurocognitive disorders, dementia, and other brain health challenges. This includes clinical memory assessments, brain imaging and diagnostics, and other related medical care. For Kathleen, her day-to-day role includes full patient care of new and existing patients and follow-ups from general neurology. She cares for patients with headache and neurocognitive disorders, Multiple Sclerosis, movement disorders, mood disorders, and so much more. She also prioritizes community outreach and education to give caregivers and other community members resources and education about memory care and health. 

Kathleen was drawn to this type of patient care because of her true passion for brain health and building greater awareness. She wants every patient to learn to live in a self-reliant way that gives them independence and helps prevent disease. She is passionate about teaching brain health education, including using healthy foods and medicine, living a life of balance, and the importance of “just breathing” and relaxing when needed. This is evident in her diagnostic plan of care: she teaches medication management, lifestyle modification, the importance of diet and stress reduction, and even provides emotional and psychosocial support and referrals for patients who need it.

Kathleen is an advocate for community education and has a professional relationship with many community support resources, including caregiver resource centers, Alzheimer’s Orange County (CA), the Council on Aging, and many Community Stroke/Parkinson’s support groups. She is passionate about these relationships because she says there is limited time to provide patient and caregiver support to dementia patients in the office. By providing adjunct continuity of care and maintaining routine communication with these other organizations, she can take meaningful steps to influence patient and caregiver outcomes outside of her clinic. 

Alongside these partnerships and professional relationships, Kathleen is an active member of the MHMG Community Outreach and Advocacy Committee and the St. Joseph Heritage Employee Partner Program. She is the Alzheimer’s Orange County 2016 Professional Caregiver award winner, is an International Profession Volunteer for Outreach to the World (Kenya), and is a Global Health Organization Board member. To say her reach is broad is an understatement!

We asked Kathleen what she thinks everybody should know about nurses who care for those with Alzheimer’s and dementia. She stressed that these nurses are truly compassionate and patient caregivers to both patients and their families. She makes it a goal to have a “therapeutic relationship” with patients and families to help mitigate the very understandable anxiety they face. Her motto? “Go where the patient is.” 

For Kathleen, celebrating World Alzheimer’s Month is key to social awareness. She wants nurses and patients alike to be empowered by brain health education. She is an advocate for—and encourages others to be part of—a support system for caregivers of patients with Alzheimer’s and other brain health disorders. People like Kathleen remind us of the outsize impact nurses have, both in patient care settings and in settings outside of the hospital. Her efforts with direct patient care, community education, and extended partnership and support for people affected by Alzheimer’s are ample proof that Kathleen is a deserving Nurse of Note!

Thank You

Kathleen, we’re honored to celebrate World Alzheimer’s Month by highlighting the incredible support you provide to patients, their families, and your surrounding community. Your advocacy for brain health and lifestyle education are commendable. Thank you for sharing your story and for embodying what it means to be a Nurse of Note!


To learn more about Kathleen’s life as a nurse, we asked her a few additional questions to get to know her better.

Why did you choose to become a nurse?

My parents—a doctor and a nurse—introduced me to healthcare. I started out as a candy striper and made my way through nursing school. I’ve been a Nurse Practitioner on both coasts. I am empowered by being an advocate for others’ health and education.

What is the biggest lesson you learned while serving as a nurse throughout the pandemic?

I learned that, as a nurse, I had to get into the action to be a part of the solution. I had to conquer my own fears to be a better caregiver. From working in our COVID-19 testing clinics to volunteering at community vaccination sites, it was all a new experience; I learned something every day. I also learned that social isolation increased mood disorders and increased decline in cognitive function and dementia for my patients.

What’s one piece of advice you would give to your younger self about working in the healthcare industry?

It is so important to take care of yourself mentally and to advocate for yourself financially. Make sure you are getting the support you need, and know your worth as a nurse! It’s not for the weak!

What do you do to relax after a stressful day?

It’s so important to “play.” I like to be in nature, go for walks on the beach, and get exercise in as many “fun” forms as possible, like dancing!

What changes would you like to see in the nursing field of the future?

I’d like to see a bigger promotion of preventative health education for nurses. Nurses need to be educated on preventative care so they can teach their patients about lifestyle choices such as diet, stress management, and self care.

If you had to pick one song that describes you as a nurse, what would it be?

I’d pick Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling” every time!

Make sure to follow our blog as we publish profiles about more of our amazing Nurses of Note honorees throughout the year! For more about Nurses of Note 2023, check out the full list of winners.

Nurses of Note 2023: The District School Nurse

PerfectServe’s Nurses of Note awards program honors nurses who deserve recognition for their service, sacrifice, and devotion to their patients and colleagues. For the third year of the Nurses of Note program, PerfectServe is highlighting nurses who’ve gone above and beyond the call of duty and whose resilience, creativity, and determination inspire others to do the same.

These honorees are outstanding representatives from the field of nursing, and the stories they share help paint a picture of the difference they make for their patients and communities every single day. Of the 200-plus winners from this year’s program, we’ve selected a handful to engage with more in-depth profiles that will be published throughout the year. These are their stories.

The District School Nurse: Chelsea Snider, BSN, RN-LSN | Columbus, OH

The role of a district school nurse is one of a variety of tasks, all of which involve detailed care for a large number of students inside a public school district. For Chelsea Snider, District School Nurse—the only school nurse—for the Hamilton Local School District in Columbus, OH, this means taking care of 3,100 students.

For Chelsea, each and every school day starts at the local high school. She stays there until all of her diabetic students have had lunch. She then makes her way to the middle school, but the entire time, she’s on call for the preschool, elementary school, and intermediate school. She’s an educational aide at the elementary and intermediate schools that complete day-to-day clinic tasks, so she’s also in constant communication with the clinics in those buildings. Chelsea is also the Assistant Varsity Volleyball Coach at the high school. Let’s just call her a jack of all trades!

Chelsea started as a school nurse in 2021, but before that, she was a nurse at Nationwide Children’s Hospital (NCH) in Columbus. She knew she wanted to shift into nursing for schools because of her experience completing clinical hours at a nearby high school. Though she worked at NCH for seven years, she always hoped she could return to her alma mater as both the school nurse and volleyball coach. In this case, dreams really do come true!

Just as all industries had to adjust to the pandemic, the school systems faced a series of unique challenges. Since she joined the school system at the tail end of the pandemic, she still had to encourage students and staff to adhere to COVID precautions. This meant contact tracing and quarantine protocols, and Chelsea was in charge of communicating those needs to district administrators, students, and families.

For Chelsea, the hardest part of her job is being the only school nurse for over 3,000 students—she never knows when she’ll have to drop what she’s doing to drive to another school. Interestingly, though, Chelsea also considers this to be one of the best parts of her role. She loves interacting with students, and she particularly loves when they tell her that she’s providing a safe space for them in the clinic. She also thoroughly enjoys helping and teaching her diabetic students to become more comfortable with their diagnosis. It’s a lot to keep up with, and Chelsea may take the cake with this year’s Nurses of Note honorees when it comes to having the most patients!

