Calling patients may be one of the gold standards of patient care, but given physicians’ demanding schedules, it’s not easy to keep up with every patient over the phone. However, in the last few years, a number of studies have shown numerous benefits to calling your patients. We have even noticed how important phone calls can be with physicians using the free Dialer feature in the Doximity app.
We’ve rounded some of the major benefits here to let you decide for yourself:
Phone follow-ups are faster
A study in the British Journal of General Practice found that follow-ups over the phone were ~19% faster than in person. That doesn’t even take into account the time saved by the patient during travel and wait.
Increased patient satisfaction scores
A recent study in the Journal of Emergency Medicine noted that patients receiving a discharge phone call were more than 6 times more likely to provide the highest rating for “likelihood to recommend” than those who did not. One emergency medicine physician reported in EP Monthly a lift of about 20 percentile points in his satisfaction scores.
Even for employed physicians, coding affects compensation because it is a proxy for productivity. Evaluation & Management (E/M) coding refers to billable services from provider-patient encounters that are submitted to a patient’s insurer or payer. Over the last several years, new codes were added that will now recognize much of the work done outside of the patient encounter. Check out codes 99214, 99215, 99232, & 99233.
Post-discharge phone calls by a case manager to certain high-risk patients were associated with fewer readmissions, according to a study in the American Journal of Managed Care. High-risk patients that received a phone call within 24 hours of being discharged saw a 22 percent "relative reduction in all-cause readmissions," according to the study.
Improved clinical outcomes
Beyond hard data of decreased re-admission, your qualitative skills as a physician can be used when you are speaking directly with a patient. They can allow you to promptly recognize a patient condition change and instruct them on the best course of action.
Reduced patient turnover
While this has not yet been quantified through a study, most physicians who follow up with their patients over the phone report a better relationship with the patient because of the call. This, in turn, leads to less turn-over among your patients. We all know that a good relationship keeps a patient happy.
This benefit may seem a bit counterintuitive. Yes, you are spending a bit more time making phone calls, but in the long run, this can actually increase your capacity. This goes hand-in-hand with some of the benefits listed above: phone follow-ups are faster than in-person follow-ups and decreased re-admissions open up your schedule down the line. A few minutes on the phone can give you an extra hour or two in the future.
While these benefits are noted, it is up to you to decide if they outweigh the negatives. One study suggested a phone call may lead to more phone re-consultations as the patients are more willing to use this channel of communication once opened.
The other major concern for many physicians is that follow up calls like this greatly increase their time at work and that giving out their phone number might lead to intrusion in their personal lives and possibly abuse of their private line. While most studies show that these intrusions rarely occur, wariness to call from their cell phones is justified. Doximity has recently addressed this problem with their latest app-only feature, Doximity Dialer, which allows physicians to make calls from their cell phones and display their office number on their patient’s Caller ID. To see how it works, look for the dial pad icon at the bottom of the Doximity mobile app.