Medical answering services play a very important part in any medical provider’s office. Your patients need to be able to reach you at any time in the day or night, whether you are busy or not. Since it is impractical and likely impossible to keep a receptionist on the phones 24 hours a day, you need medical answering services to provide call coverage when you office staff is off or just busy.
However, as you know, not all medical answering services are created equally. Since your medical answering services represent you to the client, it is imperative to use a service that provides professional phone coverage. It is also important that your medical answering services can be trusted with your patients’ sensitive health information. To ensure that you hire the best answering service, we’ve put together a list of important things to look for:
What to Look for in a Medical Answering Service
- Make sure the answering service is in compliance with HIPAA regulations.
Even if your practice itself does not violate HIPAA laws, if the phone answering service you use is not in compliance with HIPAA regulations, your practice could incur significant legal risks. For the sake of your patients’ confidentiality, and for the protection of your own practice, you should make sure that the phone answering service you use makes HIPAA compliance their biggest priority.
The best way to ensure that your practice’s sensitive patient information will be protected by the phone answering service you use is to look for a service that has an established track record for compliance. If a phone answering service has been in the business for over a decade without any violations of patient confidentiality, it’s a good sign that they take HIPAA laws seriously. It’s even better if the medical answering service you use employs their own regulatory expert who monitors call handling and oversees HIPAA compliance.
- Look for a call answering service who staffs bilingual call representatives.
The United States is a melting pot of cultures, and as such, there is no “official language” of America. While a majority of us are English speakers, primarily Spanish speakers also hold a significant demographic in the United States. If any of the patients who seek care at your office are Spanish speakers, it is just as important that they can reach you when they have questions and concerns about their well-being as it is for your English speaking patients.
If you have Spanish-speaking patients, or want to expand your practice to the Spanish demographic, it is important to look for a medical call handling service that offers Spanish speaking call representatives. Spanish speaking call representatives should be able to both read and write in Spanish fluently, with excellent grammar. Remember, the call handling service you use is going to represent you and your business, no matter what language they’re speaking.
- Make 24/7 call support your highest priority.
The very purpose of a medical answering service is to provide your patients with a living and breathing human who can provide assistance to them when you and your staff are unavailable. In the medical field, more so than any other industry, it is critical that your phones are covered in the middle of the night. And on weekends. And holidays. Unfortunately, unexpected medical issues do not wait until business hours to strike. Your patients need to be able to reach someone at 3:00AM on New Year’s Eve if they aren’t sure of how to proceed.
Keep in mind that your phone answering service is not designed to provide any medical advice, and for liability purposes, they never should. But having a live representative available distinguish the calls that can wait until Monday (rescheduling an upcoming appointment, for example), and the calls that need to be escalated to a medical professional right now, is something that a voicemail cannot provide for you.
- Consider the pricing model.
Every phone answering service has their own pricing model. Some charge a flat rate no matter how many calls they field. Some charge by the call, by the minute, or by the hour. Determining the best pricing model for you depends on your office’s needs and call habits.
Do you have any questions? Please share below.
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