The last few months have been really financially damaging to medical practices across the country. Doctors with relatively small private practices are reporting sharp decreases in revenues. The pandemic has hit physicians hard in terms of economics.
A survey done by the Medical Group Management Association early on during the pandemic found that 97% of the practices polled have been affected financially by COVID-19. Telemedicine has helped some practices to stay afloat during shutdowns and as a response to social distancing measures. But, for some, it hasn’t been enough.
Most primary-care practices work on a tight budget in good conditions. Now, the current pandemic has forced many practices to consider significant budget cuts. Healthcare spending has fallen and remains lower than pre-COVID times. Patients are choosing to stay home for non-serious issues and elective procedures are being postponed, resulting in a 20-50% drop in the demand for care. In fact, many are already acting on these by reducing hours, cutting or furloughing staff, and implementing pay cuts.
What strategy can you deploy for continual office operations while implementing the reduction of staff? There is another option that your practice should consider during this challenging time: outsourcing medical answering services.
How Medical Answering Services Help You Cut Costs
Physicians work hard and they work a lot of hours, but typically see little financial gain. Though primary care practices make up more than half of doctors’ visits in a regular year, they only bring in 7% of healthcare spending nationally. With the rising cost of living in many areas, and increasing overhead costs, small practices are struggling to bring in enough revenue.
Here’s how a specialized medical answering service, like PatientCalls, can help private practices – large and small – to save money and to provide 24-hour coverage for handling patients calls.
Reduce Reliance on In-House Staff
We consider medical answering services a type of staff augmentation. ‘What does that mean?’ you might be wondering. It means that our call management agents support activities at your office and your existing staff 24/7/365. They work to increase the efficiency and productivity for your private practice. They’re trained to triage patient calls according to your preferences, train and input PHI into your EMR solutions, and handle tasks that currently take up a lot of your staff’s time. Hiring a service provider for:
- appointment scheduling,
- prescription requests,
- follow-up calls,
- questions and messages,
- pre-appointment instructions,
- notifying on-call doctors when necessary, and
- access and input into EMR solutions
really translates to freeing up precious time for admin staff to handle more specialized tasks that bring value to your practice.
Alleviate the Need to Hire Additional Receptionists
Taking on more staff members or extending their workdays to handle call volume means additional expenses for your practice. More calls indicate increased business, but wouldn’t it be great if your staff could handle a higher call volume for less money? Relying on a medical answering service helps avoid the need to hire additional receptionists or maintain full-time staff just to handle incoming calls. With per-minute or per-call pricing, your office will only be billed for the time spent handling patient calls – and at a fraction of the cost of salaried employees.
Dedicated call agents make it possible to find flexible solutions for optimizing the use of time at your office. Depending on the needs of your office, you may be able to operate smoothly with just one staff worker who manages administrative tasks. Or you can offer part-time work hours and work-from-home options to help retain valuable staff members.
Decrease Expenditures for Covering Overtime and Holidays
A service, like that offered by PatientCalls, can even expand the window of time for accepting calls from your patients. For physicians that always want to be available for patients, and able to be reached in case of an emergency, we provide 24-hour answering service. This can cover even weekends and holidays, which adds up to savings for offices that face increased staffing costs for after-hours.
Eliminate Technical Costs
Similar to other outsourcing situations, partnering with a medical answering service provides a better system for a fraction of the cost it would be to build your own. Your office will benefit from the latest software, network, and communications systems available. The PatientCalls call center was created to ensure that calls are handled reliably and efficiently, even when volume peaks. Signing up for services with an answering service secures the best equipment and technical support without any additional investment. Forget about adding telephone lines, call waiting, or voicemail systems, updating software, and expensive phone plans.
Cut Out Other Extra Costs
There are a lot of additional expenses that can be named here. For example, call answering services have experienced operators, enabling medical practitioners to cut out the additional time and expense of training new hires to handle calls properly. Maintaining a leaner staff reduces the need for space and equipment. Plus, you won’t be paying for downtime, sick leave, and other operating costs.
Avoid Fines for HIPAA Non-Compliance
Healthcare providers are required to comply with HIPAA rules and are subject to hefty fines. Penalties for compliance violations range from $100 per violation, up to $1.5 per category of violation. Partnering with a service provider that understands industry regulations is a crucial way to avoid paying these severe fines. PatientCalls already has service and BAA agreements ready for e-signing and has contracted third parties for our HIPAA awareness and risk assessments.
Call center agents are already trained to follow HIPAA privacy and security protocol. PatientCalls practices and technology are also HIPAA-compliant, meaning that your office doesn’t need to invest in any special platform for transmitting patient information. We provide HIPAA-compliant mobile and texting apps with integrated encryption and password protection for secure handling of ePHI.
Related article: Act Like a Startup – How Medical Practices Can Get Back to Work After COVID.
What is the Cost of an Answering Service for a Medical Office?
Physicians work a lot; they deserve to have comfortable revenue and free time away from the office. Let PatientCalls help you decrease expenses for your practice and provide 24/7 availability, even while you’re out of the office. Monthly plans starting at $95 per month – which translates to just $0.20 per hour – an incredible saving when compared to full or part-time staff.
Medical answering services are customized in response to your operations and patient relations with the goal of saving your practice time and money. As a base price, PatientCalls services start at just $1.79 per hour.