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  1. Is your on-call schedule blocking your communications? 

    By Dr. Becker, Dec 29, 2016 11:18:05 AM



    A few weeks ago we published a post saying that HIPAA compliance in a medical communications platform isn’t enough for that platform to be useful, or even interesting. In that post, we talked about the need to ensure that the secure information being transmitted reaches the correct end-user. Otherwise, what’s the point?

    What we didn’t really talk about is one of the roadblocks to getting information to the right person: on-call schedules. Scheduling your group seems like just a management or housekeeping problem. However, it’s far more. It’s a significant communications problem, because a broken schedule adds friction to the process of getting medical information to that end-user, the on-call physician.

    Think about it like this: No one ever asks who is on-call for fun. If they ask, it’s because they need to communicate with that provider.

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  2. Your Nurses Hate Your Answering Service

    By Dr. Becker, Dec 22, 2016 8:53:49 AM


    There’s not a lot of ambiguity in the title of this post. Your nurses do, in fact, hate your answering service. We know because they’ve told us.

    The simplest reason why is because of the significant discrepancy between what nurses want to be doing each workday and what they actually do. They spend too much time on the phone or filling out paperwork when they want to and should be working with patients. Trying to get in touch with a third party - whether it’s a specialist, send-out lab, imaging facility or even a patient - is an obvious challenge. However, trying to work through an answering service to connect with the on-call physician, a person who in theory should be right there when a need arises, adds an additional layer of unnecessary pain.


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  3. How to Get Your Physicians On Board with New Technology

    By Dr. Becker, Dec 14, 2016 6:50:20 AM


    Sometimes, even the most amazing technology can be held back by a discomfort with change. People do their best to avoid situations where the perceived risk is greater than the potential payoff, and evolution ensures that the predisposition towards extreme risk taking will never be a predominant trait. This plays out all over society, in decisions big and small. Here at BeckonCall, we’ve been hearing from many practice managers that our service sounds great, but they don’t want to “rock the boat” with their doctors.

    In other words, they - you - like the potential payoff but prefer to avoid the risk of problems with other members of your practice.  Which could happen because those physicians, in turn, feel that hypothetical gains from a different piece of healthcare technology don’t sufficiently outweigh the perceived risk of switching.

    We want to help you get over these objections so that you can help people in your practice do the same. The ultimate goal is not to make you comfortable with switching healthcare technology solutions for the sake of trying something different, but to be more comfortable with making those changes when the alternative is actually an improvement for your practice. If a company has a better way to do things - and yes, we at BeckonCall are confident that is the case - then we want to help your entire team move beyond the status quo and the easy answer that “it’s always been done that way.”

    Here are a few ideas on how you can respond to objections to new technology:

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  4. 5 Tips for Choosing a HealthIT Solution for Your Medical Practice

    By Dr. Becker, Dec 7, 2016 10:20:58 AM


    There’s a saying that has floated around the technology industry for the past few years: “Good technology gets out of your way.” It’s not exactly clear where the statement originated, although Google has long subscribed to the idea and used it in media relations. Similarly, though Apple itself does not use the saying, people have pointed to the tech giant’s easy-to-use products as an example of what it means. According to this mentality, a good piece of mass-market technology should act as a catalyst, lowering the energy barrier to accomplish a task. Early adopters may be willing to tolerate extra friction created by a new, imperfect product, but the population at large wants technology that works and makes their lives easier.

    Unfortunately, healthcare IT is an industry where progress towards this ideal has been slow. All too many healthtech solutions add rather than reduce frustration and effort. BeckonCall, along with many other healthtech startups, are working to resolve this deficit and give doctors more time to do what’s most important: spending time with their patients. We can’t solve all of the problems you might be facing in your practice when it comes to IT, but we have compiled a few things to consider when you’re looking at adding or changing healthIT solutions at your practice.

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  5. 6 Tips to Increase Your Medical Practice Profitability

    By Dr. Becker, Nov 30, 2016 4:04:33 PM


    “How can I increase the profitability of my medical practice?”

     It’s a question that every practice manager, every provider, has running through her mind on a constant loop. The challenge of providing the best possible patient care while keeping the lights on and ensuring full regulatory compliance is an endless juggling act. Changes in the reimbursement landscape and increased patient volume due to the Affordable Care Act have added complexity to maintaining a profitable practice. As a result, the need to find creative ways to maintain (or increase) margins without compromising patient care has only become more acutely felt in recent years.

    There are, of course, only two ways to do this: cut costs and/or increase revenue. If you cut costs too much, you run the risk of alienating patients and/or staff. Everything in life can be measured on a bell curve. If you cut too deep, you’ll fall from peak profitability due to inefficiencies, poor morale, and reduced volume. So, the key is to save where possible but perhaps look more towards adding revenue. What does that look like in practice? We have compiled a few ideas for you to think about over this upcoming holiday season.

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  6. Pagers...Really?! Turning the Page on Mobile Medical Communications

    By Dr. Becker, Nov 22, 2016 10:41:31 AM


    ­­Last week, one of us here at BeckonCall grabbed the phone to get in touch with a physician’s office to clarify a question about insurance coverage for a recent minor procedure. Instead of the usual recorded message directing him to “press 1 for appointments, press 2 for billing,” etc., the machine clicked on after one ring and announced that the practice was closed for the day. And then, the office manager’s voice said, “if you are an existing patient and are calling with an urgent medical question, please call Dr. Smith’s pager at 555-123-4567, pager number 89.”


