Please Hold for the Doctor

Over the last five years, phone calls to physician practices have sharply increased - but that doesn't mean the doctor is going to answer.

Over the last five years, phone calls to physician practices have sharply increased — but that doesn’t mean the doctor is going to answer, according to MarketWatch.

True, there are physicians who welcome the phone calls and connecting with patients who cannot come into the office. Plus, telemedicine can be useful as a way for physicians to grow their practices by expanding their reach.

However, for the most part, there are just too many phone calls. According to Marketwatch:

“Doctors say they aren’t trying to avoid talking to patients, or purposely screening or not returning their calls. But as much as the phone calls are an integral part of caring for patients, they can also interfere with care by eating up too much time.”

Mary Pat Whaley, president of Manage my Practice, told MarketWatch that in five years phone calls to physicians have increased between 25% and 30% — and each call can cost $15 to $20. And, unfortunately, insurance carriers aren’t paying doctors for those calls.

The rise of phone calls to doctors’ offices came on the heels of the recession in 2008 and that likely was a cause in the increase. With insurance increasing, but people struggling financially, they were using phone calls as free medical advice. Studies already show that during that time period patients were putting off going to the doctor because of the costs.

And while physicians are already feeling overwhelmed by the amount of calls they get, things will likely only get worse. According to a report by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the uptake of telemedicine in rural areas is still relatively low, which means “that it has not yet reached its potential.”