5 ways your answering service is hurting your practice
After hours and 24/7 answering services are essential for modern practices. From freeing up your receptionist during business hours to forwarding urgent information about a patient in the middle of the night, answering services help physicians and their staff improve the patient’s experience.
Unfortunately, answering services with live operators tend to make mistakes, and those mistakes could be liabilities for your practice.
Here are five ways your traditional answering service might be hurting your practice’s reputation.
5. Unnecessary contacting a physician
Deciding when to contact a physician is complicated and leads to one of the more common mistakes traditional answering services make: contacting a physician unnecessarily.
Ever-changing call schedules and workflows are complicated. And with every call, a patient’s life could be on the line. In real time, your answering service must determine which messages can wait until business hours and which ones cannot.
When your answering service makes a mistake and calls a physician over the weekend or in the middle of the night for a non-urgent message, it has a negative effect on your physician’s satisfaction, making it more difficult to retain top talent. The costs associated with physician turnover — including recruiting, on-boarding and lost revenue — start to add up quickly.
4. Frustrated, unhappy patients
Another common drawback of using traditional answering services is missed or lost messages.
Patients want to know that they’re being heard, not ignored, and if your answering service frequently loses your patients’ messages, doesn’t take thorough notes during the call, takes too long to send a patient’s message to you, or sends the message to the wrong provider, it can make your entire practice appear disorganized and even uncaring.
Over time, poor customer experiences with your answering service can be detrimental to your practice’s reputation.
Read how Southwest Cancer Center boosted physician and patient satisfaction by replacing its answering service.
3. Poor Representation
When your office is closed, your answering service represents your practice. In fact, patients may not know they’re speaking with a third-party, so — for them — your answering service is your practice.
For patients, your answering service is part of their overall experience with the practice, so you have to ensure that it is delivering the quality of service your patients expect from you.
Keeping your patients satisfied with the key to patient retention, so go the extra mile to make sure your answering service is delivering.
2. Fluctuating costs
Practices commonly spend much more on their answering service than is budgeted.
Many answering services have hidden fees and charges based on call volume and duration. If you’re not paying attention, those fees can add up quickly, and suddenly your answering service is costing you much more than you originally intended.
To get a more accurate account of exactly how much your answering service is really costing you, look at your month-over-month charges and take note of the fluctuations. It takes time, but uncovering your answering service’s variable costs is the only way to figure out how much your practice is truly spending.
1. Disaster preparedness
You know that healthcare can’t stop when inclement weather, natural disasters and other emergencies happen. Keeping open lines of communication between providers and patients is essential during emergencies, and your answering service has to be able to take messages and route emergency calls effectively.
If your answering service depends on live operators, though, its call center could also be affected by the disaster, making it impossible for them to answer your patients’ calls.
Download our disaster preparedness checklist here.
Not all answering services provide the same level of service and support. Use these factors to assess your current after hours or 24/7 answering service vendor and decide if it’s time to look for another solution that can better protect your practice.