If you need help taking messages for doctors, answering frequently asked questions about your practice, dispatching important calls to physicians or scheduling appointments, a medical answering service might be an economical way to relieve your staff and help your patients. You can't just choose any service, however. Make sure the physician answering service you're considering meets these five important requirements before hiring them.

  1. HIPAA compliance. First and foremost, an absolutely essential part of every medical answering service is HIPAA compliance. This is vital for keeping your patients' information secure and for avoiding potential lawsuits. The best answering services not only comply with HIPAA but take it a step further and have a HIPAA compliance team to ensure compliance by all of its employees. Stericycle Communications has a compliance team, as it specializes in medical answering and appointment setting.
  2. Compatible scheduling software. A major advantage of hiring a medical answering service is that it can set appointments for you. Before you hire any service, however, you should check and ensure that the service's scheduling software is compatible with your own, or that the company is willing to use your scheduling software.
  3. Customizable scripts. When you hire a medical answering service, you will need to create different phone scripts. A script helps answering service employees more effectively serve your patients when certain scenarios come up, such as a patient who calls in with an urgent but non-life-threating medical problem and needs to reach a doctor. Being able to customize your script gives you an opportunity to give specific instructions to the people who will be communicating with your patients. A script can be extremely helpful so the answering service knows when to dispatch calls directly to the physicians in your office, when to take a message, or when and how to follow through on other protocols recommended by your office.
  4. Friendly, helpful staff. Not all answering services are created equal. Some services have employees that are more professional, empathetic and helpful than others. For a positive customer experience, look for an answering service that you can trust to treat your patients with care. Every successful doctor is praised for his or her good bedside manner, and your physician answering service is no different.
  5. Outbound Options. If your staff usually calls patients to remind them about upcoming appointments, it would be to your benefit to have an answering service make these calls for you in addition to answering incoming calls. Not every answering service offers this option, but it may be a service you want to take advantage of to lighten the load on your own staff.

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