Implementing Office Systems in the Family Practice

When setting up the family practice, some essential services, including telephone, mail, answering service and medical transcription will need to be addressed.

Family Practice Telephone Systems

The family practice telephone system is vital. When evaluating potential telephone systems, there are a few key considerations. What rooms will phones be required in? How much automation is preferred? Does the system need to send automated calls to patients reminding them of appointments or scheduling issues? Does the system need to play music or present health information while callers are on hold?

What about wireless systems? What about hands free systems? What about caller id, voice mail and long distance services? High speed Internet services will not require an extra dedicated telephone line. If high-speed services are not available, one telephone line will be required for Internet.

Once the requirements of the family practice telephone system are identified, it’s time to go shopping. Innovations in wireless technology have resulted in more and more practices using wireless products.

Choosing an Answering Service

Family practice personnel cannot be answering telephones 24/7. It’s important to choose the right answering service to represent the clinic. See what service other physicians are using. Check references and reputation. Some hospitals provide answering services.

It will be necessary to define answering service criteria. What constitutes an emergency? What about calls from family members? How much information should the answering service get in addition to a telephone number?

The more specific the details in what is required of the answering service, the easier it is for the answering service to meet those requirements.

Handling Mail

While email and faxes are often used for correspondence, standard mail is important. A small family practice may find it sufficient to simply purchase stamps in the beginning. As the practice grows, however, the mail volume will too.
Postage options include the United States Postal Service online mailing and shipping as do services including Stamps and Endicia. Various companies provide postage meters. Pitney Bowes is one of the best known.

For packages, large and small, the UPSP online mailing and shipping service is available. Independent carriers include DHL, UPS and FedEx. It is necessary to use a street address with independent carriers. They do not deliver to post office boxes.

Medical Transcription

Medical transcription was once an issue of sending dictation to be transcribed either in the clinic or outsourced to someone in the area. New developments in family practice computer software and electronic medical record software has eliminated the need for transcription in some clinics. Since family practice staff, including office, nurses and physicians, input all information directly into the computer at the time it’s done, patient records are always current.

If medical transcription will be required, decisions must be made about whether to employ someone to take care of it in the family practice clinic or outsource it. If using a medical transcription service, it’s important to check references and reputation. It doesn’t hurt to ask other physicians what service they are using.

Some services are vital to operating the family practice. Reliable telephone systems that handle all required tasks, a quality answering service, a convenient and affordable mail handling system and medical transcription are just a few of those services.