Digital Answering Service from Doctoc Enhances After-hour Medical Communication

Ensuring high-quality medical answering services is more than just a convenience—it’s a critical component of effective patient care. A clinic needs to have efficient After Hour Medical Answering services that will take care of medical issues during working & non-working hours. In the world of round-the-clock service, After Hour medical answering services provide efficiency and continuity in the digital world of healthcare communication. 

The National Institute of Health (NIH) states that about 65% of all Emergency Department cases occur between 8 PM and 5 AM. Thus, it is very important for the After Hour Medical Answering Service must be answered by the On-Call Doctor rather than someone who is not prepared to deal with such a situation.  

Doctoc’s Digital after-hour answering service has been designed with input from healthcare professionals. It caters to the rising demand for all the lag and inefficiencies associated with the brick and mortar answering service. Doctoc’s digital answering machine with fast and intelligent routing mechanism has improved the overall After Hour experience for the providers, nurses and patients and increased efficiency by a huge margin and this blog explains how. 

What are After Hour Medical Answering Services? 

After-hour medical answering services take calls and messages when you cannot do so. This form of digital communication is vital for providing 24*7 healthcare service. These services are supported by On-call doctors or trained professionals who act as a bridge between patients and healthcare providers, offering reassurance, advice, and instructions for seeking further treatment when necessary. 

After Hour Medical Answering Services provide peace of mind to patients who know that assistance is available at any hour, reducing unnecessary emergency room visits and easing anxiety during medical emergencies. For a clinic, it helps with better management of after-hour calls.  

Telephone Triage in Doctoc’s After Hour Medical Answering Service 

Telephone triage originated in World War 1 and has become a significant factor in After Hour Medical Answering Services. Understanding urgent levels of calls from patients and other hospitals helps mitigate any delays in medical service.  

Doctoc’s state-of-the-art triage system leaves no room for errors when analysing urgency levels. When a call comes from a hospital, we determine the urgency levels based on 3 levels which are: 

  • Routine Calls 
  • Semi Urgent Calls 
  • STAT/Urgent Calls 

The responsibility lies with the caller (hospital) to choose the urgency level which removes any clinic liability when determining the urgency level. 

Problems with Traditional Human Answering Service 

The healthcare sector of the USA has been using traditional answering services since the 1950s. With time, traditional answering services cannot keep pace with the busy schedule of doctors. The disadvantages of using brick and traditional answering services for clinic calls are mentioned below: 

  • Problems with Complex on-call scheduling: Large medical practices with intricate on-call schedules face numerous challenges with traditional phone services, including difficulties in creating and communicating schedules effectively. 
  • Call routing errors: Problems with communicating doctor schedules lead to Incorrect call routing, leading to delays frustrating both physicians and patients. 
  • High call volume: The high volume of calls often results in long wait times for patients trying to reach their healthcare providers, impacting overall patient satisfaction. 
  • Non-medical personnel handling urgent calls: In some cases, non-medical personnel following scripted responses may mishandle urgent or STAT calls, potentially compromising patient care and safety. 
  • Lack of Communication during Urgent Matters: Traditional phone services lack proper communication channels for efficiently handling urgent cases, leading to delayed patient care during urgent calls. 
  • Increasing Overhead Costs: Traditional phone services are not scalable since they charge by minute or per call, leading to high costs during the busy season or peak hours. During busy periods, callers may face high wait times and sometimes not be received. 

How does Doctoc’s After Hour Medical Answering Service Work? 

