Common Pitfalls of Traditional After-Hours Answering Services or Call Centers for Physician Groups

By Dominique Barbagallo
March 24th, 2020

common pitfalls of traditional after-hours answering services or call centers

          When it comes to managing on-call or after-hours call volume, many physician groups and healthcare practices, big and small, choose to utilize some sort of answering service or call center. While healthcare administrators and providers alike may be under the impression that hiring an answering service or call center may make their lives easier – it may just be causing more problems and frustration. Here are some of the common pitfalls of after-hours traditional answering services or call centers to be aware of before making a decision for your practice.

The Problem: Long Hold Times & Patient Hangups

          It is no secret that no one enjoys being on hold. It not only decreases patient satisfaction, but also affects business in a negative way. Longer hold times for patients means less retention and less referrals. When a large amount of calls are coming through, and there aren’t enough people to answer all of them – should you just hire more call agents? Hiring more agents – it costs more, and it’s just another way to play phone tag to get the patient calling to the right provider…and even more hold time! There is an abundance of research suggesting that, not only do people not like to be on hold, but also that nearly 60% of people will hang up after less than one minute. Additionally, the same study concludes that nearly 33% of people think it’s unacceptable to wait at all! To bring home that point even further, another study shows that over 50% of callers will hang up after less than 45 seconds! But the frustration doesn’t stop at being put on hold. While studies show that nearly 2/3rds of callers like the “call-back” method – that is, being prompted right away for a call-back from a real person when they become available – the same studies show that callers expect a call-back within 30 minutes. So, how do call centers and answering services make sure that callers are getting called back within an acceptable time frame?

          The solution: Clarus provides physician practice call management for after-hours. After-Hours immediately prompts callers to indicate the reason for calling by pressing a corresponding number, where they will leave their message and info, then hang-up. These messages are securely transcribed and sent right away. Callers are never on hold, and all information, including the day and time, is captured by our automated system. But then, how do we make sure callers aren’t waiting too long for a call-back? At the end of the day, healthcare providers make the biggest difference. But, our automated After-Hours system has features to ensure the staff and providers are giving call-backs in a timely manner. Providers are notified with securely transcribed messages through immediate automated alerts on their phones from the mobile app. If nothing is done with that call by anyone after a certain time, another notification is given. If more time goes by and something still hasn’t been done, our system will turn the ring function on, as well as notify a designated fall-back staff member or provider to handle it. And the best part of all this? You didn’t need to hire more staff or call agents!

The Problem: No Protection Over Doctors’ Personal Numbers

Unknown number calling in the middle of the night. Phone call from stranger. Person holding mobile and smartphone home late.

          When patients want to get a call-back from their provider, the provider now risks the patient having their personal phone number. “But they can just dial *67 though, right?” Yes, they could – BUT – will a busy provider with a million things on their mind remember to, or even want to do that every time? The answer, most likely, is no. And on the side of the patient, dialing *67 will show up as “unknown” or “private caller” on their caller ID, most likely resulting in them not answering.

          The solution: Clarus’s After-Hours call management solution protects every provider’s personal number. When a provider calls a patient back, the patient sees the practice number and name on the caller ID, allowing the caller to know who’s calling, but not have access to the provider’s personal number.

The Problem: The Wrong Doctors Getting The Wrong Calls, At The Wrong Time

          We hear it over and over again – doctors getting calls when they’re not on call, calls for billing going to the staff member who only schedules appointments, calls for medical records going to prescription refills, and the list goes on. When a patient calls and the person answering isn’t who they should be speaking with, you get a seemingly never-ending game of telephone, resulting in both patient and healthcare staff frustration and waste of valuable time. Call centers and traditional answering services only participate in this game of phone tag, and place patients on hold to transfer calls or to find out who they need to speak to.

phone call at night

          The solution: Get rid of the middle-men and achieve an efficient transaction between patients and where they need to be with Clarus After-Hours call management solution. When a patient calls in, they’re immediately prompted for their reason for calling, which places them on the path they need to be on so that they can leave their info and get the right on-call provider to get back to them. Providers not on-call will never get called, because our system allows your practice full control of setting the on-call schedule without concern of communication errors to a traditional after-hours answering service. If they’re not on the schedule, our automated cloud-based system will simply not allow them to get called.

The Problem: No Documentation or Accountability

          With traditional physician group call centers and answering services, a patient calls in and no one really knows too much about what happens after that. If the call is taken care of, how does the provider or other staff members know? If the caller still needs attending to, how does anyone know? If the patient says they never got a call-back, how do we know if they did or didn’t? How does anyone know anything about that caller or how the call went? Maybe some call centers have a way of documenting, but it’s usually messy and not everyone is on the same page about it – especially not instantly. The last thing healthcare professionals want to do is play the game of “he said, she said.”

          The solution: With traditional on-call answering services, it’s virtually impossible for office managers to have visibility into after-hours call activity. Clarus’s After-Hours call management system not only dates and time stamps each in-bound call, but providers can leave notes on call activity to provide staff instructions regarding any patient follow-up that needs to take place. With our cloud-based system, you also have the ability to forward information either to a provider for immediate attention, or to clinical or administrative staff for a follow-up. Office staff can view all call and staff/provider activity at any time from our easy-to-use dashboard.

after-hours mobile app

The Problem: On-Call Schedules Are a Nightmare

          Being on-call or working after-hours as a healthcare provider is already not an ideal work situation. What’s even more frustrating is when you’re not on-call or working after-hours, but you’re still getting calls that should be going to someone else who is working that shift. How did this happen? It could’ve been due to an error in scheduling, or a last-minute schedule change that had to go through too many hands. When using a traditional call center, employee turn-over rates there are usually high. Having a frequent change in employees is not a good thing for health practices when it comes to effective and timely communications.

          The solution: Clarus’s After-Hours call management solution enables healthcare practices and physician groups to effectively manage schedules and eliminate routing errors through our automated system. Relying solely on humans can leave room for error. But with the Clarus system, on-call scheduling is easily managed on the Clarus Dashboard from anywhere. Our calendar features drag-and-drop capabilities so that health administrators can easily move providers around on the schedule with just a few clicks. Changes take effect immediately – so you never have to worry about the wrong person getting called at the wrong time.

manage on-call schedule and calendar

Consider The Options

          When deciding on an answering service or call center for your physician group or practice, it’s important to consider all of the common pitfalls of traditional after-hours answering services that you may run into. We’re not saying it has to be Clarus, but we are making sure that you’re aware of typical problems that can come with many call services out there. But, if you do decide to improve your practice’s workflow and efficiency using Clarus, you can contact us by form, email, or phone and request a free demo to see how it can work for you.