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Do you ever think, “I love my work! Our practice is growing, and I want to help more people, but I also have friends and family. How can I care for more patients and not miss out on time with loved ones?”

Or maybe you’re the manager of a growing group practice and need to increase front desk capacity but have limited time for hiring and little office space. Are you wondering how to rapidly scale these resources? Or how you’ll deal with seasonal fluctuations in demand for them?

Perhaps your team of providers is struggling to respond to calls during busy and off hours? Your office closes at 5 PM. Many patients call at 4:30 PM as they are heading home from work. Other patients call after dinner with urgent medication refill requests that no one sees until the following morning.

Could a team of virtual medical receptionists offer a solution to these challenges?

First, let’s explore what a virtual medical receptionist does.

Manage calls and messages during busy and off hours

female receptionist answering calls
  • Potential patients: You only get one chance to make a first impression. If prospective patients don’t connect with a real person quickly, you may never hear from them again. Offices with virtual receptionist support can engage every potential new patient, whether they call or send a message.
  • Busy times: Patients often call during their lunch hour (which may also be your receptionist’s lunch hour) or when the waiting room is full. Virtual receptionists can supplement office receptionists’ capacity during these times to answer incoming calls and avoid long hold times.
  • After-hours call filtering: Offices with on-call services may receive a mixture of urgent and non-urgent calls. Virtual receptionists can filter these calls to ensure providers only transfer urgent requests.
  • Appointment scheduling: Many answering services can integrate online scheduling and app-based messaging systems, allowing patients to schedule appointments independently. This functionality enables greater flexibility for patients and saves office staff time.

Allow medical practices to grow quickly and flexibly

Finding, hiring, and training medical receptionists is time-consuming and expensive. If a practice grows rapidly, providers and staff can be overwhelmed with urgent demands. Besides that, they may not have time to hire desperately needed receptionists.

Even if they hire and train new receptionists, the receptionists might not be a good fit, requiring the process to start again. There may be an influx of new patients who speak a language their front staff has yet to learn. Or, management may find they’ve hired too many staff members due to a temporary fluctuation in patient demand.

How do virtual receptionist services eliminate these problems?

  • Virtual receptionist services hire and train virtual medical receptionists, allowing practice managers and medical providers to prioritize other tasks.
  • Virtual receptionists can start supporting front office staff the day the service starts.
  • Excellent virtual receptionist companies regularly evaluate their receptionists to ensure quality customer service. Their receptionists are HIPAA-trained.
  • Some virtual receptionist services offer flexible plans, so providers can adjust capacity for their current patient load without expending unnecessary resources.
  • Some answering services offer bilingual services. Because 13% of Americans speak Spanish with their families, medical offices with a bilingual point of contact provide their patients with better care (Thompson, 2021).

Integrate with existing medical systems

Many answering services integrate with existing messaging and scheduling systems or can provide specialized systems. This integration allows virtual medical receptionists to seamlessly fill in the gaps when front office staff are away or answering other calls. When sole providers bring on a virtual receptionist, they find their workload quickly reduced.

Competent, caring virtual receptionists are an ideal go-between for patients and medical staff. They answer questions about in-network insurance, pass patient feedback to providers, and schedule annual wellness visits. They request medical records, notify patients of lab results, and reschedule appointments when a blizzard at two in the morning forces your office to close.

Help shape patients’ perceptions and medical decisions

Did you know your patients likely base their satisfaction on the quality of your communication more than the quality of your medical treatment? Provider communication is the most critical factor when patients evaluate competency and quality of care. But according to Rutgers University’s study, administrative staff (including your medical receptionists) also significantly impact patient decision-making (Ruben, 2016).

Virtual medical receptionists can become a force multiplier for patient satisfaction. They can enable patients to receive consistently high-quality interactions before and after medical providers meet with them – even while all office staff are sleeping. Night or day, during busy hours and lunch hours, virtual medical receptionists can help your patients feel heard.

Article originally authored by David Biederman, CNP

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Hester McQueen

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