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How an administrative partner can help your practice thrive

Medical Economics JournalMedical Economics July 2023
Volume 100
Issue 7

How one medical practice is growing and expanding with the help of a third-party vendor.

It’s a difficult enough job to maintain a steady medical practice in today’s challenging health care environment, let alone grow and expand your business. Administrative burdens, scheduling, answering the phones, dealing with patient requests — all of it can keep physicians and practice administrators so focused on the present that it’s difficult to envision the future.

Some practices are finding third-party vendors to assist with this function so that they can grow. One such practice is Orthopaedic Medical Group of Tampa Bay (OMG), which has nine offices in and around Tampa, Florida, and about 160 staff members. Since 2021, OMG has partnered with MedCall Plus, a Tennessee-based company that focuses on supporting medical practice and health care providers through several patient support solutions, including medical answering, appointment scheduling and electronic health records integration and clinical nurse triage services.

Medical Economics sat down recently with Michael Paul, chief operations officer for OMG, to discuss the practice’s growth and how its relationship with MedCall Plus has allowed it to build into the future. The following transcript was edited for length and clarity.

Medical Economics: What are some of the administrative challenges that OMG encountered during its growth, and how have these challenges impacted the overall operations and efficiency of the organization?

Michael Paul: When I first joined the practice in 2016, I believe we only had six offices. One of the things that we wanted to do was expand our reach of service in the community. During that time, we also had (to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic), and we weren’t immune to the challenges of the job market. Finding call center people to hire or general medical assistants was definitely a challenge. We pride ourselves on providing great customer service. And one of the challenges as you expand is more patient and call volume. Trying to keep up with that became a bit of a challenge.

When I first joined the company, we didn’t have a digital telephone system. So we recognized our technology limitations as well. And we invested in computer systems and telephone systems to meet the demand for our skills.

Medical Economics: You’ve been working with a third-party vendor called MedCall Plus for administrative assistance. Why did the practice forge this relationship?

Michael Paul: We pride ourselves in being the best in the business in orthopedics, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to being the best in business in call centers and running a call center. So we recognized that limitation. We did it for as long as we could, but we needed experts to do it. Coming from the Air Force, I was an orthopedic technician, so it was the perfect opportunity for me to join an orthopedic practice. But I was hired to run the call center and bring in some of that operational and strategic planning from the Air Force into the call center. That got us to a certain point, but we needed experts to help us.

Medical Economics: What process did the practice follow when searching for a vendor? What criteria and qualifications did you consider while evaluating potential partners?

Michael Paul: One of the most important things for us was to ensure that whoever we brought on board was also willing to listen to us as a company on what works for OMG. When we went through the process, we did ask some companies if it was either their way or not, and explained that we’re unique as a company. We have a culture here of working hard and making sure that we take care of our people. So when we vetted these different companies, one of the most important things that we wanted to consider was making sure that our current staff was able to be integrated into the new company.

Medical Economics: How did you ensure a seamless transition and integration of their services into your company’s existing administrative framework?

Michael Paul: There were a lot of video meetings and a lot of on-site visits. As I mentioned, we wanted to make sure that the people that we currently had on our staff were taken care of. It wasn’t our intention to do any layoffs. We wanted to give them an opportunity to either stay with us or to join this new venture within the company. So I think that was the most important piece of our two companies (OMG and MedCall Plus) coming together.

Medical Economics: What benefits or advantages has the practice experienced since engaging a third-party vendor for administrative help?

Michael Paul: Long gone are the days of 20-minute hold times for patients. We struggled with that before because of the archaic phone system as well as…hiring challenges. So that has been a great benefit. Whenever a patient gives us a call, that is the start of the customer service experience. After they select their option, they’re immediately greeted by an actual human. I think that is definitely important. And it helped us to provide better patient care and a better patient care experience.

Medical Economics: What feedback have you heard from your patients? Have you been able to gauge how effective the partnership has been for patient satisfaction and retention?

Michael Paul: We’ve been in practice for 40 years, so we’ve treated a lot of their grandparents, parents, kids, uncles, aunts — we take care of the entire family. And a lot of those people remember the days when we had those 20- to 30-minute hold times. The feedback we’ve gotten has been positive, that they’re able to call and immediately talk to somebody. The feedback from our providers has also been positive because when they’re in the clinic, they’re the ones who are getting those patient (concerns); patients who say, “I was trying to get an appointment with you, but I was on hold 20 minutes.” That’s of course not what we wanted. So the feedback has been very positive.

Medical Economics: What advice do you have for other medical groups and practices that are looking for similar administrative support?

Michael Paul: My best advice is to find a company that will integrate with you and not the opposite. Make sure that the partnership is there, that they’ll listen to your feedback and that their goals, essentially, meet yours as well. Find people who you’re comfortable with and who are willing to listen to your ideas and integrate what works for your company into whatever options that they’re bringing on board.

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Jennifer N. Lee, MD, FAAFP