The sound of phones incessantly ringing at the doctor's office is all too familiar. While you may have become habituated to the constant racket, wouldn't it be nice to enjoy a little silence in between seeing your patients? Some doctors try to minimize calls by hiring expensive calling services, and it definitely helps reduce the noise, but they're still left listening to messages and with having to spend an excessive amount of time calling patients back. There must be a better way!
Why Patients Keep Calling You?
Before I get to the solution, I want to go over some of the reasons a practice receives so many phone calls. This way, you'll have a better understanding of how to eliminate the majority of them. Most calls to the office are from patients trying to book appointments. It makes sense. Up until a few years ago calling was the only way to schedule an appointment. Refill requests are another reason for the majority of office calls and can take about 5-10 minutes per patient. Other common reasons include patients requesting results of biopsy reports, asking the doctor for medically related issues, asking for an invoice, and health insurance related matters.
ZocDoc Might Work, But That's Not The Answer
Here comes the good part where you get to find out how to actually eliminate most of those calls.
When it comes to scheduling appointments there are now alternatives to calling in including using services like ZocDoc or having a form on the practice website for patients to book appointments online. Directing patients to the online options while your patient is waiting on hold or about to leave a voicemail will lead many of them to book online at their own convenience in the future.
For everything else, Klara is the only solution I can think of that will resolve them all. In all honesty, the easiest way to replace calls would be to have patients emailing their requests, questions and concerns to the practice because it's 2015, even my grandparents have email accounts. The problem is that emails are not HIPAA compliant or secure, putting the doctor at a huge risk of facing major lawsuits. Although Klara is new and it's not as widespread as email (yet), once you've overcome the hurdle of setting up an account it's just as easy.
Finally an Answer to All Patient Calls
Integrating Klara into your patient's routine is going to take a little time, but think about how they find your practice's phone number. Typically through google and your website. Wherever the office number is listed, give patients the option to contact you online with a link to your Klara microsite. You can also easily add buttons on your website directing patients to contact you online rather than calling. Inevitably you'll receive calls from your older patients who still use a flip-phone, but it will drastically reduce the volume from patients overall.
Once implemented, communication will be streamlined saving you time (and everyone knows that time is money). Currently refill requests involve a staff member spending 5-10 minutes on the phone with one patient, typing out their information, and the pharmacy information, and the name of the medication and the dosage, and then the doctor has to spend another 5-10 minutes reviewing it, approving it and calling in the prescription to the pharmacy (I'm out of breath just typing all that out). With Klara, the staff member receives a secure message from the patient who has provided his information (1 minute maximum). The staff member adds the doctor so he can review (6 seconds to add, 1-2 minute to review). The doctor then e-prescribes the medication directly from Klara (>1 minute).
At best, the phone method takes 10 minutes. At worst, the Klara method takes 4 minutes and 6 seconds.
Essentially, a doctor or staff member can be helping 5 patients on Klara in the time it takes to talk to 1 on the phone. Now that's efficiency.
The same goes for all patient-doctor communication. Invoices, biopsy reports and health insurance information can all be uploaded on Klara by the patient and doctor, ensuring speedy service and secure records of transactions that can be accessed at anytime from any wifi enabled device with a web browser.
Doctors can also choose to charge (it's optional) for medically related questions that they normally would have answered for free over the phone. And while you've got them talking, why not invite them in for another consultation (this works especially well for doctors who provide aesthetic services), making Klara another way for patients to set up appointments without having to call in.
So to summarize: Provide a better, easier, more convenient alternative for patients to contact your office securely online. Make those options easy to find. Use secure messaging to speed up the pace. Attend to multiple patients at a time. Give staff the opportunity to greet and manage patients who are physically in the office. Ensure records of important documents. Charge for your services. Care for more patients. Save time and money. And cut down on the incessant ringing for good.