How Doctors Can Reduce Telephone Calls to Their Office While Improving Care

January 23, 2015 in Our News & Bulletins by A&D/AHC

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Handling periods of high telephone call volumes is a management challenge for most doctors’ offices.  Here’s an interesting fact that can help offices manage those calls better.  A study published in the Journal of Family Practice found that 23% of after-hours calls to the doctor’s office were made by 0.6% of that office’s patient panel.1  Identifying patients who call more than once over the same or similar issue and connecting them with enhanced care options can have two important benefits.  One, it can improve the overall care of these patients and enhance the patient experience with the practice.  Two, it can reduce call volume by an appreciable margin while not reducing the patient panel.

 

In a later study, Hildebrandt and colleagues pulled the charts of high frequency callers and found their common characteristics.2  Compared to the control group, frequent callers proved 120 times more likely to use the emergency department during the year (1.2 times per year on average) and 80 times more likely to be admitted to the hospital (2.4 times per year on average).  Given the correlation between frequent calling and possible hospital readmissions, enhanced interventions have the potential to reduce hospital readmissions among high utilizers and improve patient health and peace of mind.

 

Other common characteristics of frequent callers include multiple diagnoses and multiple medications.  Thirty-eight percent had psychiatric diagnoses (depression, anxiety, etc.).  Twenty-three percent had pain, and 17% had chronic medical conditions.

 

A&D Home Health and sister agency Affordable Home Care stand out as an excellent management option to reduce frequent phone calls and reduce unnecessary rehospitalizations.  When doctors refer their patients to A&D or Affordable, those patients have a nurse on-call 24/7.  Day or night, patients call our nurse on call first to discuss their current health concerns.  Furthermore, upon referral, A&D Home Health can begin follow-up teaching for patient and a patient’s caregivers.  Making multiple visits to patients’ homes, we will reinforce teaching on medication, diet, signs and symptoms of exacerbation, emergency planning, and other topics related to a patient’s diagnoses and prescriptions.  Because we provide both medical home health through A&D Home Health and long-term non-medical homecare through Affordable Home Care, we can help patients through both their interim medical concerns and their long-term challenges with health-related activities of daily living.

References

  1. Hildebrandt D, Westfall J. Reasons for after-hours calls. J Fam Pract. 2002; 51: 567-569.
  2. Hildebrandt D, Westfall J, Nicholas R, et al. Are frequent callers to family physicians high utilizers? Annals of Family Medicine. 2004; 2 (6): 546-548.
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