How To Provide 24 Hour Patient Care In A Small Medical Practice

by Brent Woods

It can be difficult for a small medical practice to provide immediate, 24 hour care for their patients. A medical answering service is the solution to this challenge, allowing your physicians to enjoy their time off while still making sure they are available for when a patient needs them most. Learn how to choose the best services for your specific needs:

Choose the Right Answering Service

Answering services fall into one of two categories – live or message based. Message-based systems aren't ideal, because your patients must wait for you to check and return after-hours messages.

A live service uses an operator trained specifically for handling in-patient calls. This gives your patients a live person to talk with, who can then route the call accordingly. This may include transferring the patient to emergency services, contacting the nurse or doctor on call, or taking a message.

Determine the Services Offered

For a small practice, after-hour services can make the working day run smoother. You can even utilize the service during the day, freeing up your receptionists time so they can focus on the in-office patients. Sample services include:

  • Processing billing and payments

  • Setting or changing appointments

  • Checking medical records for patients

  • Routing calls to the proper doctor or nurse within the practice

Move Beyond the Phone

Answering services aren't limited to the phone, anymore. You can provide your patients with phone applications for their smart phones, which allows them to contact your service at the touch of a button. Live operator chat services are also available for your practice's website. Using these add-on services can help draw in new patients, while providing more ease of use for your existing patients.

An answering service works best when you work hand-in-hand with the service providers. Keep them up-to-date so they always have a reliable list and contact information for the on-call physicians.  Make sure those on call are aware of their responsibility to reply quickly to forwarded messages – failure to respond to a message that later becomes serious can leave the practice open to a malpractice suit.

Scheduling programs must also be fully integrated between the service and your in-office staff, otherwise double bookings can become a problem.

Properly training the office staff and working within the parameters of the answering services abilities ensures both your staff and your patients have a successful experience with the service. Surveying your patients on their answering service experiences can help you further evolve the service to best meet everyone's needs.