Most every healthcare provider struggles with how to effectively meet the needs of their patients outside of regular office hours. It’s a difficult balance to maintain. Providers who make themselves too available risk burn out. Yet providers who aren’t available at all, risk losing patients to other providers who are.
The ideal solution hinges on providing 24/7 communication options. You begin with a medical answering service to handle the regular afterhours inquiries of your patients. The answering service can address most caller needs by either responding to requests immediately or deferring them to when the office opens.
The second part of providing 24/7 communication support for your patients addresses urgent medical situations. In this case a telephone triage provider can function as an effective first responder, often supplying the patient with the care they seek and protecting you and your healthcare staff from afterhours interruptions.
Though it’s tempting to seek both solutions from one provider, the smart move is to pick two specialists: one for medical answering service and a second one for telephone triage. Don’t ask one provider to do both jobs. This seldom works.
Use a Medical Answering Service for Regular Calls
Start by hiring a medical answering service to handle your phone calls when your office is closed. They’ll answer your phone, take messages, and handle appointment requests and changes.
In addition, a premier medical answering service can also follow your guidelines to identify calls that relate to urgent medical situations or potential emergencies. They then escalate the call and reach the on-call person or refer the patient to the appropriate after-hours care facility. But for these types of calls, there’s also another option: telephone triage.
Use a Telephone Triage Provider for Medical Issues
A telephone triage operation is essentially a call center staffed by nurses. They’re trained in the art of helping people appropriately deal with their healthcare concerns. The one distinguishing characteristic for these nurses is that they provide care over the telephone and not in person.
To address this, these nurses receive advanced training in how to effectively interact with patients who they can’t see or touch. This means their symptom-gathering process is (generally) limited to what they can hear: the words people say and the way they say them. These specialty nurses follow established medical triage protocols to provide callers with a recommended course of action. This could range from over-the-counter remedies to going to the emergency room, and everything in between.
Integrate Medical Answering Service with Telephone Triage
To provide the best service to your patients outside of regular office hours, you need to offer both medical answering service and telephone triage. But how do you do this in a seamless way that keeps them from being confused or needing to call different numbers?
When set up correctly, your patients will call your office phone number regardless of what time or day it is. If your office is open, your staff will answer their call. If your office is closed, their call will forward to your medical answering service. Your medical answering service is your patient-facing service provider for after-hours communication. They will handle most of your calls, taking messages, setting appointments, and escalating urgent situations.
Your medical answering service maintains a staff of professional communicators with experience in the healthcare industry, but they don’t have clinical training, so they can’t provide medical recommendations. When a call comes in that requires healthcare expertise, your medical answering service can make a seamless handoff to your telephone triage provider.
The Winning Solution
Your patients need not know that your medical answering service and telephone triage provider are separate operations, located in different facilities, perhaps even in different states.
What they know is that they called your office number and received the medical attention they needed, even though your office was closed. That’s what counts.
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.