As a medical professional, you know how important it is to have business partners that make protecting your patients’ health information top priority.

It’s not enough for them to say they follow HIPAA and HITECH guidelines, they have to be able to show you how well they’re doing at staying in compliance. After all, it can cost you up to $50k per violation, even if they unknowingly left PHI without adequate protection.

Ensuring that you’ve chosen a medical answering service that treats patients and their data with all the regulatory care that it requires can be tricky, but there are ways to know your medical answering service is healthy.

Signs of HIPAA Compliance at Your Answering Service

Your answering service is as much a part of your success as your office computer and your in-house receptionist. If you’re not keeping an eye on its health, you and your patients can both suffer. Having a healthy medical answering service on your team is paramount, every so often you should stop and perform a check-up.

You’ll know you’ve got a great phone service support team if they:

Are available 24/7 for your patients. No medical answering service can be said to be offering complete services without a 24/7 telephone option. Whether it’s a nurse on-call line or simply a group of operators who know how to ask the right questions, someone needs to be on the other end of the line in case of emergencies.

Your 24/7 answering service should also be able to get emergency callers to you immediately, whether by using a secured message or by passing the call directly to your phone.

Efficiently set and report appointment changes to you. Medical appointment scheduling is a big part of the job for a medical answering service. Your patients call to set, change and cancel appointments regularly, it’s vital that you’re always in the loop.

After all, if you’ve got Mr. Smith scheduled at 9:30 and Mrs. Hall shows up instead, you’re going to be ill-prepared. Check that your answering service can give you real time updates to an easy to use shared calendar.

Invest in their employees by updating their knowledge base frequently. There’s no such thing as stressing the importance of HIPAA and HITECH too much. These rules are designed to protect patient information and privacy, but because nothing’s perfect, they’re also updated fairly often.

Is your answering service updating the training and equipment that their operators use when a modification occurs? If not, you definitely need to find a new service.

It can be challenging to find an answering service that’s both a great fit with your office culture and is prepared to guard your patients’ data like it was its own. Even with an established answering service relationship, it’s important to perform health checks from time to time, just to make sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to data compliance and patient care. This short list above is a good place to start, but there may be other metrics you want to use, depending on your specialty and reasons for having an answering service partnership.