Hiring a medical answering service for your office can make a huge difference to the level of patient care you’re able to offer, but not all medical answering services offer the same options.

Some will offer only limited hours or specific services, rather than the 24/7 access your patients deserve and the custom services you need.

So before you sign up with a new answering service company, make sure they offer these must-haves:

  • HIPAA-compliance. Unless you ask, you may not realize that your future answering service isn’t fully HIPAA-compliant until it’s far too late. HIPAA-compliance requires ongoing training for everyone on staff, regular software and hardware updates and careful attention to changes in HIPAA-protocol. Medical offices can’t simply claim ignorance of a lack of HIPAA-compliance from their business associates, even a violation made when you believe that your service was compliant could mean a $50,000 fine.
  • Message relay. Patients call for all sorts of reasons, but far too often they leave messages that don’t tell the whole story. Your medical answering service should be professionally trained and able to extract the right details from every caller, no matter how hesitant. That way you know if you need to call the patient needing a refill before the one who had a question about medical test results. Triaging calls is always important in business, but it’s doubly important for medical offices, where patients may be in real trouble.
  • Emergency call handling. Unfortunately, patients still need you after you shut off the lights for the night. Even though you want to be there for them all the time, you simply can’t be expected to answer the phone 24 hours a day. This is one area where an answering service truly shines.Not only can a great service walk through careful questioning to determine if your patient is having a true emergency and give proper instructions for major issues that require a visit to the emergency room, they’ll also be able to patch your patient through or relay a message to your phone so you can assist that troubled caller personally.
  • Appointment setting. No matter how many patients you have, the chances are good that your practice will continue to grow. That means more visits, more time spent on patient care and less time to handle appointment setting. Without those appointments, though, you’ll have no patients, so someone has to do it!A medical answering service can handle those appointments for you, making it simple for callers to make, change or cancel appointments. The best part is that the software great answering services use will integrate with systems you’re already using in real time, so both your in-house staff and your answering service can schedule patients at the same time without worrying about double bookings.

Hiring a medical answering service can solve a lot of problems for medical offices of every type. With services like appointment setting, message relay and managing emergency callers, an answering service can make a huge difference to how well your callers and patients are cared for and attended to.