Not every patient has to be seen in the office. Some problems are relatively minor, and some patients may not have transportation to take them to a doctor’s office. For example, someone who is simply calling to ask for a medication refill might not necessarily need to come to the office. At the same time, the doctor’s time is valuable, and there are some situations where a patient may be using a phone call to avoid paying for a full visit. Even though a patient call might be useful in some situations, should doctors bill for phone calls to medical offices? Take a look at some of the benefits and drawbacks of using patient phone calls to handle medical concerns.
The Benefits of Taking Patients’ Calls
There are several benefits of using patient phone calls. They include:
- Reduce overall healthcare costs: A medical practice can reduce its overhead expenses significantly if they handle certain concerns using patient phone calls. Office space is not used, the registration staff is not required, and the nursing staff is usually not needed.
- More convenient for the patient: Some patients have a very difficult time getting to the office due to transportation or work reasons. Handling certain patient medical concerns via a phone call can reduce barriers to care.
- More flexibility for healthcare professionals: The doctor can return the phone call at a time that is convenient for him or her. The doctor doesn’t have to worry about committing to a fixed appointment time to handle a patient phone call.
- Improved patient satisfaction: The ability to handle certain patient concerns over the phone can lead to greater satisfaction for everyone involved. Doctors tend to report greater satisfaction when they can handle patient concerns via phone call, particularly when they are compensated for that call. Patients are also more appreciative of phone calls because it widens their options and can help them save money.
These are just a few of the many benefits of using phone calls to handle certain patient concerns. If doctors could also be compensated for the time they spend on the phone with patients, it could create an extra barrier between doctors and patients who are looking for a way to abuse the system. It can also encourage patients to use email communications more often, which provides even more flexibility for those patients and medical providers.
The Drawbacks of Charging for Patient Phone Calls
The prospect of getting paid for patient consults over the phone can be attractive for medical practices. On the other hand, there are a few drawbacks to charging for patient phone calls. They include:
- Patient has to pay: Patients should expect to be charged a copay for calling the doctor’s office. Even though it may only be a few dollars, it increases barriers between patients and doctors and might cause patients to think twice before calling for a legitimate medical concern.
- Billing rates are low: The pay for patient phone calls is low. Doctors may feel like it is not worth their time to talk to patients over the phone.
- It might not be covered: Even though the government insurance plans may pay for phone calls, commercial insurance companies might not do so. It may take them a while to catch up to the idea of paying for phone calls.
- Phone calls must be long enough: The phone call also has to be long enough for doctors to bill for it. It might have to be as long as five minutes before they will be compensated.
Therefore, it is important to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of billing for a patient phone call.
Consider Working with a Doctors’ Answering Service
Phone calls to medical offices are only going to become more common, and it might be helpful to work with a doctors answering service. Answering services for medical offices can screen patient phone calls ahead of time, making it easier for doctors to decide which phone calls are worth their time and which ones can be handled by ancillary staff. There are certain situations where billing for patient phone calls can be helpful, but medical offices and hospitals need to work with a professional team that can help them maximize the revenue generated by this potential outlet. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you!