Often, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but when it comes to establishing a new medical practice or setting up your medical answering service, it can just be good sense.

After all, if you follow the same framework as others in your field, you not only deliver a consistent experience, you know the formula works because it’s been time-tested. For example, you may be trying to find enough folks to cover your phones all day and night and struggling to make it work, all the while wondering how other medical practices do it.

Most medical practices have a secret weapon they employ as often as necessary. That extra manpower is coming from their medical answering service partners.

What to Look For in an Answering Service for Medical Offices

Choosing an answering service to help give your staff a little bit of slack isn’t as easy as calling the first company listed in your area.

When you choose an answering service as a medical office, you’re also choosing a HIPAA Business Associate. This type of company is essentially functioning as an extension of your office and must follow the same rules about patient health information as you do. If they fail to do so, you could face steep fines for any violation(s), even if you didn’t know there was a violation taking place!

This is why it’s so important to properly vet your medical answering service, because despite the incredible help they can be, the wrong one can be a massive headache.

Before you sign on the dotted line, make sure that they:

  • Frequently update HIPAA training for the entire staff. It’s one thing to claim to be HIPAA-compliant, but another to actually know the law and ensure the staff does, too. Proof of regular trainings should be part of your ask while you’re still narrowing the list of finalists.
  • Update computer software regularly. Not only does updating software on the regular point to a company that’s interested in staying ahead of things, it protects your patients’ information from hackers. Software updates are often created to patch previously unknown security holes, so it’s pretty important to have those bases covered.
  • Encrypt messages that include patient information. Many answering services serve up messages using online portals or directly using SMS. This is a huge convenience for you, but it can be seriously dangerous for any patient health information (PHI) that’s being conveyed. Make sure that your future answering service is using very strong encryption and secure access for any messages that contain PHI.

Of course, the right answering service partner will make your recent scramble for phone coverage seem like a bad dream. You can get 24/7 coverage, a dedicated appointment scheduling tool, custom on-hold music and even affordable virtual receptionist services—all from the same answering service provider!

When it comes to phone coverage, especially in a growing medical office, an answering service is a great bet that doesn’t miss. Just make sure you’re choosing one with a solid record for protecting patient information and a clear understanding of their responsibilities under HIPAA—and you’ll be set.