With a  desperate shortage of real-life medical practice receptionists reported recently by GPs, many new doctors starting out are opting for a virtual receptionist in their practice. 

So what are the pros and cons? 



  • Very agile. A receptionist can be set up and in place in 2 to 4 weeks. 
  • Plans start with the basics like answering the phone and messaging, through to all the bells and whistles of triaging emergencies, scheduling surgeries and appointments, managing theatre lists,  receiving and relaying electronic correspondence, processing payments and typing correspondence and reports. Some services also directly send all voicemails to your email, so you don’t miss any important calls.
  • Fixed costs. Outside of hourly rate or monthly fixed fee, recruitment, pay, leave and HR are all taken out of the equation. There are no real estate, computer or phone costs 
  • You’re not paying someone for full time hours 
  • Many patients would prefer to get their calls answered promptly (usually virtual calls are answered in 10 to 30 seconds) rather than to wait for the traditional practice receptionist to leave them on hold for minutes or not answer during lunch time.  
  • Many services offer a 7 day free trial.   


  • Unlike your own receptionist, there is no input on staff selection and there is no “one” person for the job
  • You may not have a choice of software depending on the provider
  • There is often no face-to-face other than online, with practice staff and manager 
  • Rates can be significantly higher. Standard face to face reception rates are $24 to $40 per hour, while virtual receptionist are $40 to $60 ph, with a minimum of four hours per session usually. (However this needs to be weighed up against what you’re not paying in real estate, holidays, superannuation and missed business opportunities.)  
  • Some, but not all services are Australian based and not virtual assistants will understand or be familiar with Australian terminology – be sure to check.
  • Some services are 12 month fixed with expensive exit fees, others are month to month. 
  • If you are experiencing high call volumes you may need to opt for a call overflow plan to make sure excess calls are captured, or when the practice becomes busy. 



  • This gives a sense permanence and is a good option for practitioners who are passionate about creating their “own brand” of customer service 
  • Easy to articulate and implement your own corporate culture, values, strategy and view of the future practice to one person rather than  a “different person every time”. 
  • As the storefront of the business, the receptionist is the first point of contact with your patients – your own receptionist can share your vision more easily
  • As it is an “owned” site, your own receptionist will feel like “part of the family” 
  • You will have a high level of autonomy in how the customer-facing presence of the practice is presented and also the formal policies and procedures used by the receptionist.  
  • Ideal for doctors who enjoyr a little bit of extra “hand holding” and support when starting out.


  • The timeframes and financial capital associated with setting up your own practice – including a full time receptionist – are considerable.
  • Outside of receptionist wages, super, holiday pay there will be extra costs for room fees, computer and phone costs and setup, cleaning, OH & S , consumables.
  • There will be responsibility for audit requirements insurance and business continuity requirements.



  • “Going in rooms” with other established doctors is a good option for young doctors who want to get some experience behind them with limited risk. But this also means sharing a receptionist.
  • On the upside you will be able to  “test” what you do or don’t like about a practice, a referral area or a receptionist before committing to a faxed site. 
  • The receptionist will have already been tried and tested.


  • You may not always get optimal days as your receptionist sessions will be subject to the rooms and site availability of other doctors.
  • The “fee split” for an associate is  often about 30% which may not be as good proportionally to commercial rates. And it doesn’t always include a receptionist or practice manager.
  • You will also have little input into day to day running of the rooms and will be reliant on quality of the receptionist already there. 
  • If the current receptionist is already overstretched, they’re more inclined to make mistakes or provide a reduced level of customer service to your patients too. 

Whichever one of these options you choose, it is always a good idea to consider speaking to HBN’s  trusted advisors when looking to find a face-to-face or virtual receptionist.  

The Health Business Network can also offer a trusted network of business strategists, compliance focused medical marketers, accountants, legal advisors, financial specialist, insurance brokers and designers and builders.

This helps you minimise cost and effort of your new practice setup so you can focus on what YOU do best –  which is caring for your patients. Call us today on 0419 210 540.