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7 Ways a Medical Answering Service Can Help Your Dental Practice

Answering Service for a Dental Practice

People like to feel that their time is valued, especially when they are trying to reserve dental appointments for their oral health. If you frequently have your patients wait on hold, or if they get sent to voicemail instead of talking to a real person, you are likely to lose their loyalty. In fact, a recent statistic published by Forbes magazine reveals that a shocking 80 percent of callers do not leave messages if they are sent to voicemail. When patients are sent to voicemail by their dentist, they are less likely to feel valued and may search for a more responsive practice.

Thankfully, a medical answering service can help ensure that your callers are taken care of so that you can attend to the patients currently in your office. Here are seven ways an answering service can help your dental practice.

1. Confirming or Booking Appointments

Patients are not always able to book or confirm appointments with their dentist during regular business hours. Employing a medical answering service can be very convenient for your busy patients and may earn your practice even more business.

2. Quoting Services

Sometimes patients call dental offices to receive and compare quotes for specific services. If patients have to wait on hold for a long time or have an otherwise unpleasant telephone experience, they are likely to give up and go to a competing practice.

To illustrate this fact, a Marketing Land study shows that people who have a negative phone experience are 74 percent more likely to do business with a competitor as a result. Keep your patients happy by hiring a medical answering service to quickly take care of all their appointment scheduling and service-quoting needs.

3. Forwarding Calls

You can direct your answering service to field all calls and forward them to you if necessary. By doing this, you can have someone else take care of simple appointment calls while ensuring that treatment questions and other important calls are forwarded to you.

4. Giving Office Directions

If patients are given clear directions to your practice, they are less likely to be late or miss their appointments altogether. A medical answering service can provide patients with concise and practical driving directions and answer any questions patients may have when trying to find your practice.

5. Collecting Contact Details

Rather than instructing your in-house receptionist to devote a large portion of time to collecting patient contact information, try outsourcing this important but time-consuming process to an answering service. When properly trained in HIPAA and other data security procedures, an outsourced receptionist can collect and compile patient payment information, contact details and insurance specifics.

6. Making Follow-Up Calls

According to a study published in The Ulster Medical Journal, approximately 78 percent of patients expect a follow-up call after receiving an operation. While the study focused on the patients of medical doctors specifically, similar results can be expected for dental patients who receive invasive oral treatments. Hiring a medical answering service to take care of your follow-up calls will help you meet your patients’ expectations without taking up the valuable time of your on-site staff.

7. Taking Messages

While it has been mentioned that patients don’t like to leave messages, this attitude changes if the patient is able to leave a message with a real person. When a patient calls after hours and is able to leave a message with someone they know will deliver it to the intended recipient, they are much more likely to be satisfied with the service they receive.

No matter how efficient your in-house receptionist may be, he or she can’t possibly work 24 hours a day. Hiring a medical answering service is a great way to ensure that patients talk to a real person each time they call your practice.

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Choosing a HIPAA Compliant Medical Answering Service

HIPAA Compliant Answering Service

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act has revolutionized the way health information is handled by not only the healthcare industry, but its associated service providers as well. Here are some facts to keep in mind when you are choosing a HIPAA compliant medical answering service for your healthcare practice.

The Way Electronic Protected Health Information Is Handled Is Crucial for Compliance

Correct electronic protected health information (ePHI) handling in accordance with HIPAA requirements is of utmost importance. The update to HIPAA in 2013 declared that all service providers for the medical industry must comply with the same privacy and security rules as healthcare providers. This means that when a call center takes messages, the messages need to be protected as if they were being stored and delivered by the medical office itself. Whether the stored information is being accessed by a desktop, mobile device, or a PC, it needs to be protected whether in a database, being transferred, or emailed.

You Need to Ensure Your Medical Answering Service Has All Applicable Safeguards in Place

The HIPAA Journal has published a handy HIPAA compliance checklist that explains all of the safeguards that need to be in place for compliance. Necessary technical safeguards for ePHI are encryption of data in transit, an authentication method to check if ePHI has been modified in any way, an access to information that is restricted to only verified users with a password and PIN code, and automatic system logoff when there is inactivity at a terminal or device. Another technological compliance safeguard for call centers is a message lifespan feature that will limit the amount of time a message is on a provider or associate’s electronic device in order to deter information being seen by an unauthorized user.

Physical safeguards that need to be followed by medical answering services include protecting the physical area where information is stored, including servers and computer terminals. This could mean restricting access to certain rooms or building areas to only authorized personnel. Administratively, a program to assess and manage risk needs to be in place, which should include an ongoing training program for staff regarding HIPAA compliance. Reporting protocol and contingency plans in the case of a security breach must be in place as well.

