Should You Outsource Some of Your Healthcare Calls?

In a prior post, we discussed the importance of not having triage nurses handle basic phone calls. Doing so would be a misapplication of their skills and drive costs up.

There are seven types of phone calls that nurses shouldn’t handle: give out routine information, take messages, dispatch urgent calls, set appointments, confirm appointments, handle physician referrals, and screen calls.

Guess what? These are precisely the types of calls that medical answering services specialize in handling. It’s far less expensive to outsource these non-triage calls to a medical answering service than it is to pay nurses to do that work.

Outsourcing Saves Money: Let’s start by comparing the hourly rate of a nurse with that of an answering service agent. While the typical rates vary from one market to another, it’s likely that nurses command two to two and a half times more per hour, maybe even three times.

Although most nurses are predisposed to want to help wherever they’re needed and will gladly handle any type of call that comes in, the reality is that it’s most cost-effective for them to only take calls that require nursing expertise. Outsourcing all other calls to an answering service will slash your payroll costs and produce other benefits.

Outsourcing Increases Efficiency: When you outsource non-triage related calls to a medical answering service, the result is an increase in efficiency for your call center nursing staff. Once nurses are freed from fielding the minutia of non-urgent calls, they can handle more triage inquiries and be more effective in responding to the health-related questions and concerns of callers. By sending these calls to a medical answering service, the remaining calls will be handled with greater efficacy.

Outsourcing Provides a Faster Response: With your nursing staff empowered to receive only triage calls, they will handle those patient calls faster. This means that patients will get their calls answered quicker and obtain feedback faster.

Not only will this increase the quality of their care, but it will also keep them from seeking more costly alternatives, such as a trip to urgent care or the ER. Alternately it will make them less likely to defer care the next time they have a concern. This is because you’ve proven yourself to them. Outsourcing non-triage calls allows this to happen.

Outsourcing Respects Your Nursing Staff: Though it varies from person to person, there are parts of the job that every nurse dislikes, but they do them anyway. It doesn’t matter if they’re helping in a hospital facility, serving in the clinic or doctor’s office, or working in a call center answering phone calls. Often, the type of work that call center nurses dislike are calls that aren’t triage-related.

By outsourcing these non-essential calls to a medical answering service, you’ll remove a typical area of dissatisfaction for many of your call center nurses. As a result, they’ll feel more respected, which translates to a higher quality of work.

When you outsource the calls that don’t require healthcare training to a medical answering service, you free your nursing staff to best do what they were hired to do. With outsourcing everybody wins: you, your staff, and your patients.

Janet Livingston is the president of Call Center Sales Pro, a premier sales and marketing service provider for the call center industry and who offers a healthcare call center matchmaking service. Contact Janet at or call 800-901-7706.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is a freelance writer from Southwest Michigan.