Metrics for physician office phone staff

While most physician practices don't measure this, there are a number of metrics related to your phone staff:

1) Average talk time with a patient. Normally the average is 2-3 minutes per call (for experienced staff, longer for those in training.) Believe it or not headsets help reduce the talk time, since both hands are free for typing.

2) Average  "work" time between calls. The receptionist may place their phone in a work (unavailable) mode for a few minutes between calls to finish up a phone note in the EMR system for example.

3) Number of inter-office calls. It is often surprising to see how often co-workers call each other to just "chat" in the middle of the day.

4) Number of outbound calls. Your system should allow you to track how often staff made an outbound call, and what number they had dialed. For one client, it was no surprise that a few staff had A LOT of calls to their home number during the summer months, or from 3-5pm when the kids had returned home from school.

5) Peak periods during the day. If there are numerous compliants about phones not being answered in a timely manner, you might need to increase your phone staff during peak time periods, say for example the period of time between 8-9am on Mondays, and 3-5 on Fridays, given the number of incoming calls. If the phone system can track the number of calls received per half hour, and you know the average time it takes to answer and complete a call, you can calculate the number of staff needed to answer the calls. You can hire staff that are dedicated to the phones for the peak periods, but then reassigned to medical records or as a Medical Asst for the reminder of the day.

6) Abandon call periods: If you know when patients usually abandoned a call (usually during the peak periods of the day), you could then provide this information within the on-hold announcement; "Our clinic experiences a longer wait time on Monday mornings and Friday afternoons. If possible, please call us after 10a on Mondays and before 3p on Fridays."

These measurements are usually associated with an Automated Call Distribution software product.  If your practice is large enough- it's a worthwhile investment to help measure call metrics and make process improvements.

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