Thank You

Chelsea, thank you for being a provider, teacher, and supporter to the children in your school district and community. It reminds us once again that nurses come in many different forms and take care of many so many different kinds of patients. We’re honored to recognize you as one of this year’s Nurses of Note, and we’re so thankful you shared your story.


To learn more about Chelsea’s nursing story, we asked her a few additional questions:

Why did you choose to become a nurse?

I grew up babysitting, which led to my love of working with children. I chose to play volleyball in college and started wanting to be a high school math teacher. I quickly changed paths and switched to studying biology so that I could work in the hospital setting. My goal was to work at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Well, two degrees later, I became a nurse and started working there! I love the role of helping sick children get better!

What is the biggest lesson you learned while serving as a nurse throughout the pandemic?

During the pandemic, I was still at NCH and worked in the COVID unit. Serving as a nurse throughout the pandemic taught me the importance of collaboration, as everything was changing so quickly, and we needed clear and concise collaboration with all team members to provide the best care for our patients.

What’s one piece of advice you would give to your younger self about working in the healthcare industry?

One piece of advice for my younger self is to take the time to get to know your patients and families. As nurses, our jobs can be very task-oriented, which fits my personality to a T. As I got more familiar with my role, I could still complete my tasks while getting to know my patients and their families, and it made me so much better as a nurse.

What do you do to relax after a stressful day?

After a stressful day, I love to come home and relax by watching reality television with my husband, Matthew, and my two children.

What changes would you like to see in the nursing field of the future?

The most significant change I would like to see in the nursing field of the future is to improve staffing ratios and to set standardizations around them. Throughout clinicals—and even in my role now as a school nurse—I see the importance of having a lower nurse-to-patient/nurse-to-student ratio so that nurses can be the caring and compassionate souls they are. It would allow us to go above and beyond for all of our patients/students!

If you had to pick one song that describes you as a nurse, what would it be?

My song would be “Stronger” by Kelly Clarkson. It describes me as a nurse. I take pride in my leadership qualities and “go-getter” attitude. Any challenges I face, I use to help better myself in the future.

Make sure to follow our blog as we publish profiles about more of our amazing Nurses of Note honorees throughout the year! For more about Nurses of Note 2023, check out the full list of winners.

Nurses of Note 2023: The Interim Director and Nurse Development Leader

PerfectServe’s Nurses of Note awards program honors nurses who deserve recognition for their service, sacrifice, and devotion to their patients and colleagues. For the third year of the Nurses of Note program, PerfectServe is highlighting nurses who’ve gone above and beyond the call of duty and whose resilience, creativity, and determination inspire others to do the same.

These honorees are outstanding representatives from the field of nursing, and the stories they share help paint a picture of the difference they make for their patients and communities every single day. Of the 200-plus winners from this year’s program, we’ve selected a handful to engage with more in-depth profiles that will be published throughout the year. These are their stories.

The Interim Director and Nurse Development Leader: Crystal Lawson | Marina Del Rey, CA

For many nurses, working at the bedside makes up the majority of their careers. For Dr. Crystal Lawson, DNP, RN, CENP, her career began this way but morphed into serving patients and fellow providers in a new way. Though she no longer serves at the bedside, her work has a big impact on both patients and the fellow nurses and nurse leaders she educates.

Crystal knew she wanted to be a nurse largely because caring for others had always been one of her passions. She obtained her BSN in 2006 and served clinically in both pulmonary and labor & delivery. She eventually transitioned into a leadership role in 2010 after discovering how much she valued the pursuit of education and development. As an expert clinician, she began counseling and training other nurses on how to be leaders in their field and continually develop their nursing skills.

As Crystal shared, she finds great joy in watching others move into their strengths and witnessing the impact they make. So in May of 2022, she started We Rise Up, LLC to provide leadership development to equip, inspire, and empower leaders through accessible, affordable, and customized programs. Crystal sees nurse leaders as the glue that holds many healthcare organizations together, but the traditional education they receive doesn’t always give them great leadership competencies. While some organizations offer leadership training to their nurses, many don’t have the financial resources to do so. We Rise Up, LLC provides leadership development workshops, keynote speaking, and consulting services for various leadership positions.

“Truly, I eat, sleep, and breathe leadership development; it is my passion,” Crystal said. “I believe a great leader will make you and a toxic one can break you. I believe that nurse leaders, especially the frontline leaders, are the backbone of their organizations.”

As a nurse educator, Crystal has held many different positions that’ve allowed her to offer her insight and training to nurses all over the country. She worked as the Director of Education at the American Organization for Nursing Leadership (AONL) for four years, where she helped to provide training for individuals who were part of various fellowship programs. She made life-long friends and mentors in her time there and believes AONL equipped her with the skills to be an influential leader. She also worked as the Senior Director of Nurse Leader Development at Ascension National Nursing Center of Excellence. There, she worked to develop nurse leaders within the National Nursing Center of Excellence and facilitated leadership development workshops that build a succession plan for leaders across the nation. She’s also served as the Role Player for Developmental Leadership Exercise at the University of Tennessee Center for Career Development.

It’s easy to see how passionate Crystal is about leadership training and professional development! These days, she serves as the Interim Director at Cedars Sinai Marina Del Rey Hospital, providing direction and development for nurses at all levels while still providing consulting services. Crystal says she’s been blessed to have an incredible network of leaders that have been willing to encourage and mentor her along the journey.

Thank You

Crystal, your passion for supporting nurses all over the country is inspiring and uplifting. It reminds us that, no matter where we’re at in our careers, there’s always room to grow and learn. Thank you for the care you give to others and the continuous support and education you provide for so many of your fellow nurses. You’re a Nurse of Note, through and through!


In addition to learning about Crystal’s time as an Interim Director and Nurse Educator, we posed a few more questions to get to know her better. 

Why did you choose to become a nurse?

I chose nursing as a profession when looking for a career that would allow me to care for others. It aligned well with my value of constant pursuit of development. In nursing, there are countless avenues to serve others—the possibilities are endless.

What’s the biggest lesson you learned while working in the nursing field during the pandemic?

During the onset of the pandemic, I personally struggled with the desire to lead from the frontlines. I felt helpless being sent to work remotely, and I felt I could make a bigger impact going back into the hospital. After some time, I was able to find the value in connecting leaders to one another as the surges happened in various parts of the country. I found purpose in holding space for the realities that leaders and their teams were experiencing. I experienced moral distress in the beginning. This experience solidified my love for working at a national scope and caring for those who care for others.

What’s one piece of advice you would give to your younger self about working in the healthcare industry?

Be open to possibilities. Each step in the journey equips you to serve well along the way. Forget about titles and conditioned expectations. Have the courage to say yes! You never know where the journey will lead. Oh, and find joy along the way!

What do you do to relax after a stressful day?

I enjoy time by the water and running to balance myself after a stressful day. I also believe that laughter is the best medicine, and this usually directs me to connect with my boys and friends for a guaranteed laugh. I enjoy quiet time writing in my journal, and who doesn’t love a dance party?!

What changes would you like to see in the nursing field of the future?

I would love to see our profession learn to use our voices for efforts that matter. We are more than 4 million strong. I long to see the day we learn to articulate our value or make a change in patient outcomes with that same passion and impact.

