Many practices complain about the volume of incoming telephone calls and how much time their employees spend handling them. Instead of continually adding more employees to handle more calls, smart practices are determining ways to reduce the volume of telephone calls.

In this article, you will learn how to:

  • Design telephone protocols that allow staff to answer more questions from patients
  • Utilize technology, including online patient portals, to deflect – and more quickly resolve – many patient inquiries
  • Implement and track response times to questions that patients ask by telephone

Many practices complain about the volume of incoming telephone calls and how much time their employees spend handling them. Instead of continually adding more employees to handle more calls, smart practices are determining ways to reduce the volume of telephone calls. They are accomplishing their objectives by using telephones more strategically and by opening alternative channels for patients to reach clinicians and get answers. These solutions come about by implementing new information technologies, making better use of existing systems, and getting back to basics in staff training.

If your employees do a better job of handling messages, patients get faster responses and are less apt to call back to see if anyone has addressed their question yet. A prompt response also makes it more likely that patients follow their medical care plans; it can even reduce liability risks.

Consider these ideas to improve communication with patients while reducing the volume of telephone calls.

Take better messages. Look at how well messages are–or are not–being handled. Establish parameters for how to take a message. Offer staff sample scripts to assure that they ask the right questions when taking a message. Patient name and an accompanying identifier (e.g., date of birth), physician, two (or more) contact numbers, and a brief description of the problem are crucial points of information. However, don’t take it for granted that everyone knows to get this information for every call.