Will the medical answering service industry move online? Surveys conducted indicate that 95 percent of medical patients would like to communicate via email with their physicians. However, a much smaller percentage of doctors feel likewise. Doctors are reluctant communicate via email with their patients. Obviously many patients hope physicians will take advantage of web technology to facilitate patient communications, but physicians may still be slow to adopt these new methods. As the internet grows and becomes more ubiquitous, this trend will only continue. People are accustomed to using the Internet for customer service etc. They track package shipments, pay bills, order merchandise, and do numerous other tasks without the participation of a customer service representative on the telephone. More than ninety percent of individuals with Internet access would rather communicate with their physician by email but, only 15 percent of physicians would prefer email. Medical answering services may be slow to adapt to new technologies but many call centers have been reclassified as “contact centers” as they utilize new communication technologies.
A number of organizations are now providing email communication availability to doctors and medical professionals. Understanding the growth and accessibility of this technology is imperative for the survival of any industry. These updated providers will undeniably grow and this movement has the potential to devastate the medical answering service industry as it exists today.
These new generation companies are well structured and well financed. Many of them even have the support of pharmaceutical industry and immense electronic medical records suppliers. One such company is Medem. They are even endorsed by the American Medical Association. For those providing medical answering services, this certainly must be of great concern.
Admittedly, these new type of “medical contact centers” have the noteworthy advantages of quick access and financial resources but many don’t wholly recognize the operational dynamics of the health care call center industry and players: the patients, and the medical practices. Many companies actually aim to charge the patients to use their services! It seems ridiculous to expect patients to move to a paid model just for the luxury of using email. They would almost certainly just place a phone call instead. Unless medical answering services became so inept and hold times so outrageous. In the U.S. we have what many deem is the top health care system on the planet, but access can be tough. These modern players are addressing patient access and attacking existing doctor answering services head on.
Most of these companies are reliant on the physician to be the main contact point for the patient. So if the patient’s call results in a doctor requiring an office visit of the patient, the physician ends up asking the patient to call the staff to schedule an appointment. The physician becomes a de facto secretary in a sense for the actual secretary or assistant. Obviously having physicians answer phones is not an option, yet these newer companies feel medical professionals will want to respond to all email messages.
However, there are some workable web-based self-service models. These are currently outside of the medical field. Some package delivery firms have successfully offered clients an easy to use arrangement. Customers can supplant live phone in customer service with internet based service. This process saves many millions of dollars yearly in reduced labor costs. In order for medical telephone answering companies to survive and hopefully thrive in the age of managed care and world wide web, they must adopt successful modern online strategies and take advantage of their industry experience before they are left behind.