If you had to pick one song that describes you, what would it be?

I would pick the song “Road Less Traveled” by Lauren Alaina.

Make sure to follow our blog as we publish profiles about more of our amazing Nurses of Note honorees throughout the year! For more about Nurses of Note 2023, check out the full list of winners.

Optimizing the Transfer and Call Centers – Methodist Le Bonheur + Call Center

In a recent healthcare call center webinar, PerfectServe’s Chief Product Officer Ben Moore had an in-depth discussion with Crile Crisler, Jr., who serves as Director of the Integrated Operations Center and Telehealth at Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare (MLH). The pair discussed the evolution of MLH’s patient transfer process, including the health system’s experience implementing PerfectServe’s call center solution in its revamped transfer center.

With PerfectServe’s call center solution implemented into MLH’s Integrated Operations Center, MLH saw its reservation to complete time—the time it takes to place an accepted transfer patient into a clean bed—drop by 40%. You can get the full story by reading the Methodist Le Bonheur case study.

The Importance of Efficient Patient Transfers

Patient transfers are important for the continuity of care, as many patients who are transferred are high acuity—their care is often critical and time-sensitive. Poor or mishandled communication in the transfer process can contribute to negative patient outcomes and low provider satisfaction, so delays and distractions must be mitigated as much as possible. Some critical elements are impacted by mismanaged patient transfer processes, including:

  • Patient care delivery 
  • Patient health and treatment outcomes 
  • Patient and family satisfaction with care
  • Provider ability to deliver proper care
  • Provider workflow and satisfaction
  • Financial impacts to the health system

Legacy Operator Consoles Aren’t Up to Par

Though many health systems have call center technology in place, the legacy solutions they use are built with on-premise infrastructure and suffer from the limitations of that design. They can’t be easily updated or supported, and if there’s a power or connection issue, they don’t work. When other clinical systems need to be integrated, these legacy call center systems are often difficult or impossible to connect.

Calling experiences supported by these legacy systems can be somewhat fragmented and unreliable, and their design often leads to delays in care. For example, older call center solutions tend to place an extra manual burden on call operators, who may have to use multiple platforms for communication—maybe one for answering calls and another for referencing the clinical directory. Other examples of workflow difficulties with legacy systems are one-way messaging, manual documentation of calls, and the frequency of phone tag that plays out between providers and health systems. All of these factors can lead to an increase in time required to execute a successful patient transfer.

Intelligent Routing: The New Calling Experience

When messages are routed to the right place at the right time, call center operators can facilitate an entirely new—and much more functional—calling experience. To make this happen, the PerfectServe platform seamlessly brings together data critical to accelerating call center operations—from scheduling to the EHR to the clinical directory—and gives agents access to a powerful clinical communication system. With PerfectServe’s Dynamic Intelligent Routing® (DIR) technology underpinning all workflows, messages and calls are routed based on their purpose, the time and date they’re sent, and their destination.

The process works dynamically with the current schedule and predetermined provider preferences, allowing all parties to experience clear, consistent, and accurate communication. PerfectServe’s modern call center technology aids the calling experience by: 

  • Giving operators a single solution to facilitate the transfer process
  • Mitigating the manual communication burden for operators
  • Giving operators a secure texting and calling platform that easily connects them to anyone they need to speak with 

The result? Coordination of transfers can be completed in a fraction of the time required by agents using legacy call center solutions, leading to more efficient processes, better patient outcomes, and happier providers.

Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare’s Transfer Center Experience

Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare (MLH) is a multi-hospital health system in Memphis, Tennessee that includes six hospitals and over 100 non-acute facilities. A health system of this size usually offers a wide variety of services and  is a frequent destination for patient transfers, and in MLH’s case, they also commit to serving patients regardless of their ability to pay. This means having an efficient transfer process is essential to connecting patients with the care they need—and preventing them from going somewhere else for care.

With all of this in mind, MLH launched the Integrated Operations Center (IOC) in 2020 to improve patient flow, reduce patient wait times and leakage, and create a one-call experience for any organization looking to access MLH physicians and services. Before the IOC existed, the patient transfer experience was much more decentralized—there was no single phone number or point of contact for people to use if they needed to request a transfer. Oftentimes, people would reach out to the last MLH staff member who helped them coordinate a transfer successfully, even if that individual was off work or just not the right person to call. This decentralized approach led to communication issues, confusion when patients arrived, and frustration for providers, patients, and staff.

Improving the Patient Transfer Process

The IOC is now the hub of all transfer requests and patient transportation needs, meaning communication processes that interrupt the flow and efficiency of these requests can be problematic. To have a more robust, automated call center process, MLH made PerfectServe’s cloud-based call center solution the communication backbone of the IOC to aid the transfer process. With an express goal to create a one-call experience, providing IOC agents a more capable platform for coordinating care was key.

Because transfer requests can come from another hospital, a surgery center or specialty practice, a rehab facility, an urgent care facility, or any number of other locations, the IOC needs to be prepared to handle each call type accordingly. With PerfectServe’s call center technology in place at the IOC, MLH now has one contact point for initiating patient transfers, and agents can support multiple call queues and leverage call schedules and patient directories to instantly access any resources necessary to action incoming requests.

With the new process, anyone looking to initiate a transfer calls the IOC, goes through a self-select menu to categorize their call, and then gets connected to the agent best equipped to handle it. The IOC leverages PerfectServe’s assignable role function, which allows operators to select which groups they’ll be covering for the day. With this categorization in place, an EMS provider, for example, can quickly connect with the patient floor that will be receiving the transfer patient, or an outside hospital nurse can be connected to a bedside nurse at MLH to provide a patient report.

Results of an Improved Transfer Process

By powering IOC communication with PerfectServe’s call center solution, MLH has seen a number of improvements. The IOC now categorizes inbound calls into queues that are aligned with capable operators. The calls are placed in queues according to their specific request, site, speciality, and other details. Operators are able to manage more than one queue per shift, and a dynamic wall board allows supervisors to constantly monitor queues and hold times. Operators can be shifted from queue to queue as demand requires. Other data, such as call volume at certain times of the day, can be analyzed to give the IOC better insight into proper staffing levels. These analytics allow MLH to continuously evaluate ways to improve its transfer process.

With PerfectServe’s call center solution implemented at the IOC, MLH saw its reservation to complete time—the time it takes to place an accepted transfer patient into a clean bed—drop by 40%. The largest hospital within the system has also been able to drop its average discharge to depart times to an optimal two-hour time frame. Among other positive outcomes, MLH has also seen an improvement in the time it takes to bring beds back online, and staff and providers have noted significant improvements in communication workflows throughout the patient transfer process.

How Does Intelligent Routing Benefit the Call Center?

At PerfectServe, it’s our business to help healthcare organizations communicate and coordinate care more effectively. Many elements contribute, but it’s really about getting the right message to the right person at the right time. That focus is exactly why Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare partnered with PerfectServe to make their Integrated Operations Center a hub of efficient communication.

We’re confident we can replicate this success at your organization. To learn more about our cloud-based call center solution or to schedule a demo, contact us today.




