What Is Your Weakest Link in Communicating with Your Patients?

weakest link

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. That weak link in a chain is where it will break when it’s pulled too hard. It represents a single point of failure. Once that link breaks, the chain becomes worthless.

Now apply this weak-link concept to communication with your patients. What is this weak link in your operation? Whatever it is, when overstressed the chain will fail. And your relationship with your patients will suffer. Some communication links occur during office hours and others take place afterward. Make sure all these communication links accomplish the results your patients expect them to.

During Office Hours

Most medical practices and healthcare facilities give a lot of attention to their communication with patients during office hours. This makes sense because it’s when healthcare providers are present and able to see what’s working and what’s not working with patient-facing interactions.

Several of these communication links occur in-person. It starts in the reception area with interaction between the front desk personnel and the patients waiting to see their healthcare provider. Next comes the communication when a staff member calls a patient in the waiting room and escorts them to the exam room. Then a nurse or aide provides a third contact by doing preliminary prep work. Then a doctor, physician’s assistant, or nurse practitioner sees the patient. This is the fourth link in the communication chain. After the exam a follow-up action may occur. Then the patient completes the healthcare transaction by arranging for payment or setting up the next appointment. These are all examples of in person patient communication during office hours.

Another form of office-hours communication with patients occurs over the phone. These opportunities to connect with patients are less noticeable to the healthcare practitioners who focus on seeing patients face to face, but these interactions are also important.

A patient may call to make an appointment, follow up on test results, or inquire about a charge not covered by insurance, as well as many other types of questions. Each one of these phone calls represent another link in the communication chain. If the interaction doesn’t proceed professionally, it denotes a weak link. These weak links are situations for patients to become disillusioned with their healthcare providers, complaining about them to family and friends, which can culminate in them switching providers.

After Office Hours 

A typical doctor’s office is open about 40 hours a week, give or take. This represents one quarter of a week’s 168 hours. What happens to patient communication the rest of the time? The other 75 percent of the week?

Because after-hours communication is the least visible to healthcare providers, it also receives the least amount of attention to quality and the greatest scrutiny to cost. This is shortsighted because a failure to provide patients with a personal and professional means of contact renders after-hours phone calls as a practice’s or clinic’s weakest link. And since this represents three quarters of each week, it provides a lot of exposure for this weakest link.

Despite best efforts made during the workday, after-hours interaction is where most practices and clinics reveal their shortcomings. This becomes the greatest point of risk, jeopardizing the patient-provider relationship. If these phone calls don’t align with a patient’s expectations for responsiveness, professionalism, and effectiveness, they’re apt to hang up and find another healthcare provider.


After hours phone calls represent the weak link for many healthcare providers. To address this, they should ensure that a professional medical answering service handles their after-hours telephone communications. They need a healthcare telephone answering service that specializes in meeting the expectations of patients by providing a professional answer, an empathetic response, and a satisfactory outcome. 

Don’t let your answering service be your weakest link. Go with a professional medical answering service.


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.