In recent years, practices have faced staffing shortages, supply chain issues, intermittent closures, and many other obstacles that impacted daily operations. Despite this, patients continued to turn to the phone to contact their providers. In fact, in 2021, call volume increased by an average of 45.6% per practice location compared to 2020. Unfortunately, instead of this growth being viewed as a prime opportunity to schedule new or existing patients, it became a bother to many practices. What should have excited phone handlers quickly became a burden to manage every day. Make sure your practice is capitalizing on the increase in call volume and own the phone (instead of letting it own you) by implementing and understanding these three points.
An increase in spam callers and leaving patients on extended holds are two challenges practices face that have come with the increase in call volume. By building a simple phone menu or phone tree when a patient calls your practice, you can help create a smoother patient journey. For example: Thanks for calling ABC Health! Press 1 for new patients. Press 2 for existing patients. Press 3 for billing.
This allows patients to get ear to ear with someone who can answer specific questions about scheduling, insurance, payments, etc. instead of getting transferred around the office and waiting on hold. Long patient hold times are a leading cause of lost opportunities for many practices, so creating a phone tree will trim down that time and salvage more patients. The rise in call volume also means a rise in spam callers. Creating a phone tree will help weed out spam, because “robo” callers will be unable to bypass your prompt to even reach your team.
Throughout 2019, 2020, and 2021, there have been consistent peaks in inbound call volume on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. Furthermore, there has been a peak in call volume at 10 AM, regardless of the day, with 11AM and 9AM following close behind.
Even in times of high call volume, it is important to connect every patient with someone who can help. No one wants to be sitting on hold while they are transferred around your practice just to get hung up on. As soon as they do, they'll call another provider and get their appointment scheduled. Make sure you are fully staffed at peak hours and peak days to ensure every call is connected. If call volume is something your practice is struggling with, try utilizing an overflow call center or routing overflow calls to a back office. It is important to understand your practice’s peaks to determine if a part-time staff member is needed during consistent call volume peaks and to ALWAYS follow up with voicemails within the hour.
An increased number of phone calls is a good problem to have — it shows your marketing efforts are driving new patient phone calls! But, this can also cause a lot of operational hurdles. Across the US right now, staffing has become a challenge for a lot of practices. This, in conjunction with higher call volumes, makes you feel stretched thin and worried that patients are slipping through the cracks. Once you've mastered getting patients on the phone with someone who can help, be sure to request and invite every patient in to see their provider. This is the most crucial part of the phone call and where many drop the ball.
If a patient calls in and asks if you accept their insurance, it's an opportunity to request the appointment. If a patient calls in to get the cost of a particular procedure, it's an opportunity to request the appointment. Even if a patient calls in to cancel a previously scheduled appointment, it's an opportunity to request a new appointment. While it's important to answer patients' questions, your next step should always be to offer an appointment time. A majority of the time, if an appointment is offered, a patient will accept. If you simply answer a patient's questions and never request an appointment, odds are they'll call the next provider on their list and choose the first one that asks them to come in.
The phone has always been critical to your practice’s success. While texting and online scheduling are becoming more common, a phone call is still the most reliable way to communicate with patients, and it’s how they are most accustomed to getting in touch with practices as well. Get ahead of your competition by learning how to make a large increase in call volume a growth opportunity instead of a hassle.
Learn more about how Call Box is helping thousands of healthcare practices gain visibility on every call to improve caller experience at www.callbox.com.