1 Dropping the Baton: Specialty Referrals in the United States, National Library of Medicine:

2 Communication Breakdown in the Outpatient Referral Process, National Library of Medicine:

Unlocking the Potential of Your Answering Service: Boosting the Provider Experience

Providers are the backbone of all health systems. In an ideal world, their daily activities would be free of obstacles and easy to execute in a timely manner. Unfortunately, that’s rarely the case—providers often get sidetracked or delayed by poor communication and tedious processes. Cumbersome workflows that hinder their ability to interact with patients and other care team members can pose a serious risk to the efficiency and effectiveness of care delivery.

This can become more complicated when industry requirements exert additional pressure on a health system’s operations. As one example, health insurance companies are increasingly requiring medical organizations to have after-hours coverage1 to ensure patients always have access to care—or maybe just a quick touchpoint with a provider—when they need it.

When you combine these competing pressures with the sometimes-inefficient nature of care delivery processes, providing the right care in a timely manner can seem a bit daunting. Using this after-hours requirement as a lens, one lever to pull in the battle for comprehensive and efficient care is technology that automates processes to make them highly reliable. More specifically, an automated answering service solution can standardize communication workflows to reduce provider stress and distractions in a way that allows them to be more productive caregivers.

For the final installment of our enterprise medical answering service series, let’s take a deeper dive to see how an advanced answering service benefits providers by limiting distractions, protecting privacy, prioritizing efficiency, and facilitating better provider-patient communication with intuitive workflows.

Automated After-Hours Answering Service

Intuitive After-Hours Workflows

Point-and-click access to securely contact patients Provider clicks a direct link in PerfectServe to respond to patient directly via email, text, voice message, or live call
Collaborative platform with easy search to engage peers for consultation Inbound post-surgical inquiry requires input from anesthesia (or wound care, or pick your expert)

Features that Facilitate a Healthier Work-Life Balance

Customizable, practice-specific voicemail trees help address more non-urgent needs without on-call physician support 24-48 hour procedure rescheduling option initiates workflow to cancel and reschedule
Schedule integration contacts the right on-call provider every time Up-to-date provider schedules prevent reliance on printed on-call snapshots that are subject to change

Support Peace of Mind with Flexibility and Accessibility

No initial wait or hold times Inbound calls answered within the predetermined appropriate length of time by each health system (15 minutes, 30 minutes, 45 minutes, etc.)
Persistent messaging with escalation when on-call support required PerfectServe ensures messages don’t go unnoticed by automatically escalating to a back-up caregiver after a defined period of inactivity
Potential for better informed and prepared patients Surgical practice creates a voicemail option with pre-procedural instructions

Intuitive Call Workflows

Whether an answering service is being used during business hours, after hours, or in both instances, efficiency matters to providers. That’s why a solution with intuitive workflows is an essential benefit to providers and administrators who manage inbound communication of all types. With PerfectServe, any after-hours message will land directly in their app inbox, and it will contain a direct one-touch callback number for the provider to instantly call the patient back. This point-and-click approach gives instant access to secure provider-patient communication, and it makes a provider’s life easier by allowing them to focus on patient care and not the logistics of communication.

Contacting other providers within their network should also be simple and efficient. Let’s say Dr. Moore needs to contact another provider, Dr. Garcia, who works in a different subspecialty, for a consultation. Without an integrated clinician directory, Dr. Moore wastes valuable time checking and dialing numbers in an attempt to get through to Dr. Garcia, who may not even be working that day. If she isn’t, Dr. Moore might leave a message, remember to call back later, or take the decidedly old school approach by leaving a sticky note for the medical assistant or office manager to follow up.

This is where modern, intelligent communication workflows show their real value. PerfectServe’s medical answering service can be integrated with (for example) directories, provider on-call schedules, and clinical communication systems, and it makes all of this functionality centrally accessible via desktop or mobile device. A provider’s message access and follow-through capabilities are drastically enhanced with integrations of this nature.

Happier Providers

An automated answering service does away with the need for live agents by automatically routing inbound calls to the right person. When a provider isn’t on call or is on vacation, they shouldn’t be worried about receiving patient calls or requests. If an emergency call is directed to them in error, that’s an unacceptable interruption, and they may not be able to provide adequate care. Whether they’re on vacation or simply off work, intelligent workflows are essential to routing calls correctly. PerfectServe’s Dynamic Intelligent Routing® considers a number of variables to determine where a message or call should go at any given time, automatically directing it to the on-call provider when necessary and escalating unanswered messages based on urgency.

In this same vein, a provider shouldn’t be taking routine calls that don’t require their elevated level of expertise. For example, if an on-call provider is often connected to patients looking for surgery prep instructions, they’re certainly not working at the top of their license. These calls may also prevent them from addressing more pressing patient inquiries. An automated answering service can be set up to give patients surgery prep reminders (like not eating or drinking 24 hours before an operation), which gives valuable time back to the provider and moves a more administrative task off of their plate. As a bonus, giving patients easier access to routine (but still important) information helps them to be better prepared for their appointments. More prepared patients means more kept appointments and less frustrated providers.

A similar benefit comes from not having to use a patient portal. It’s common these days for medical practices to promote portals for medical record access and basic communication. However, most portals don’t automatically route messages and requests to the right on-call provider or administrator—they simply keep them in a static inbox, meaning it’s easier for messages to be missed entirely. Regardless of urgency, it’s safe to say that no provider wants their patients to feel like they’re being forgotten or ignored. With a medical answering service that uses intelligent routing to automatically push communication to the right recipient, providers gain peace of mind and the ability to quickly determine the level of urgency to forward the message to the right staff as necessary.

Innate Flexibility and Peace of Mind

Providers enter the medical field because they’re passionate about caring for patients. Heavier tech stacks are somewhat unavoidable in an increasingly digital world, but if the tech we implement doesn’t work well together, it can cause care delays and give providers unnecessary anxiety about the quality of care they give.

When automated solutions improve workflows and enhance efficiency, it can help providers feel like they’re giving their patients the best care possible. In particular, a reliable, 24/7 answering service allows a provider to feel that their patients have easy access to the care they need, no matter when a pressing question arises. For the providers giving hands-on care, the structured nature of the communication also prevents constant interruptions that hinder their focus and disrupt their time. To put it simply, technology helps providers help patients.

Privacy is another hot button issue, as most providers can likely remember a time when they had to call a patient back using their personal number. Communication with patients is important, but outreach of this kind removes boundaries and can make providers feel a bit overexposed. An advanced answering service like PerfectServe can easily mask personal numbers to protect providers’ privacy and extend their ability to interact with patients from any location using their personal devices. 

Expanding Your Answering Service Capabilities: PerfectServe’s Expertise

The many benefits that providers receive from an automated medical answering service don’t have to be limited to one practice or clinic. As mergers and acquisitions continue apace in the healthcare industry, the process of standardizing operations and streamlining system-wide communication will become increasingly difficult without advanced technical solutions.

PerfectServe has 25 years of experience analyzing, building, and supporting clinical workflows for health systems of all shapes and sizes. The right medical answering service can be used to support plans for growth across your system and its affiliated practices, and in a way that both maintains high-quality patient care and protects provider wellness. Contact us today to learn more.