The bottom line is that you want a medical answering service that adheres to these HIPAA best practices whether they record calls by transcription, message taking, or voicemail:

  • – Fully adopt privacy procedures, thoroughly training employees on an ongoing basis.
  • – Inform callers how their personal data will be used in the context of the phone call.
  • – Keep patient information secure by restricting access and encryption.
  • – Continue to monitor call center performance to make sure it is HIPAA compliant.

Secure Messaging Systems Can Be Incredibly Communicative and Collaborative

The digital magazine Physicians Practice states regular SMS text messaging is not HIPAA compliant and needs to be stopped by physicians so they do not get into trouble. It notes one way to increase messaging security with mobile devices is to install encryption software onto all healthcare providers’ smartphones.

Another suggestion is the sound practice of routing all communications through a secured network where only authorized users can access information and attachments of images and data. The secured network can also be a space for collaborative small group discussions with other providers.

While advancements in technology have provided the healthcare industry with greater connectivity in regards to the ability to share information between providers and patients, it has also come with an added responsibility to preserve patient confidentiality while continuing a high level of customer service. As an extension of your business, your medical answering service needs to have the tools and knowledge to truly be a partner in complying with HIPAA regulations.

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Don’t Hire an Answering Service Unless It Offers These 6 Services

Business Answering Service by VoiceNation

Doctor’s offices can’t hire just any old medical answering service to handle their incoming calls. There are so many specific concerns that staff members must take into account — HIPAA is just one — that the level of training for telephone agents can be highly specialized. So when it comes to selecting from among all the services out there, office managers must be very selective in who they choose to partner with. These six services should be chief among the priorities.

Round-the-Clock Service

Medical practices have regular business hours, but that means little in the current market where patients need and expect care at all hours of the day. As a result, any medical answering service an office is considering must offer 24/7 service so that patients always are being greeted and helped by a live person. No medical practice wants sensitive, HIPAA-protected information being left on an in-office answering machine that the whole office can hear when the recorded messages are played back in the morning.

HIPAA-Compliance-Trained Staff

Professional agents who work for a medical answering service are highly trained in all aspects of medical privacy. They know what information to take in and, perhaps more importantly, what information can be given out according to the federal government’s HIPAA regulations. With in-office receptionists, medical professionals might not find the same level of privacy, especially when the office is full of people who can overhear phone conversations happening at the front desk.

Bilingual Option

As a giant melting pot of a country, the United States has many residents who don’t speak English. In fact, the U.S. has more Spanish speakers than Spain does! Medical office managers need a medical answering service that offers bilingual assistance so that every patient gets the care he or she needs. Plus, the service must be able to convey the privacy rules required under HIPAA in both English and Spanish. Practices that want to grow their clientele are wise to serve the Spanish-speaking market as well as native English speakers.

Appointment Setting

Many medical practices don’t want to pay their in-house staff a high daily wage to do mundane tasks such as scheduling appointments. Offices can save money by hiring a medical answering service that can handle this chore and allow highly trained in-office workers to do the jobs their expertise serves better. Plus, appointment calls can be long, which can tie up an office phone for too long, and they might include HIPAA-protected information, so having that conversation in front of dozens of people is not a good solution.

Remote Access

When the work day is over and the medical staff has gone home, doctors and nurses still need to be in touch with their patients. Or, if a doctor is away from the practice at a conference or training, he or she must be able to access all messages remotely with ease. It is vital to choose a medical answering service that offers a variety of ways in which medical workers can get the HIPAA-appropriate information they need no matter where they are. Even if they are just down the hallway, they should be able to get messages on their phone or on the computer in a patient room quickly and easily.

Toll-Free Phone Numbers

Although cell phones have decreased the importance of toll-free numbers, there still are many patients who use a landline for phone calls. That means long-distance charges remain a concern for lots of patients. It also is important to select a medical answering service that offers toll-free numbers so that elderly or low-income patients using a landline find no barrier to getting the care they need. The idea of medical care is that it is accessible to everyone, and toll-free numbers facilitate that goal.

From HIPAA-trained agents to round-the-clock care, these six services are crucial for any medical practice that aspires to serve its patients well.

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Finding an Answering Service That Keeps Up With Your Medical Practice

Medical Office Answering ServiceMedical offices are bustling places, with patients coming and going, staff members hurrying to assist clients and, ideally, a waiting room full of people seeking care. Efficiency is the key to smooth operation for a medical practice, and not a moment of time or labor should be wasted. (more…)