Have you ever been with a client and your phone has rung? It might go to voicemail, then you have to phone the person back; or they might hang up without a message. You call back when you’re free, but they might have gone out or changed their mind.
It would be nice if you had a trusted employee to take calls for you, but employing someone is not always possible when you’re running your practice alone.
You’ve probably heard of virtual reception services. But how do these work in practice, and can you trust them with vulnerable clients and confidential information? We thought it would be helpful to ask an expert to explain exactly what is involved.

Demystifying the virtual receptionist…

Real Time Reception specialises in working with therapists – in fact, the company was founded by a therapist who understood the overriding need for confidentiality. In this article, they explain how their service works:

What is a virtual reception service? How would it help you?

A virtual reception service will pick up your calls, make bookings, take messages and many other useful tasks.
In concept it’s simple. You put your phone onto divert, to a number we give you whenever you wish to use the service.
We answer the caller in your name, give out information, answer simple questions, make bookings in a shared diary or just pass messages to you. All our services are available from 8am to 7pm Monday to Thursday, 8am to 5:30pm on Friday and 8:30am to 1pm on Saturday.

But is it a bit impersonal?

Quite the opposite. We will find out about your business, who works there, what they do, specialities, your opening hours, fees and so on. We will need to know your location, access and parking, how you take payments and how best to contact you and your colleagues. You can divert just the calls you miss, or all of them.
Delivering a high quality service requires other skills: experience as a healthcare professional working with patients, flexibility to cater for the day to day changes you may require, and enthusiasm to ensure callers feel welcome and appreciated.

About Real Time Reception

With over 35 years’ experience as healthcare professionals, and 10 years providing virtual reception services, Real time Reception is well positioned  to provide a service to reflect the high standards you will have set yourselves. Our core values and purpose centre on client satisfaction, quality advice and support. “We care for the carers” could well describe this intention, and is a good reflection of how we operate.

Some common questions: 

Do I need to divert my calls all the time? 
No. You are in control: you can pick calls up yourself if you are not busy, and then switch back to us when you are.
What equipment do I need?
If you want an appointment booking service you will need to use an online diary. You may find a laptop easiest, but a phone or tablet will also let you read your diary. If you just want a messaging service you could manage with text messages sent direct to your phone.
Is it secure? What about client confidentiality?
We take data protection, the security of your system and client confidentiality extremely seriously. We have safe and secure access protocols in place to safeguard your data, and your client’s details. We are registered with the data protection agency.
We don’t take any confidential information from clients, just a name, telephone number and in some cases an address or email address. All staff are fully trained and no pens, paper, mobile phones or personal items are allowed at the work stations.
If you are using an online diary the data on it belongs to you. The diary systems are professionally administered with secure servers and regular back-ups to ensure that your data is safe and protected. To access your diary you will have been issued with a username and password – these will give you protected access and should be kept confidential, as you would with other business data. We are given access only to the diary and database to book customers in. We never see any clinical notes or information other than names and addresses.
Will I have my own Receptionist?
You are sharing your receptionist with a small group of other practitioners (hence the really advantageous cost). The receptionists are all based in the same office in the UK and undergo three months training to achieve competence.
How long does it take to get started?
A simple messaging service can be set up in about a day; you pay a first month fee and give us all the information about your business and we give you a phone number to divert to. Appointment booking takes a little longer – all your existing appointments need to be entered into the diary and we need more information about what treatment you provide or don’t provide. If pushed we could be up and running in just a few days!
Other benefits
If you need to cancel a clinic at short notice, one call to our admin desk ensures that all your patients are contacted and alternative appointments arranged so as to not interfere with their therapy.
Urgent messages can be sent immediately, less urgent ones sent twice a day by email or text.
Oh and you can go on holiday; you will go away and return to a booked diary, and a single email with all your messages.
Using a reliable and professional virtual receptionist service safely releases you to focus on what you do best. It will make your life easier and present a professional image to your patients.
It will be considerably more cost effective than an onsite full time receptionist.
Want to find out more? Go to the Real Time Reception website or contact them on 0800 193 0121. Mention that you’re a Private Practice Hub member and you’ll get a 10% discount on their services.