Already a PerfectServe customer? Learn how to use our medical answering service at every site within your health system.  



1 Coverage for Medical Emergencies During and After Hours, Health Resources & Services Administration:

Nurses of Note Awards 2023: The Nursing Team at Blue Mountain Hospital, a Critical Access Facility

PerfectServe’s Nurses of Note awards program honors nurses who deserve recognition for their service, sacrifice, and devotion to their patients and colleagues. For the third annual year of the Nurses of Note program, PerfectServe is highlighting nurses who’ve gone above and beyond the call of duty and whose resilience, creativity, and determination inspire others to do the same.

These honorees are outstanding representatives from the field of nursing, and the stories they share help paint a picture of the difference they make for their patients and communities every single day. Of the 200-plus winners from this year’s program, we’ve selected a handful to engage with more in-depth profiles, which will be published throughout the year. These are their stories.

Honoree 1: The Blue Mountain Hospital Nursing Team (Blanding, UT)

Sulane Knight, Nicole Bradford, Sunny Jones, Troy Palmer, Crystal Shumway, Stephanie Ivins, Tiarra Begay, Kellie Mills, Christina Brandt, and Brandi Baird

If you ask any health system how their providers handled the pandemic, most would say it was a struggle to meet patient demands, push through immense PPE and protocol pressures, and stay positive throughout the spread of the virus. For Blue Mountain Hospital (BMH), a critical access hospital in Blanding, Utah, these were just a few of the many adversities they faced—and overcame—since the onset of COVID.

The non-profit hospital—which has 11 beds and six med-surg rooms—sits near the Navajo and Ute Native American reservations. Since 2009, BMH has served the Navajo Health System, the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, and the residents of San Juan County. It’s one of only two hospitals in the county and was the first medical center in Blanding, which was settled more than 100 years ago.

Because of its relative isolation, on any given day, BMH has to contend with limited resources. Sulane Knight, Chief Nursing Officer at the hospital, said that she only has three nurses to run the entire hospital most days. When the pandemic hit, the critical access facility couldn’t just slow down their emergency, labor & delivery, and general hospital services for the 15,000-plus people who rely on it for care. This is why the nurses at BMH aren’t specialized in one area. In fact, almost all of the nurses provide care in different areas simply because they have to—their patients rely on it.

“When you’re a critical access hospital with three nurses, it takes an entire team of nurses to keep a patient alive,” Sulane said. 

During the many months when the pandemic seemingly brought the world to its knees, the nursing team at BMH found themselves grappling with struggle after struggle. The hospital works with other medical centers and care locations as much as possible, but during the height of COVID, the inflow of resources almost ground to a halt. At times, patients were bagged for hours—some up to 10 hours—while a transfer was being worked out. Nurses would ride in ambulances with their patients on a regular basis. The influx of patients was daunting at times, but the BMH team did not crumble.

Because BMH is a smaller facility, the care team had to be extra diligent about PPE and preventing the spread of COVID. With only three or four lab staff on site at all times, many nurses had to stay isolated from lab staff. Nurses had to start learning new tasks, taking on new roles, and wearing more hats. The hospital had no on-site social workers or mental health support throughout the pandemic; in fact, the endless sacrifice, lost patients, and extreme burnout forced some nurses to leave the hospital altogether. 

The BMH team has begun to recover, but they’re not there just yet. It takes time to heal from the constant pressure and stress that the small team of 32 nurses (of which only about ten are full-time) experienced. Brandi Baird, a nurse at BMH for eight years, explained what she learned from the pandemic and how many nurses felt extreme physical and mental stress during that time.

“There definitely is a shortage of nurses and training. We had so many patients that we typically do not care for in this small hospital,” Brandi said. “We had to teach and help the new nurses feel comfortable with a higher level of care that they may not have had an opportunity to do otherwise. It was a very emotional and physical time for all involved.” 

Christina Brandt, who has been with BMH for close to 14 years, also recalled this hospital’s struggles over the last three years:

Before COVID, the local nursing college had a long wait list of candidates waiting to fill their limited class slots. The college typically takes 15 students at a time, but the last nursing class only had six graduates. The decline in available nurses was noticeable throughout the pandemic, and unfortunately, the shortage hasn’t gotten much better. A not-insignificant number of experienced nurses chose to retire or leave the profession as the pandemic played out, which left remaining nurses unable to benefit from their wisdom and years of service.

BMH has been able to hire a small number of nurses to begin rebuilding their team, but the recovery is far from over. They’re now working with the University of Utah to help address some of the mental health struggles that many of their nurses continue to face. But overall, this nursing team wants to be known for the head-on approach they took to handling the pandemic. Despite their remote location, limited resources and staff, and the extreme burnout levels they faced, this team remains dedicated to serving the diverse communities around them. In fact, the pandemic actually reinforced for many of these nurses just how critical they are to their colleagues and their community.

“​​I learned that nurses are critical in every community,” said Sunny Jones, who’s been a nurse at BMH for five years. “Nurses were the true heroes during the pandemic when most other employees did their work from home.”

“[Our hospital] gives care to those who are underinsured or uninsured, [and we also give] older adults the benefits of healthcare that they need and may not be able to get anywhere else,” Christina shared. “Our community needs [us] desperately.” 

As a critical access hospital, the importance of the care that BMH and its nursing team has provided both pre- and post-pandemic can’t be overstated. The dedication of this rural team, the depth of care they provide, and the unwavering support they provide for patients who walk through their doors is truly unique. Sulane says it’s not for the faint of heart.

“Sometimes we feel forgotten, sometimes we feel inferior, when really we do so much and wear so many hats that I feel we need to be highlighted for the things that we are asked to do,” she said. “Travel nurses sometimes struggle when coming to a rural hospital, because they [aren’t used to wearing so many different hats]. We don’t have specialized teams helping us. Sometimes there are only a few of us to do the work of many. Rural nurses are one of a kind.”

Thank You

To the nurses at Blue Mountain Hospital: Your tenacity and integrity will inspire many other nursing teams, both large and small, to be steadfast and strong in the face of adversity. We see you and recognize the depth of the struggles you faced throughout the pandemic. Your community is fortunate to have nurses who remind us all why nursing is named the world’s noblest profession year after year. Thank you for your service—we’re honored to declare you our first Nurses of Note for 2023!


In addition to learning about their experience as a critical access hospital throughout the pandemic, we asked the Blue Mountain Hospital nursing team some questions to get to know them better:

Why did you choose to become a nurse?

Kellie Mills: I’ve always wanted to be a nurse! Growing up, I had family members who are nurses. It’s been something that I’ve wanted to do and was able to do once I was out of high school.

Tiarra Begay: I chose to become a nurse to help anyone and everyone who needs it. 

What’s the biggest lesson you learned working at a critical access hospital during the pandemic?

Crystal Shumway: I learned that while most staff were at home safe, nurses still had to come to work and take care of sick and dying patients! It didn’t matter if we had a family or if we didn’t have the supplies we needed to keep ourselves safe. We were expected to show up and put our health and families’ health at risk for the sake of the patients.

