The medical answering service industry has some serious issues with perception. Typically with services there is a perceived value of course. Be it a maid service or auto service etc. Historically doctors’ considered medical answering services in that category of value added as well. That perception may be at issue. Managed health care, is no longer a one to one relationship between physician and patient. It is now a more expansive relationship including physician, patient, and third-party; this in tinsurn has caused medical answering services to be perceived as more of simple cost rather than a service with important value.
Physicians answering services have been providing overnight telephone support for physicians for many years. In the past, patients and their doctors had a relationship that lasted throughout their lives. The majority of physicians were sole proprietors in a private practice. So when a patient phoned a physician after normal office hours, the doctor naturally had great insight into the patient’s condition and medical history. Doctor and patient were a sort of team that stuck together through the years. The cost paid to the medical answer service the physician was considered part of the overall cost of maintaining good relationship with patients. In this classic scenario, the patient and the doctor both benefited in a sense from the after-hours call. The patient in question received around the clock care as expected and the physician knew the patient would be a loyal customer as they were provided a great service.
Now with the rise of managed care, the doctor patient relationship has changed as has the landscape of medical practice in the US. Managed care networks have had a great influence on this doctor patient relationship. The relationship is now more with the managed care provider and patient. Now patient care is greatly under the influence of the insurers and employers and less influenced by doctors themselves.
Managed Care Organizations, HMOs, etc. began applying pressure on financial aspects of health care and influenced reimbursements for physicians. The doctor-patient relationship strained as a result. Patients began to complain about the limited amount of time spent with them in the office. Physicians now were less likely to be available after hours. And doctors began to complain that they couldn’t treat the individual appropriately due to insurance and care provider influence. Major medical health insurance companies have a great influence over doctor actions. After hours service now became the benefit of only patients and the answering service itself.
Since physicians still need to retain all around coverage, physicians still must pay for an answering service. Answering services for physicians are considered more a necessity now. When patients make an after-hours call to an answering service, the physician may be contacted by the service. If so, the doctor and the patient talk over the problem at hand and devise a strategy. Although there hard work, and effort from of the call center staff, the only thing the physician thinks of today is a bill from the call center at the end of the month.
As managed care emerged, the single proprietorship type of medical practice began to disappear. Group practices began to take hold. This was a benefit to doctors on some level as they a team to work with and hence less pressure and better quality of life to a degree. But now the result is an era of physician as employee. This strained the doctor patient relationship further as patients lost control over which doctor in the group would tend to their daytime and after-hours needs.
This scenario also created confusion and problems for the medical answering services involved. Due to a lack of understanding or simple human error often the wrong doctor could be called or worse yet no physician at all is called for urgent matters. Clearly industry experts agree that mistakes like this are the most serious problems for physicians using medical answering today.