Doctor’s offices can’t hire just any old medical answering service to handle their incoming calls. There are so many specific concerns that staff members must take into account — HIPAA is just one — that the level of training for telephone agents can be highly specialized. So when it comes to selecting from among all the services out there, office managers must be very selective in who they choose to partner with. These six services should be chief among the priorities.
Medical practices have regular business hours, but that means little in the current market where patients need and expect care at all hours of the day. As a result, any medical answering service an office is considering must offer 24/7 service so that patients always are being greeted and helped by a live person. No medical practice wants sensitive, HIPAA-protected information being left on an in-office answering machine that the whole office can hear when the recorded messages are played back in the morning.
Professional agents who work for a medical answering service are highly trained in all aspects of medical privacy. They know what information to take in and, perhaps more importantly, what information can be given out according to the federal government’s HIPAA regulations. With in-office receptionists, medical professionals might not find the same level of privacy, especially when the office is full of people who can overhear phone conversations happening at the front desk.
As a giant melting pot of a country, the United States has many residents who don’t speak English. In fact, the U.S. has more Spanish speakers than Spain does! Medical office managers need a medical answering service that offers bilingual assistance so that every patient gets the care he or she needs. Plus, the service must be able to convey the privacy rules required under HIPAA in both English and Spanish. Practices that want to grow their clientele are wise to serve the Spanish-speaking market as well as native English speakers.
Many medical practices don’t want to pay their in-house staff a high daily wage to do mundane tasks such as scheduling appointments. Offices can save money by hiring a medical answering service that can handle this chore and allow highly trained in-office workers to do the jobs their expertise serves better. Plus, appointment calls can be long, which can tie up an office phone for too long, and they might include HIPAA-protected information, so having that conversation in front of dozens of people is not a good solution.
When the work day is over and the medical staff has gone home, doctors and nurses still need to be in touch with their patients. Or, if a doctor is away from the practice at a conference or training, he or she must be able to access all messages remotely with ease. It is vital to choose a medical answering service that offers a variety of ways in which medical workers can get the HIPAA-appropriate information they need no matter where they are. Even if they are just down the hallway, they should be able to get messages on their phone or on the computer in a patient room quickly and easily.
Toll-Free Phone Numbers
Although cell phones have decreased the importance of toll-free numbers, there still are many patients who use a landline for phone calls. That means long-distance charges remain a concern for lots of patients. It also is important to select a medical answering service that offers toll-free numbers so that elderly or low-income patients using a landline find no barrier to getting the care they need. The idea of medical care is that it is accessible to everyone, and toll-free numbers facilitate that goal.
From HIPAA-trained agents to round-the-clock care, these six services are crucial for any medical practice that aspires to serve its patients well.