What to Look for in a Medical Answering Service

medical answering serviceThe healthcare industry has evolved dramatically over the last decade. While the primary goal of any practice is still patient care, patient experience is growing increasingly important. This begins from the very first phone call a patient makes to schedule an appointment. Wait times, expensive medications, and battles with the insurance company often follow this initial conversation. Knowing what’s ahead, many practices are opting to partner with medical answering services. They’re the ideal way to support busy healthcare staff performing daily operational duties while keeping in touch with patients.

Hoping to partner with a healthcare call center provider? You’ve come to the right place. While there are a number of exciting advantages to medical answering services, not all providers are high quality. The stakes are too high to trust just anyone with your patient calls. Here’s what to look for in your search for the right medical answering service:

Best Answering Service for Physicians and Medical Offices

When choosing a medical answering service, experience matters. There’s no replacing the expertise of medical professionals. A calm, collected professional on the end of the line, however, can do wonders to reassure callers that they’re in good hands. Experienced staff at a healthcare call center can provide 24/7 support to your patients when they need it most.

An experienced virtual receptionist can help callers differentiate between emergency and urgency. They know when to escalate patients to 911 or the on-call provider and when to follow standard operating procedures. By integrating seamlessly into your medical or dental practice, a medical office answering service can provide just the right support and guidance your callers need – when they need it most.

Of course, not every late night phone call from a patient warrants immediate action. That’s the beauty of 24/7 availability. By burning the midnight oil, healthcare answering service providers are ready to schedule appointments, answer questions, and address concerns at a time that’s most convenient to your callers. It’s ideal for anyone experiencing an urgent medical issue, but also for shift workers who may not have the chance to call during traditional business hours.

Medical calls deserve to be handled as quickly, accurately, and sensitively as possible. When a medical answering service acts as the voice of your practice, they should work to represent your values in each call. An experienced team of virtual receptionists and call center workers can ensure that patient privacy is at the top of the priority list. Selecting an answering service can be a challenge, but the decision should ultimately boil down to experience. You’ll rest easy knowing your patients are receiving the best service possible when contacting your practice.

HIPAA Compliance: A Non-Negotiable

Your in-house administrative team knows the importance of following the regulations of HIPAA – the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act. Passed in 1996, this legislation outlines patient privacy rights and procedures for protecting sensitive healthcare data. As you search for a medical answering service for your organization, make sure you prioritize HIPAA compliance.

Consider your organization’s existing policies and procedures for HIPAA compliance. You likely use a secure messaging system to communicate with patients via email and store data in a cloud database with extra layers of protection. Your medical answering service should do the same. Fail to meet HIPAA standards and your practice could be in serious legal trouble, so make this a priority when selecting your newest administrative partner.

Flexibility for Ebbs and Flows

Every industry sees its own ebbs and flows. Some are easy to predict: electronics companies sell a lot more televisions than average ahead of Super Bowl Sunday, for instance. Healthcare knows no particular busy or slow season, though, which is why it’s often difficult to predict exactly how much support you’ll need during a given month. You never know when the next bug is going to make its rounds in your community. By partnering with a medical answering service that offers flexible hours and availability, you can up your support during busy periods and scale back during slow months.

You’d also do well to select a company that offers 24-hour availability. Even if you’ve traditionally limited your calls to business hours, increasing your availability is never a bad idea. Shift workers, busy parents, and anyone with too much going on during the day will appreciate the chance to connect with your office after hours or over the weekend. This increased availability will even allow you to grow your medical business.

As we learn more about the importance of a healthy work/life balance, healthcare workers are eager to take the vacation days they’ve earned. Time off can provide a much-needed reset for stressed out workers. With the help of answering services for medical offices, your practice need not operate on a skeleton crew just because employees need time to rest and recover. If you anticipate employees being out for leave, simply dial up the coverage you need from your answering service. Dial things back down again once employees have returned to work. This flexibility helps keep workers from feeling overwhelmed while also ensuring there’s always a professional voice at the end of the line.

Collaboration and Customization Are Key

Selecting a medical answering service isn’t like choosing a box of cereal off the shelf – at least it shouldn’t be. Given the sensitive nature of the calls you’re hoping to get help with, you’ll want a partner who understands the nuances of healthcare customer service. A one-size-fits-all approach just won’t work for such important calls. As you hunt for the perfect medical answering service, investigate how collaborative the company is willing to be.

Your preferred partner needs to work with you to create a customized plan that is designed to meet your requirements. All healthcare organizations are different, so your medical call center provider shouldn’t treat your account like the unique situation that it is. The answering service you decide to work with should offer customizable call scripts that allow you control over the messaging. Such a tool will allow you to set the tone of each phone call and ensure the conversation matches your organization’s philosophies on customer service.

While you might expect call scripts to make calls with patients feel forced, the opposite is true. When receptionists work from a script, they have the foundations necessary to connect with any caller. Patients also feel more secure in these kinds of conversations, as the receptionist comes across as professional and in control. In your hunt for the right medical call center, consider how custom scripting might make a difference in your patient calls. It’s the best way to ensure your practice’s policies and procedures are followed to the letter.

Bilingual Support for Callers

The American populace looks and sounds a lot different than it did 20 years ago. To reflect these changing demographics, it’s important to offer bilingual support for callers. It’s important to speak with prospective and existing patients in their preferred language when they call. Select a medical answering service that offers bilingual support – it’s a must for practices hoping to stay relevant and extend their care to all populations.

A bilingual medical office answering service can be a relief for callers and your in-house administrative team alike. Patients are often eager to speak to someone about their concerns, even during the initial call to set up their appointment. If your staff is made up of only English speakers, you could be alienating patients without even realizing it. Conversely, your team may be well aware of their limitations and become frustrated by their inability to assist callers of all backgrounds. A bilingual HIPAA compliant answering service can eliminate communication barriers and get everyone on the same page.

Caller Satisfaction Guaranteed

When searching for answering services for medical offices, allow the customer experience to guide your hunt. You’ll want to partner with a company that has a successful track record for satisfying medical clients. Experience and expertise go hand in hand. Just as you might check a new hire’s references to see if they’re as skilled as they claim, the same should be done with answering services.

The medical industry is full of unique challenges. Providing patients with a baseline of quality customer service shouldn’t be one of them. Medical office answering services are becoming more commonplace, and standards for patient calls have evolved. If your team is still feeling overwhelmed by the sheer volume of inbound calls they receive each day, it’s high time to partner with such a service. Your staff will feel immediate relief from the constant ringing of the phone, and your patients will appreciate the calm, cool, and collected presence of helpful virtual receptionists. It’s a true win-win for everyone involved.

Try Our Medical Answering Service for Free

MAP Communications has become a leader in the medical answering service over the last three decades. Based right here in the United States, our call centers are staffed with experienced, highly-trained employees who are passionate about customer service. We offer all of the aforementioned must-haves for medical answering services – and so much more.

Explore your options for a thoughtful, collaborative medical answering service experience now. We’re offering a free, week-long trial of our live answering service so you can see just how much value MAP can bring to your organization. Start your free trial now.

Here are some related articles you might be interested in:

5 Ways the Medical Field Benefits from a Live Answering Service

How A Call Overflow Answering Service Can Help Your Medical Practice

Is Your Current Answering Service HIPAA Compliant?