Today’s world has integrated technology into every aspect of our lives, and medical practices are finding that patients, particularly Millennials and Gen Xers, are prioritizing partnerships where virtual staff integration is commonplace. One example is appointment scheduling: in 2021, a Harris Poll Survey found that 68% of all patients expect to be able to book appointments for well visits or other health concerns online.
With this in mind - and recognizing the more than 50% increase of those surveyed in 2016 who expected scheduling assistance outside of normal office hours - a virtual assistant is a smart investment to help avoid losing patients due to inaccessibility. In fact, the global market for healthcare virtual assistants is expected to grow from $1.1 billion in 2021 to $6 million by 2026.
In this blog, we will discuss:
- What a Virtual Assistant is
- 8 Ways a Virtual Assistant will Benefit Your Practice
- The Process to Get Started with a Virtual Assistant
What is a Virtual Assistant?
A healthcare virtual assistant is an individual who works remotely and provides assistance with routine tasks. This assistant can also be a valued resource for specialized knowledge that a staff person on-site may not have.
8 Ways a Virtual Assistant Will Benefit Your Practice
Hiring a virtual healthcare assistant can provide a variety of benefits to both on-site staff and the patients the practice serves. Some of those benefits are realized in cost reduction and/or adjusting current resources to better meet the needs of the patient.
1. Office Space Optimization
Workstation and desk space are limited in many medical practices. Having a virtual assistant that is handling scheduling means the space in-office can be optimized for updating client files and completing reports as necessary.
2. Better Use of Staff Time for Those In the Office
While the physical space in a practice can be limited, the same can be said for the number of hours in a workday. Staff needs to handle patient concerns and interact with those who have scheduled appointments, and a virtual assistant balancing incoming calls and addressing questions about future appointments frees up staff time to allow that to happen.
3. Decreased Employment Costs
Virtual assistants are paid for the time they spend interacting with patients. Therefore, the costs associated with employee benefits and paid time off are not a factor. This can significantly reduce the impact employee costs have on your annual budget.
4. Improved Service Quality
Virtual assistants focus on the task at hand. This means each call receives the best service possible. Staff who are attempting to handle calls while engaging with patients in the office may find that attention difficult, as they are splitting their focus. Therefore, the division of tasks between a virtual assistant and the in-office staff means better service for both the patients on the phone and the patients in your office.
5. Empower Patients and Improve Communication
Some patients can be intimidated by face-to-face interactions with staff. Contact with a virtual assistant occurs over the phone, and this can greatly improve the communication between patients and practice. This allows the patient a bit of distance to address a concern that may be vital but hard to verbalize on location and with a person making eye contact.
6. Greater Flexibility/Availability
In 2021, 35% of online medical appointments were booked outside the traditional 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. timeframe, which means accessibility at all hours is important to patients. Hiring a virtual assistant means a staff member is available 24/7. This not only frees up staff time during office hours but also provides scheduling flexibility that benefits your patients.
Virtual assistants focus on the details when it comes to oversight and progress. Regular reports that tend to be last on the staff’s priority list, are a top priority for a virtual healthcare assistant. This provides transparency and accountability regarding the effectiveness of their work.
8. Language and Translation Assistance
Not every practice has the luxury of having a staff member who is fluent in more than one language. An additional benefit of a virtual assistant is having access to additional staff who may be able to communicate with patients in their own language, thereby improving the connection between patients and staff while providing a resolution for their needs.
Get Started with a Virtual Assistant
A quick Google search of virtual healthcare assistants yields dozens of reputable companies who offer a collaborative solution with a staff who can offer the services you are looking for.
Generally, the process to initiate a partnership involves three steps:
- An initial interview is conducted to determine how to handle the clinic’s appointment scheduling calls. This interview is extensive, to ensure the calls are handled properly.
- A call forwarding feature is initiated, which sends appointment calls to the virtual assistant at a remote location.
- Virtual healthcare professionals serve as an extension of the business. They answer calls with the clinic’s name and resolve all appointment scheduling needs for patients.
Virtual healthcare assistants can provide service for a minimum of 20% less than the practice’s total monthly staff expense supporting the scheduling function. The service provides an opportunity to increase new patient appointments and delivers a strong return on investment (ROI).
A monthly report can be provided with call stats and the estimated ROI.
Contact Us with Questions Today
Now that you know what a virtual assistant is, eight clear benefits for your practice and how to hire one, moving forward is a matter of connecting. Our 99MGMT team can get the process started by incorporating a virtual healthcare assistant into your staff roster for your appointment scheduling needs. Reach out to us today.