Sulane Knight: I learned what an amazing hospital we are and what incredible things we can accomplish with little to no help or resources. We had to take initiative, we had to be creative, and yes, we had to put it all on the line. As a hospital, we had to come up with new processes and procedures every day. The changes just kept coming every time the CDC changed their minds. We became a stronger nursing team. We stuck together and worked hard as one. Yes, we sacrificed for the other employees in this hospital, but in the end, we were the heroes. We were the ones who gave it all. We are now experts in PPE, handwashing, and mask-wearing. We are much more aware and vigilant about infection control, which benefits our whole hospital.

What’s one piece of advice you would give to your younger self about working in the healthcare industry?

Christina Brandt: Devote time to serving the Lord, putting Him first in life. You need spiritual life for well-being. Take time with family and loved ones—you never get that time back. You can miss out on life. Do not let work consume you. Take time for yourself. Serve others with a loving heart. Without some of these things, when you get old, you have nothing. You have not accomplished anything.

Troy Palmer: I would tell my younger self to get as much education as possible!

Stephanie Ivins: If I could give my younger self, or anyone coming into nursing, some advice, I would say to start from the bottom—learn all of the jobs you can. 

What do you do to relax after a stressful day?

Nicole Bradford: Honestly, sometimes I binge eat and vegetate on TV or social media. You just need that sometimes! 

Christina Brandt: I like to sew many beautiful blankets and quilts, and then give them away and hope they bring a smile to someone’s face.

Troy Palmer: I really enjoy gardening.

What changes would you like to see in the nursing field of the future?

Nicole Bradford: I’d like to see safer and better staffing ratios, as well as more corporations who care about their staff more than they do the dollar. We need better wages for the care we give. 

Crystal Shumway: I want to see more teamwork—from the administration down through the cleaning staff and food service employees!

Sulane Knight: I would like more people to realize how rewarding and great it is. I want the younger generation to know that it’s worth it. To be the one who’s there to hold the hands of family members as they watch a loved one pass, to support the young new mother when she feels like she is not enough, to hold a brand new life in your arms and be there for the first breath of life.

Christina Brandt: It’d be nice to see more of our nurses being cross-trained in other areas of our hospital so they can feel competent in all areas of care.

If you had to pick one song that describes your nursing team, what would it be?

Sulane Knight: What Doesn’t Kill You” by Kelly Clarkson, and also “You Didn’t Have To” by Brown and Gray. 

Sunny Jones: “We Are the Champions” by Queen.


Make sure to follow our blog as we publish profiles about more of our amazing Nurses of Note honorees throughout the year! For more about Nurses of Note 2023, check out the full list of winners.

How Better Communication Management Ensures Top of License Practice

How Are You Taking Calls as a Clinician?

Most clinicians get into medicine for a simple reason: they want to help patients. They don’t do it because they enjoy spending hours taking unnecessary calls, managing complex schedules, or doing any number of other administrative tasks. Though these are essential activities in the day-to-day operations of a medical practice, they need to be allocated to the appropriate person to give providers more leeway to work at the top of their license. In addition to expediting health system operations, appropriately directing patient inquiries can be a major satisfier for doctors.

Do you find yourself asking these questions?

  • Why did I get pinged for a prescription refill request at 2 AM?
  • Who should be managing overnight messages?
  • Who should be answering calls that are non-urgent or clinical in nature?
  • How can I spend my time on work befitting my training and experience?

With variable expenses eating up operational costs, how can you leverage healthcare communication technology to work for you? Can you save physicians time so they can work at the top of their license?

Practicing at the Top of Your License

What does it mean to practice at the top of your medical license?

Working at the top of your license as a medical professional means you are utilizing your full scope of practice and skills to provide the highest level of care that you are trained and authorized to offer. It involves maximizing your skills, expertise, and knowledge to provide high-quality care to patients, while also working within the limits of your licensure and collaborating with other healthcare professionals as needed.

A provider working at the top of their license is typically based on their skills and market worth among healthcare organizations. For example, a surgeon performing a surgery and a nurse practitioner writing a prescription for a patient in an urgent care setting are both working at the top of their license. A few more examples of what practicing at the top of your license means can be seen below.

Why does top-of-license practice matter in a health system?

Workload, workflow, and budgets are impacted by how well and how often providers (and all staff) work at the top of their license. If a family medicine clinic is inundated with “standing orders,” who is making sure the prescription refills are signed off? Does the doctor update the order, or does the nurse? Other routine requests could be managed through an automated service, notifying the right person for the task required.

If physicians are doing tasks a medical assistant or nurse can manage, they are not practicing at the top of their license. By focusing on tasks specific to their role, the provider can be compensated accordingly for their treatment. In the same vein, the administrative and nursing staff also work at the top of their license by doing tasks they are better equipped to handle. With this kind of cross-collaborative effort, patients can receive effective and efficient care while the practice gets recognized and reimbursed for their time well spent.

Mastering the Craft of Top-of-License Practice

Practicing top of license doesn’t mean turning medical practices into an assembly line and eliminating the art of medicine. Focusing only on a subset of tasks may help labor costs go down, but the whole patient care experience requires additional time spent listening, communicating, and examining patients. With value-based care, allowing physicians to practice at the top of their license with these freedoms to identify patient concerns, whether in clinic or during hospital rounds, can increase patient outcomes.

 “The disadvantage of the assembly line is that unique craftsmanship is lost. From the worker’s point of view, the work becomes repetitive and the “big picture” of the ultimate goal, complete with individual pride in reaching that goal, can be lost.” 2Dr. Alan Spiro, MD

Practicing at the top of your license is about focusing your time and talents on activities that will lead to the most positive outcome for both the patient and the provider organization, but it does not mean simply forgetting about tasks that are “beneath you” or unceremoniously foisting them on your team members. Top-of-license practice should lead to better teamwork and more effective patient care. Doctor bedside manner is an example of clinicians mastering their craft beyond procedural tasks.

Directing Communication Appropriately 

When communication workflows are built efficiently, clinicians can focus their time on top-of-license activities. Let’s look at how better communication management (messaging, after-hours and on-call routing, etc.) can ensure that providers are able to practice at the top of their license.

A study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine found that patients who received care from advanced practice nurses (APRNs) had similar health outcomes to those who received care from physicians.3 The study also found that APRNs provided a higher level of preventive care than physicians, including counseling patients on smoking cessation and providing flu vaccines.4 When a physician is needed to consult on a deeper issue, they have final say in a recommendation, treatment, or referral. 

For example, if an APRN at an allergy clinic sees a child with a parent, they spend more time in the room talking together and diagnosing the issue. If the nurse is still confused about what rash or type of reaction occurred, they may ask the on-call physician in person (if they’re on site) or send them a secure, HIPAA-compliant message with an image of the rash. The allergist can quickly assess it and provide feedback about a diagnosis. They can proceed with next steps, such as a prescription sent to the pharmacy, and the patients can schedule a follow-up appointment with the front office while the APRN charts or sees another patient. 

