5 Tips to Improve Patient Phone Access

patient phone access

In healthcare, communication with patients is key. This starts with doctor-patient communication and extends to interactions between medical staff and patients. However, one thing that’s often overlooked is relating to patients over the phone. In too many cases patient phone access is a weak link in the communication chain of healthcare providers.

Here are five tips to improve patient phone access. Though you could make this part of your annual goals for next year, you can implement them any time. Remember, as soon as you apply them, you and your patients can begin enjoying the benefits.

1. After-Hours Answering Service

We’ll start with after-hours answering service. This should be a given, but too many medical practices and healthcare facilities dismiss this as nonessential. They either force patients into automated solutions, which callers universally hate, or phones go unanswered after hours. These are both bad solutions that drive patients away.

Regardless of when patients call, they have a reason for doing so. They have a question or concern, and they expect help from a real person. Make sure you provide it. This starts with an after-hours answering service. This is the first tip to improve patient phone access.

2. Office-Hours Overflow Service

Now that we’ve improved after hours patient phone access by using a professional medical answering service, let’s look at what happens during office hours. Is your staff sometimes too busy to answer the phone? Do phone calls sometimes ring too long?

An easy solution to enhance patient phone access during office hours is to have overflow calls forward to your answering service. Just as they provide an excellent communication resource after hours, they can also help during office hours. Just let them know how you want those daytime calls handled and they’ll handle them for you.

3. Answering Service Appointment Setting

With a medical answering service handling all your calls after office hours and overflow calls during office hours, the next step is to allow them secure access into your appointment scheduling program. This way they can set appointments, change appointments, and handle cancellations. Though no one wants to receive a cancellation, the quicker you know about it, the greater the chance you have to fill it. Isn’t a full schedule the goal?

4. Remove Patient-Facing Automation

Next look at any phone automation that your patients must deal with. Most patients don’t like automation when it comes to their phone calls. They want a person, not a computer. Look for ways to personalize your phone communications in your office. Then allow your answering service to do the same thing.

Though it’s possible to shave a little bit off your monthly answering service bill by interjecting automation, the small savings usually isn’t enough to offset the frustration this causes your patients. The key to enhance patient phone access is to replace telephone automation with telephone personalization from a human being.

5. Review On-Call Protocols from a Patient-First Perspective

The final tip is to review your on-call protocols from the perspective of your patients. Yes, you must carefully handle on-call to not overwhelm you or your staff. However, the purpose of healthcare is to serve your patients in the best possible way by providing them with quality care. Does your on-call protocol interfere with you providing them with the best possible care? Maybe it’s time to adjust your protocols to better balance the needs of healthcare practitioners with the needs of the patients they serve.


A professional medical answering service can do a lot to improve patient phone access. Make sure you’re using your answering service to their full capabilities and not do anything that hampers their ability to best serve your patients.

Learn how medical answering service from MedConnectUSA can help your practice, clinic, or facility. Then get a free quote to discover how affordable their healthcare communication services are. Peter Lyle DeHaan is a freelance writer and call center authority.