Part of the practice day is devoted to calling patients back. Some patients need guidance as to whether they should come in, or referred out – or stay home. Others need to follow up on something, but won’t need to be seen. It’s always been a cat and mouse game – the patient never knows when the physician will call back, and the physician doesn’t know if they’ll reach the patient. Even the phone company can do better.
I have to deal with one practice that never calls back until the end of the day. Calling for guidance, and you may need to be seen? Well, since the nurse only calls back at the end of the day, the patient has now lost a day when treatment could have been started. The patient is frustrated – the patient is angry – but the office was “efficient”.
Calls come in, and they are not entirely unpredictable. Schedule call back time during office hours – maybe 15 minutes 2-3 times a day. You may even start your day with callbacks from the evening or first thing in the morning. Follow with a midday slot, and perhaps one at the end of the day for follow-up calls, checking on post-procedure patients, and others where an appointment is not anticipated that day. Your staff can screen and sort the calls, and tell patients when to expect a call. Even in the world of cell phones and Blackberries, people are not always available when you call, particularly when privacy is a concern.
Your schedule also needs to allow for urgent visits – some time during the late morning or late afternoon often works. Sometimes you may run a bit light, and some days you’ll run over – but you will see your patients on a timely basis.
I’d be interesting in hearing on how you handle patient call backs,and will share (anonymously) the better ideas.