For nurses and doctors, this division of duties protects their time by allowing them to focus on their area of expertise. More time caring for patients means a more balanced workload. Patients receive top-level specialist care, which saves the doctor an extra trip. It may save time for parents or children who also had to take time off work or school to make the appointment.

Answering Service + Provider Scheduling for Top of License Calls

If the practitioner or physician are not available, and the message doesn’t get written down or recorded, what are patients expected to do? Should they call back later? Can the office manager or administrative staff manage the calls? 

Save time by using a single system to indicate who is on-call and how and when to contact them. Instead of forcing providers to give out their personal number, patients can follow a guided process so they aren’t left in the dark. 

Providers could be built into a schedule to handle specific calls, while the office staff can manage other requests. If you don’t have the staff or current capability, PerfectServe offers a way to track which messages go where. Instead of paper trails, lost notes, and outdated schedules, every person can be on the same page and platform.

Here’s an example of a time-saving schedule with call-routing for providers and patients:

“We can help route calls away from providers and to the appropriate level of care, like to a refill pool, or another selection so providers are only getting calls if they’re the scheduled on-call provider and the call is meant for them.” – Kristie Scott, Director of Technical Solutions

At its core, top-of-license practice is about making sure the right people are focusing on the right tasks based on their role and level of training. Coordinating patient care can be extremely challenging even on the best day, and it only becomes harder as things get busier.

There’s no magic wand to fix healthcare’s “business” problem with the flick of a wrist, but using a structured communication platform to ensure calls and messages get to the right person at the right time is one way of helping doctors and nurses to practice at the top of their license. Getting bogged down in paperwork and other administrative tasks can be a significant source of dissatisfaction for people who spent years training to treat patients, so deploying technology to fill those gaps is a win for all involved.

To learn how PerfectServe can help you better support your providers, contact us today to schedule a demo!



1  Practice at the top of your license: What does that really mean? KevinMD:

2 Challenging Paradigms: Practising at the Top of Your License, Health Management:

3,4 Chronic inflammatory bowel disease in childhood, National Library of Medicine:

Unlock the Potential of Your Answering Service: Creating a Better Patient Experience

Patient experience matters, even after business hours. Using automation to standardize medical answering service workflows ensures high-quality processes for inbound patient calls by directing patients to the support they need and protecting the time and privacy of providers and staff.

This post is the third installment of a series highlighting the benefits of treating your answering service as a strategic asset that can effect positive change across the enterprise rather than a basic cost center that shouldn’t receive much attention. Today, we’ll explore why a well-designed, automated solution facilitates a better experience for patients.

Always-On, 24/7 Access

If you talk to the average healthcare consumer, they’ll probably have a story about a time when they needed their provider but couldn’t reach them; maybe it was outside of normal business hours, or maybe they were just busy with other patients. Either way, it’s a frustrating experience that can turn dangerous if a patient is experiencing an emergent event.

With a cloud-based, automated answering service, patients have convenient, 24/7 access to your clinics that doesn’t simultaneously overwhelm your providers with unstructured communication. No matter what the patient needs or when the need arises, they can dial a familiar clinic number and get connected to the help they need. The phone-based workflows used by PerfectServe are intuitive and promote a consistent experience for patients, meaning they’ll never be subjected to the variable quality and demeanor common with live answering service agents.

No Portal Required

While usage of patient portals has increased since the onset of the pandemic in 2020, there are still many patients who never—or almost never—use them. One report suggests that, in 2021, only about 40% of patients accessed their medical records via patient portal at least once.1 That’s not an insignificant percentage, but it still means that more than half of patients are not using portals.

The reasons vary, but some of the most common complaints facing patient portals are the dated and confusing interfaces, the need to update apps and passwords frequently and remember login credentials, and the fact that getting answers, even to basic inquiries, can take hours or even days.

Take a surgery cancellation. If the procedure is set to take place within the next 24 to 48 hours, a portal message to the provider’s office won’t cut it. There’s no guarantee a provider—or anyone for that matter—will see the message in time to cancel the appointment, alert the provider, and initiate the rescheduling process. With an automated answering service, health systems can build this option into their phone tree. When a patient hears the option to “cancel an upcoming surgery or procedure,” they can rest assured their request to cancel is addressed immediately and all parties will be notified. 

Similarly, if a patient wants to review pre-surgery requirements, they will probably log in to their portal, send a request, and cross their fingers for a timely response. With an automated answering service, the phone tree could have an automated reminder built into its prompt. A patient can simply select to hear surgery requirements or, if necessary, ask to speak to a triage nurse. This gives them the information they need and quickly relieves any anxiety about getting a timely response through the portal. If a chat with the triage nurse turns into a telehealth appointment with the on-call provider, patients can be warned before they consent to the appointment. No surprise bills and no frustrated patients!

An automated answering service gives patients consistent access to their providers using a direct communication channel—if you can dial a phone, you can make a connection. Some health systems have also layered patient engagement technology on top of this answering service access, which enables things like bidirectional patient-to-provider text messaging and ad hoc video visits.

Patient-Directed Menu

Though live answering service agents mean well, they’ve got a couple things going against them: they’re usually not medically trained, and they’re human. The former makes it difficult for them to properly ascertain and interpret all of the details they hear from patients, and the latter means that they’re prone to mistakes—that’s just part of being a human.

The self-directed menu of an enhanced answering service means the patient is in total control of their destiny. If they’ve got a persistent sinus infection and need to schedule a clinic visit, a voicemail requesting follow-up will likely suffice. If they’ve got piercing abdominal pain and need to speak with the triage nurse or on-call physician for advice, that connection can happen in mere seconds. The patient knows what she wants, and the answering service lets her choose the menu options to make it happen—every time.

Automated Routine Requests

If you’ve got a simple medication refill request for your doctor, why should it take an extended conversation with a live agent to submit your request? In short, it shouldn’t. Answering service agents are often required to run through a laundry list of questions regardless of who’s calling, and this can turn a should-be-short call into something much more frustrating.

By tapping the latest in answering service technology, practices throughout your system can present patients with simple and repeatable phone workflows that allow basic activities like medication refills and appointment requests to be completed in seconds. If a patient remembers their medication refill at 8 PM, they can call the clinic, select the correct menu option, and leave a brief message with pertinent details, and the system can confirm that their request will be handled as soon as the office opens the next business day. Importantly, this doesn’t only apply to after-hours calls—even during office hours, these types of requests can be automated to give valuable time back to providers and other staff while ensuring patient needs are always attended to in a timely manner.

Access to On-Call Clinical Support

On the flip side, sometimes human contact is absolutely necessary. In those instances, patients should be certain that they can reach someone if the situation warrants a live conversation. For practices that still rely on pagers and live answering services, negative outcomes are always possible. Maybe an on-call physician leaves their phone on the nightstand, only to miss an incoming urgent call because they’ve set the phone to vibrate. Or maybe an agent references a dated call sheet and tries to connect a patient to the wrong physician at 11:30 PM.