Type of Call Description Intelligent Routing Process Action Taken 
Patient Administrative Calls Calls regarding appointments, billing, etc. Documented and transcribed by the system with patient demographics (name, DOB, reason for calling, call back numbers), routed to the appropriate department as new work items for the next morning. Routed to the concerned department for handling the next working day. 
Urgent Call-Back Request from Patient Urgent call-back requests require immediate attention. The system transcribes the message, collects patient demographics, reason for the call, verifies the Call back number and sends it to the scheduled On-call doctor’s cell phone and ping in every 5 minutes until response.   On-call the doctor notified, immediate attention given. During call back, Doctoc masks doctor’s personal cell phone number with clinic caller ID. 
Routine Calls from the Hospital When nurse selects the low urgency option-  “Call back Not requested” while leaving a message The system identifies hospital, patient location, patient & nurse’s name, DOB, type of call (consult, patient status, etc.) MRN, Call Back number and transcribes the message and routes to the correct on-call physician.  The On-call doctor notified silently through the app with one-touch call back and forward options. 
Semi-Urgent Calls from the Hospital When nurse selects the mid urgency option-  “Call back requested” while leaving a message The system identifies hospital, patient location, patient & nurse’s name, DOB, type of call (consult, patient status, etc.) MRN, Call Back number and transcribes the message and routes to the correct on-call physician.  On-call doctor notified via Doctoc app, repeated notifications until response. During call back, Doctoc masks doctor’s personal cell phone number with clinic caller ID. 
Urgent/STAT Calls from Hospitals Emergency calls require immediate attention. Immediately connects the call with the scheduled On-call provider’s cell phone. The hospital is provided with up to 4 alternate numbers for contact. In case the primary is unavailable, Doctoc will ring the backup numbers (such as spouse’s number, administrator, colleagues, etc) or a waterfall group based on clinic’s workflow.   

Advantages of Doctoc’s Digital Medical Answering Service 

  • Efficient On Call Scheduling: A cloud-based and easy-to-use scheduling facility allows the management of both simple and complex schedules for hospital and outpatient care. 
  • Cloud-based answering service: A reliable and robust system ensures NO downtime or call drop. Work from home, hospital or internationally.   
  • Real-Time Transfer: On-call assignments can be transferred in real-time to the providers’ phone and any other associated group  
  • Comprehensive Documentation of non-urgent calls: All non-urgent calls (such as appointment, billing, etc) during the after hours are properly documented and sent to the right destinations as new work items for the next day. 
  • Structured information with Transcription: All voicemails is transcribed and have original recordings and necessary information. Reading is 7-times faster than listening.  
  • One-Click Call-Back: Simplifies call-back process for On Call Doctors, reducing chances of errors during callbacks. 
  • Triaged Message Handling: The triage facility ensures accurate routing of calls based on urgency levels, optimizing response times. 
  • Enhanced Patient Experience: Patient messages are always treated as urgent, so the system promptly directs the message to the correct On Call Doctor with patient details and alert notification, minimizing response delays. 
  • Timely Intervention: Non-clinical staff are prevented from answering patient calls, ensuring timely clinical intervention when needed. 
  • Waterfall Routing: Ensures urgent calls are answered even if the primary number is unavailable, ensuring critical messages are received. 
  • On Call Doctor’s Convenience: Disturbance-free nights with silent delivery of routine messages, along with timely notifications and documented messages for each call. 
  • Privacy Protection: On-call doctor’s number is masked during callbacks, ensuring privacy. 
  • Message forwarding for urgent and non-urgent matters: Providers can forward messages to his/her colleagues, appointment team or MA, etc. Forward NOW or LATER and urgency option is available 
  • Supports multiple schedules: Such as Vacation, Recurring, STEMI schedule etc 
  • On-call reminder: Send reminders to the on-call doctor 30 minutes before their schedule starts 
  • Transfer the on-call duty without administrative hassle: In an emergency, the physician can swap his schedule with his colleague without administrative hassle, ensuring seamless coverage. 
  • Unlimited calls: Unlimited after-hour calls and voicemails from hospitals and patients 
  • HIPAA compliant internal texting: Communicate through secure texting internally or invite any affiliate clinics or an individual to join your network.  

Why Should Doctors Care More About the Quality of Their Medical Answering Services? 

Quality of Medical Answering Services is vital in providing After Hour Clinic Communication services. It helps to identify urgent symptoms of patients, reduce errors, and mitigate liability risks. The quality and efficiency of medical answering services directly impact the early determination of call urgency. If the urgency level can be determined, then timely intervention and appropriate follow-up would result in the best services for the patients.  

The quality of the After-hour Medical Answering Services leads to reduced patient costs. Timely intervention normally leads to the correct diagnosis of the issue. Timely care of the patients leads to reduced unnecessary visits to emergency rooms or general practitioners.    

In conclusion, after-hour medical answering services play a pivotal role in enhancing patient satisfaction and retention. The efficiency and quality of these services, exemplified by Doctoc’s innovative approach, ensure that patients receive prompt attention and appropriate care even during non-working hours. 

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