Sound Communication: The Holdcom Blog

5 Healthcare IVR Best Practices

In Healthcare, 
IVR Systems are used to automate a wide variety of tasks: route calls to different departments, announce office or facility hours, allow patients to confirm appointments, and more. But in many cases, the functionality of an IVR system is limited by the way the prompts and announcements are written, read, and structured. So how do you ensure your IVR System sounds as good as it promises to work?

Best Practices for Writing Healthcare IVR Announcements

1. Give callers the option to "escape" at the beginning of the call.

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Some callers will try to "zero out" immediately when they hear an automated system at any kind. Especially in the Healthcare Industry, callers are looking for a knowledgeable, compassionate individual. To combat this, try telling callers, "To speak with a live representative, press 0 at any time." Not only does this assuage callers who just want to talk to someone live, it's also been shown to increase the amount of time callers spend using the automated system. It seems counterintuitive, but just knowing there is a way out encourages callers to use the system.


2. Choose a calm, reassuring voice for your recordings.

When choosing the right voice for your phone system, it's important to consider your callers' point of view. Think about a worried mother calling a pediatricians office, or a confused patient trying to reach a doctor at a hospital: in both cases, they have immediate needs and concerns and would probably respond better to a system with a soft, compassionate, and calm voice than a recording with a "radio announcer" feeling. Every voice over talent has a recording style - it's best to choose the talent that meets your needs and patients' preferences.

3. Limit the number of menu options.

In both large facilities and smaller offices, patients call for many reasons. This makes it easy to overload your menu with every option under the sun, but it's important to limit the number of options presented in each menu level. Three is the golden number: try to avoid having more than 3 choices per menu level, and no more than 3 menu levels. It's better to have 3 levels with 3 prompts each than 1 level with 9 prompts. And remember: When giving your menu options, be sure to put the extension or number at the end of the prompt, as in "For patient service, press 3", not "Press 3 for patient service". 

4. Pay attention to the order of options.

As you use your IVR system, pay attention to which options are chosen the most frequently. These options should be at the beginning of your menu. Lesser-chosen options, and those that are less important, should go toward the end. This helps callers avoid frustration and reach their intended destination as quickly as possible.

5. Ask for feedback.

To ensure patient satisfaction, ask for feedback about the caller's experience. A survey is usually the best way to get feedback - you can even conduct it with your IVR system! Find out how happy callers were with their experience, how they think it could be improved, and what was easy or difficult for them, and adjust your phone system from there.


IVR is a powerful tool that has near-endless applications in healthcare. When correctly written and read by a professional voice over talent, it can help both your patients and your staff.

What's the most interesting way you've seen IVR used in Healthcare? Let us know in the comments.


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Tags: healthcare, IVR Announcements