Because an automated answering service relies on proven technology, up-to-date schedules, and escalation pathways, these negative consequences are less likely due in part to better workflow design. Problems maintaining a proper call sheet? Manage on-call schedules in your scheduling application or directly in the answering service platform to ensure that all after hours communications are directed to the correct on-call caregiver. Problems with providers missing calls? Build escalation paths (and persistent reminders) into your workflows to minimize instances of communications falling through the cracks, helping patients reach the right live provider when they need one.

No Dropped, Misinterpreted, or Misdirected Calls

To put a finer point on some of the benefits we’ve alluded to above, it’s not unusual for a live answering service to drop, misinterpret, or misdirect patient calls. Whether because of faulty or dated infrastructure, lack of medical training, incorrect on-call schedules, or a mixture of all three, patients who call clinics after hours can easily find themselves disconnected or in the wrong place with no resolution for their original inquiry. Unfortunately, most after hours services lack the technology to confirm whether callers ultimately find resolution, which can create critical—and preventable—gaps in care.

An automated answering service does away with guesswork and relies on advanced routing automation to bypass human issues like dropped calls, hold times, and unclear call follow-through and outcomes. In PerfectServe’s case, this functionality is appropriately called Dynamic Intelligent Routing®. In the same way that a driver need not understand the inner workings of an engine to properly operate a car, the patient need not understand the complexities of technology-enabled workflows to properly engage with an automated answering service. Just call the office, select the right options, and you’re good to go.

Patient Inquiries More Likely to Reach Resolution

For a patient, the last thing they want when calling their doctor’s office with an important question is … a cliffhanger. If the appointment on Thursday needs to move to Monday because of a last-minute scheduling conflict, it’s inconvenient at best when this simple change can’t be made by contacting the answering service. If a parent calls a pediatric clinic after hours with serious concerns about her child’s health, failing to connect her with the right on-call provider could turn into an unnecessary ED visit. Maybe the “problem” wasn’t a problem at all, but how was she supposed to know without consulting a knowledgeable clinician?

By switching to an automated answering service solution with “always-on” capability and intuitive, predefined communication workflows, you can increase the chances that a given patient inquiry reaches an appropriate resolution. This also means automation can help reduce potential negative consequences from mistakes or missed connections—like losing dissatisfied patients to other health systems, unnecessary readmissions or resource utilization (as in the ED visit above), or even negative clinical outcomes.

The PerfectServe Experience

All of these benefits add up to a more satisfying experience for your health system’s patients that likely can’t be replicated by legacy answering services.

PerfectServe has been in the business of building clinical workflows for 25 years, and we understand how important it is for patients, providers, and everyone else involved in the care journey to have access to reliable communication channels that connect them to the information they need.

Our medical answering service is a proven solution capable of streamlining communication workflows for your owned and affiliated medical practices to give patients the access and experience they deserve. Contact us today to learn more. 

Already a PerfectServe customer? Learn how to use our medical answering service at every site within your health system.


1 Patients are using portals more than ever—and high adoption is linked to shorter hospital stays, Insider Intelligence:

Medical Answering Services: Urgent Versus Non-Urgent Calls

Do your patients get frustrated when they engage with your medical answering service? Do they find your phone tree hard to follow? Are patients with urgent requests getting stuck in a non-urgent queue? If so, you’re not the first to encounter these challenges. With the right medical answering service solution, you can drastically improve the call-in experience.

Communication pathways play a big role in the way patients receive and retain information. When we implement workflows—whether enabled by technology or something else—that are built to effectively share pertinent and educational information, we alleviate frustration and increase the likelihood of having well-informed, empowered, and satisfied patients. 

Let’s look at how medical answering services can more effectively manage inbound calls to ensure urgent and non-urgent patient messages get to the right place at the right time.

Access Medical Messages Easily

Medical answering services can be built to manage a broad spectrum of patient calls. Every practice covers a unique range of patient care needs, so the customizable nature of a tech-enabled medical answering service means it can be designed to answer any number of patient questions efficiently. In many instances, this can even be done without a patient ever having to speak with a provider. Research shows that patients want more convenience and shorter wait times,1 so using technology in this way is a win on both fronts.

As an example, a patient may want to ask their provider about eating restrictions prior to taking a blood test. To save both patient and provider time, a medical answering service phone tree can automatically route this patient’s call to the on-call phlebotomist or lab nurse to answer their question. A similar workflow could be built for the question, “How long should I fast before getting my blood drawn for a glucose test?” If a patient navigates to this portion of the menu, they can get their answer without talking to a provider.

Other questions can be answered in much the same way—the possibilities are almost endless. Educational reminders passed along while patients wait in a queue may include basic surgical requirements, such as refraining from eating or drinking before a procedure, or more generic logistical information like office hours and location, basic billing information, and what to do if the patient is experiencing a medical emergency (hint: think “911”). Making this information available via automated answering service gives patients around-the-clock access to answers that previously wouldn’t have been available in real time, which boosts convenience and can help to reduce anxiety.

Route Medical Calls Accurately

PerfectServe Medical Voicemail Call Tree Menu Prompt Example

When urgent calls get routed to the wrong person, what happens? Who determines which calls are truly urgent or not? You can imagine a patient’s frustration when they have a time-sensitive matter to discuss but get caught in a non-urgent phone tree—maybe they’re asked to leave a voicemail that will be addressed the next business day—or end up being routed to the wrong provider. Though they may not have a true go-to-the-emergency-room-now situation, it’s still discouraging for patients when they need a timely answer and get stuck in a more general workflow that doesn’t yield a fast response from the provider. When patients experience high levels of frustration because they can’t get help when they need it, you better believe they’ll start seeking care somewhere else.

Never fear—technology to the rescue! 

With PerfectServe’s medical answering service, you can customize push notifications in the messaging app so physicians can differentiate between patient messages and personal messages. Medical assistants and office administrators can even take calls to help determine their level of importance. One practice manager at a neurology clinic slots herself into on-call status from 7 to 8:30 AM each morning. As messages get routed to her, she determines the priority before forwarding them to the on-call doctor in PerfectServe. For true emergencies, the standard, “If this is a life-threatening emergency, please hang up and dial 911” message tends to help patients self-select their ‘urgent’ requests.

For prescription refills, which often fall in the “non-urgent” category, an automated message might sound like this: “For routine prescription refills, please contact your pharmacy. If you need authorization or a new prescription, please leave your name and number for the medical office, and we will return your call during regular office hours.”

Improving Attitudes for Patients and Providers

These medical answering service workflows are designed to simplify information sharing while ensuring that all inbound communication gets routed to the right person at the right time. Using a smarter medical answering service doesn’t just improve the patient experience—physician well-being improves when they feel they’re providing more effective and responsive care for patients. By automating the inbound call process and seamlessly educating patients about next steps, voicemail volume shrinks, staff and provider time is protected, and more time is available to engage in direct patient care.

The AAFP says that healthcare organizations should consider health IT vendors that ease patient interactions because health IT can automate “calling processes and ensure patients receive educational messaging.”2 To learn more about how PerfectServe’s medical answering service can help you achieve this goal, schedule a demo today.

1 3 Ways Patient Expectations of Healthcare Changed Since COVID-19, DocResponse:
2 Improving low health literacy and patient engagement: A social ecological approach, ScienceDirect: