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6 Solutions to Poor Medical Office Call Management

Medical office worker taking a client call. Constantly ringing telephone lines are a major issue for small medical offices and a sign of poor call management. The standard reflexive response is to move phones to a back room where they will no longer distract office assistants or patients. The alternative is hiring additional staff to handle the volume of incoming calls. But both of these may be unnecessary to alleviate the constant ringing.

Medical office call management can be boiled down to an analysis of the root problems and their solutions:

Consider the reason for calls.

  • The volume of calls may be primarily for making/rescheduling appointments, asking for refill orders, or inquiring about information concerning a recent visit. Each of these can be an indication not only of how to improve your call management but also how to improve your medical practice. For instance, perhaps some of these concerns can be routed through an online system rather than over the phone.

Shorten the number of rings.

  • The easiest way to reduce ringing is by reducing the number of rings prior to voicemail for each call. Chances are that if a staff member has not answered by the seventh ring, he/she may be otherwise engaged with patients in the clinic or other matters. And voicemails can always be addressed during down time. Two rings or less may be a good rule for most medical offices, but some may even choose to let calls go directly to voicemail.

Change the greeting.

  • Is your outgoing message long and complex? Listing a dozen options not only increases the chance for callers to be led farther from a solution, it also ties up your phone line. Keep the options simple. The first options might be as simple as who is calling: patient, pharmacy, another clinic, etc. Avoid going beyond three menu options; too many specifics mean more mailbox sorting.

Set up a secure online alternative.

  • Depending on what most callers are trying to accomplish, setting up a secure online system may be a resolution to poor call management. With the number of people accessing WiFi on their smartphones and devices, many might prefer addressing their needs through your office’s website. Scheduling and rescheduling appointments, requesting refills, and other quick but common patient needs could be handled this way, taking weight off the medical office phone line.

Teach staff how to handle calls appropriately.

  • Staff members may be great conversationalists that engage patients and encourage a trusting atmosphere for your clinic, but there is a fine balance to maintain when it comes to call management. Make office expectations clear; being courteous and task-oriented can go hand in hand.

Give patients resources at the end of appointments.

  • If the volume of calls to your medical office is primarily from patients who have already been seen and seek more information, it might be beneficial to change appointment protocol to include more patient take-home resources and a printout of what was discussed at the appointment.

Ensuring that a medical office runs smoothly means analyzing current practices such as incoming call volume. The root of the problem behind constant ringing may be untrained staff, a complicated voice mail message, too many rings per call, or a lack of outpatient resources. However, call management is not the only factor in an efficient medical office. Medical billing also plays a major role, and with the new ICD-10 Implementation it might be increasingly difficult to handle medical billing needs. If this is the case for your medical office, you might consider outsourcing your medical billing needs to the professionals at Billing Advantage.

Donna Whipple Donna Whipple

Donna Whipple, Psy.D. is a clinical psychologist with over 30 years of management experience. She has particular interest and expertise in HIPAA and ethical treatment and business practices in a changing high tech industry. She has a particular talent in boiling down complex regulations so providers can understand and comply with them. As co-owner of Billing Advantage Inc., Donna is involved in all aspects of the company but her particular contributions to the business is in mentoring upper level managers and helping them be more effective in their leadership.

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