Any time I ask a practice about their pain points, they invariably name “the phones” as one of their toughest problems to solve. Phone calls are escalating as many patients are trying to avoid going to the doctor. That means instead of making an appointment, patients are calling hoping to be given advice or a prescription over the phone.
Staffing up to answer the phones is rarely an option for most practices. In many cases, there is no compensation for healthcare via the phone, therefore adding more staff for no additional compensation is not tenable. This is just one example where the physician is feeling the bite of having to pay more for a practice that produces less income.
There is no best practice for number of phone receptionists to number of physicians and non-physician providers. Every practice is different based on the specialty, the practice culture and staffing structure.
When the problem is the phones, the issue is complex. Doing a poor job of answering the phones not only causes patient dissatisfaction, it snowballs as patients call back again looking for answers, causing confusion and inefficiency. Poor phone management also has the potential to compromise care if a patient’s question goes unanswered.
Where do you start to tackle the problem with the phones?