Your physician answering service has taken a lot of the load off, freeing your in-house staff to give patients a lot more attention and allowing your team members to focus on the work in front of them instead of being interrupted by phone calls.

It’s been a huge game-changer, but is this medical answering service doing everything it could be doing for you?

Your Physician Answering Service Should Be More Than Operators

Even if you weren’t sure that your physician answering service would really end up being a help when you first signed up, now that you’ve seen how it works you kind of want to push the envelope to see what else is possible.

Along with the services your physician answering service is already providing, make sure they’re doing these things for even better patient service:

  • Taking the time to answer your patients’ questions. Your operators aren’t always going to be able to give patients answers on specifics since your answering service team is likely not composed of physicians well-versed in the patient’s particular history.But they should be able to give patients directions to your office, provide fax numbers and other basic functions like telling callers the hours that you’re in the office. If your physician answering service is rushing callers off the phone instead of helping them, it might be time to find a different service.
  • Properly evaluating emergencies per your protocol. There’s a certain amount of subjective judgment that’s involved in deciding when a patient call is an emergency, even when an operator is provided with a guide to triage callers.But if they’re failing to follow your instructions in borderline cases or worse, ignore your instructions entirely, your physician answering service isn’t doing you any favors. You’ll want to call and discuss this problem with your operators because patients will start to feel alienated if they’re always dismissed..
  • Keeping you in the loop with appointments. Your physician answering service should be able to take care of appointment scheduling in a system that will connect to your personal calendar, that way no one gets missed and appointments made in the office will sync with the answering service’s schedule. Real time calendars keep everyone on the same page, no matter how crazy and chaotic your day gets.
  • Giving you easier ways to track who’s on call that evening. Having a person on-call means that your patients should always be able to talk to a physician if absolutely necessary.But maintaining an on-call list can be tedious and time-consuming. Your answering service should have a system in place that will help you do this easily, often simply by logging into their software and dragging and dropping the right person into the right slot.

Physician Answering Services Should Be an Extension of Your Office

Regardless of what you ultimately ask your service to do, they should act as an extension of your office, including giving patients the care you’d give them yourself.

If you’re concerned that the service may be doing less than this, ask to listen to some recorded calls. Before you jump ship for another provider, you want to be sure you’re doing it for the right reasons, not because of one angry patient with bad luck.