    Make no mistake, we at BeckonCall are well aware of the prevalence of pagers in medical practices. Finding better ways to get in touch with physicians is literally our reason for existence. And indeed, we spend a lot of time talking about the use of legacy technology - like fax machines and pagers - in medical practices. Even so, it was a jolt for our colleague to hear, in the context of being a patient, that he was supposed to set off an irritating alarm screamed from a box on “Dr. Smith’s” hip. This is 2016, after all.


    Pager use may be on the decline, but they’re not gone yet. Why? A Slate article published earlier this year by Dr. Allison Bond reviews some of the reasons. It’s a good read, so be sure to check it out. Briefly, though, Bond points to the simplicity of pagers (battery life, for example) and their reliability when receiving messages. She also notes that there is some pride when physicians and other providers are first given a pager, although she’s quick to point out that the novelty wears off in a hurry.


    There are a number of other concerns medical providers and practices express when talking about switching away from pagers. Below are a few, as well as responses that might help break the inertia of technological stagnation.

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  7. Don’t Be Distracted By This Feature of Medical Communication Technology

    By Dr. Becker, Nov 16, 2016 10:00:33 AM


    Remember when it seemed exciting to find a communications tool that touted HIPAA compliance at the top of its feature list? “Is it secure?” was one of the first questions asked when evaluating medical communication technology. Now, 20 years after the Kennedy-Kassebaum Act was first passed, compliance is generally assumed. Of course, HIPAA compliance is critically important. It’s the law. But it now sits in the background, almost as part of the scenery, instead of prominently featuring in discussions about how a system works. It’s like airbags in your car; they’re legally mandated and you spend no more than a few seconds thinking about them when shopping for a new ride.

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  8. The Dangers of Legacy Technology in Care Team Communication

    By Dr. Becker, Nov 10, 2016 2:21:40 PM

    “Oh, I thought you said…” is a common refrain heard by parents, teachers, and TV police captains when their idealistic subordinates pretend to have misunderstood a command. Unfortunately, it is also a paraphrase of conversations heard far too often in clinical settings among healthcare providers, and it has severe consequences.

    Miscommunication in healthcare causes quantifiable breakdowns in, and added cost to, delivery of care. Earlier this year, CRICO published a study that looked at medical malpractice lawsuits from the previous five years. The researchers found that more than 1,700 deaths in that timespan could be attributed to communication problems. In addition to the loss of life, the suits cost approximately $1.7 billion. That’s bad enough, but the CRICO stats only reflect part of the problem, as those numbers were pulled only from malpractice cases - i.e. where legal action occurred. Additional data has suggested almost two-thirds of sentinel events are caused by miscommunication within and between careteams, and that this problem costs over $100 billion a year in lost revenue and avoidable operating expenses.

    Clearly, hiccups and outright failures in care team collaboration are enormously detrimental to all aspects of the healthcare system. Breakdowns in communication can and do occur between any two participants in delivery of care: nurse-nurse, nurse-physician, patient-staff, patient-nurse, etc. Some of these failures arise from in-person interactions, such as when a verbal message is not relayed from patient to staff to physician within the clinic. In many other cases, physical distance creates a literal game of telephone where humorous phrases are replaced by negative patient outcomes.

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  9. Questions You Should Ask When Shopping for a Medical Answering Service

    By Dr. Becker, Nov 3, 2016 10:59:37 AM


    It’s often the simplest things that cause the worst headaches. Maybe this is because we expect big tasks to cause big problems and are therefore mentally prepared for them. Maybe it’s because when small things break, the cascade of subsequent issues is anything but small. Whatever the psychology, as a medical practice manager you know how difficult it can be to keep up with all of the daily minutiae of running a medical office even under the best of circumstances. You are always looking for ways to streamline back office operations, save money on equipment and services, and coordinate staff and providers, all while keeping a steady flow of happy patients moving through your doors.

    One seemingly small area that encompasses all of these challenges is your inter-practice communications. First you have to ensure your team is on the same page. Then comes coordinating outside your practice with patients and hospital staff, directing their questions and concerns to the proper physician. Should be simple, but in reality hiccups are not uncommon.

    You know the drill: a disgruntled physician calls after she was erroneously paged while on vacation. Or your on-call doctor failed to respond to a page because he never received it. Even worse, details in a patient’s complaint get scrambled en route to the on-call physician, leading to confusion and delays in care.

    Medical answering services are supposed to help with these problems. However, you may still have to do a lot of manual work to keep up with scheduling changes and coordinating on-call duties among your providers. Without the right set of tools mistakes are inevitable, both from your office and from your answering service.

    Fortunately, there are solutions to help busy group practices, including technology such as HIPAA-compliant communications and scheduling platforms. And medical answering services can play an invaluable role in helping you coordinate your practice’s communication.

    While both classic medical answering services and newer on-call management platforms are designed to help simplify the business of healthcare so your team can stay organized and efficient, they are not created equal.

    With that in mind, we have selected 14 critical points to consider when evaluating a medical answering service. The list below will help you more easily assess your unique needs and priorities against the capabilities of each provider.

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