APPOINTMENT SERVICES Despite being early adopters of computers and information technology in general, medical centres remain staffintensive businesses. The personalised, one-to-one services provided in practices of all types typically extends beyond the consultation room and into the reception and administration functions. However, many of these non‑clinical duties can be outsourced without the patients even knowing it.
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Businesses of all shapes and sizes are starting to explore the possibilities that internet-enabled workforces can deliver by tapping into global marketplaces such as Elance, oDesk and Freelancer. However, the sensitive nature of the work undertaken in medical centres and the privacy requirements associated with the data contained in practice IT systems precludes many jobs from being performed overseas.
Ms Bennett says. “Answering calls five days a week when patients might be only making two, three, four, five appointments in the whole week is not cost effective.”
Despite this, there are some duties that may lend themselves to being outsourced from your practice, with third-party telephone and appointment-related services available to businesses in the healthcare sector for a number of years.
In addition to taking appointments, VConsult performs duties such as sending appointment reminders via SMS and by telephone as required, processing referral letters for specialist practices, and billing patients.
One such service, VConsult, launched in 2011 as an offshoot of established medical locum service Medic Oncall. Melissa Bennett, managing director of VConsult, says the idea for the business came from a desire to offer the junior doctors the company had worked with as locums some assistance as they started their own practices.
“For some customers we are engaged to do more than for others,” Ms Bennett says. “For some we might just answer the phones, make appointments and do some follow-ups and estimates and that’s about it. With others we’re doing SMS management, booking, in-patient billing, out-patient billing – pretty much everything that a medical secretary would do in the room.”
“What we’re trying to achieve is to allow doctors to not have to worry about staffing headaches and running the practice, especially when they start up and they can’t afford to have a full time secretary,”
The company typically uses the SMS reminder functionality built into the practice’s software, but it can also use a secondary service if that software isn’t capable of sending SMS reminders directly.
While traditional third-party answering services are used by many small businesses and may be applicable for some medical practices, VConsult offers a broader range of services than simply taking and forwarding messages.
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