Importance of primary care physician after-hours messaging
The annual after-hours access studies performed by our vendor, North American Testing Organization based in California, were resumed and fielded in the third quarter of 2021. The purpose is to assess adequate phone messaging for our members with perceived emergency or urgent situations after regular office hours. Unfortunately, most of the Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield (Anthem) Plans assessed fell short of the expectation of having a live person or a directive in place after hours.
The main challenges the vendor encounters while attempting to collect this required, essential data are related to an inability to reach the provider and/or the lack of after-hours messaging altogether. They include:
- Inaccurate provider information in Anthem’s demographic database to allow assessment of the after-hours messaging
- No voicemail or messaging at all
- Voicemail not reflecting the practitioner’s name, and/or
- Calls being auto-forwarded with no identification, no voicemail or messaging
To help both your patients’ and Anthem’s ability to reach your practice, we ask that you update your office information using the online Provider Maintenance Form and that you also review your after-hours messaging and connectivity for patients’ urgent accessibility.
What does this mean for our members and your patients? The annual member experience survey of Anthem enrollees indicated of those needing advice, a sizable number sometimes, or never, reached the provider’s office for urgent instructions. To improve upon these instances of failing to meet our member’s needs, implement these three steps:
- Have accessibility 24/7/365. Arrange to have your phone calls forwarded to a service or hospital, or have the appropriate messaging for the caller.
- Be sure to turn on the messaging mechanism when you leave the office.
- Be sure you are using the acceptable messaging for compliance with your contract.
To be compliant, per the Provider Manual, have your messaging or answering service include appropriate instructions, specifically:
Compliant response for an emergency instructs the caller/patient to hang up and call 911 or go to ER.
Compliant responses for urgent needs after hours:
- Live person, via a service or hospital, advises practitioner or on-call practitioner is available and connects.
- Live person or recording directs caller/patient to Urgent Care, emergency department (ER) or call 911. [May also direct caller/patient (via cell phone, pager, text, email, voicemail, etc.) to contact their healthcare practitioner or to get a call back for further urgent instructions.]
Non-compliant responses for urgent needs after hours:
- No provision for after-hours accessibility.
- Live person or recording only directs the caller/patient to a mechanism for contacting their practitioner (via cell phone, pager, text, email, voicemail, etc.) or to get a call back for urgent questions or instructions. (Not a direct connection to their practitioner.)
Is your practice compliant?
December 2021 Anthem Provider News - Virginia