Once a practice reaches a certain size, the sheer logistics of reminding patients about their appointments becomes daunting. It can no longer be an adjunct task for your staff. That leaves you with three options:
- Hire a full-time staffer to handle appointment communications.
- Continue with business as usual, placing no reminder calls to patients.
- Implement a patient automated appointment reminder service.
Choice (c) is a viable option for a growing, successful operation. Whether automated appointment reminders are a fit for your practice is a complex decision with no easy or universal answer. Here are the questions you should ask:
Do I Need Automated Patient Communication Services?
Yes, if you have a no-show issue.
If no-shows are costing your practice revenues and causing scheduling problems, patient communications can be your solution.
Yes, if your staff is placing the calls.
Having your staff place calls costs more than having an automated service place the calls for you. Also, if staff are not able to send your patients multiple reminders, automated services are a fit for you!
Yes, if you have the appointment volume.
The more providers and locations your organization has, the greater the cost savings in adopting patient communication services.
Is the Company Trustworthy?
Trusting a service with your patient communications is a big leap of faith and one you should take only after doing your due diligence. Watch carefully for several warning signs that the company might be less professional and reliable than your patients deserve:
- Having been in business for less than 5 years
- Unreliable communication during the sales phase of your relationship
- Customer service outsourced away from the US
- Hidden fees in the fine print of the contract
- No assigned, personal customer service representative
No single one of these issues is immediate proof that a company is bad. However, several of them together can mean that you should do a little more digging before committing to that provider.
Does the Service Comply with HIPAA?
HIPAA laws are one of the easiest ways to get a medical practice in hot water, and one of the chief factors a professional patient appointment reminder service strives to perfect. Any candidate should be willing and able to comply with your organization’s Business Association Agreement, train all employees rigorously on HIPAA requirements, and perform routine HIPAA risk assessment audits. Their representatives — including sales reps — should be able to discuss HIPAA concerns with the ease that only comes with deep knowledge of the issue.
On the technical side, data transfers by the service should be encrypted. Serves should be maintained in a secure facility. Their password policies and remote access policies should be up to date with current industry best practices. In short, they should guard your patient information even better than you do. This is not a point on which to compromise.
Does the Service Comply with TCPA?
Ensure your automated service provider is meeting the Federal Communications Commission and Telephone Consumer Protection Act Regulations in contacting your patients.
How Responsive is Customer Support?
Among the most important differences between a fly-by-night service of any kind and a professional, investment-worthy patient contact service is how well they treat you after they make the sale. The references and current customers you contacted during your due diligence will tell you a bit about this, but unfortunately, you won’t really know until you’ve become a customer.
There are, however, a few early signals about how well you’ll be treated after you sign on the dotted line. For example:
- Are you given a representative or agent as a single point of contact with whom to communicate issues or concerns? A general-purpose customer service number is not sufficient for the needs of any practice large enough to require patient contact automation.
- Does the service require you to sign up for a long-term contract without a probationary period or other no-commitment trials? This is a classic strategy of services who put more energy into sales than into satisfying customers.
- Will the service perform quarterly follow-ups for quality assurance, and to see what changes or customization your office might require? If not, what is their plan to stay informed about your needs and how well their service is fulfilling them?
These signs speak to how important existing customers are to the service, and can indicate how well you can expect to be treated once they have your money.
What is the Technical Support Situation?
Calling technical support can be a chore or a pleasure, depending on how well informed the technical support team actually is. Beyond that, you should ask the following questions regarding technical support:
How do you resolve problems on the technical side or operating the message system or retrieving data from it? Is there 24/7 support based in the US? How quickly do they resolve issues whether minor or complex? How quick is the average fix? Do they charge for technical support or is it included in their service?
Does the service integrate with your scheduling software and database? Will technical support help you make that happen? How easy is it to change the setup, add providers, doctors or locations, and can you get help with those changes? Will technical support help you restore data from backup data in the event of a problem?
The service does you little good if you can’t keep it current with your needs or if it’s consistently down while you wait for tech support. For more information, click here to download our free brochure about how Callpointe answers these questions and many others.