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7 Ways an Answering Service Can Help Your Medical Office

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As a medical professional, your main priority is taking care of your patients, and that???s when they???re both in and out of your office. No matter the size of your practice or office, there are sure to be times when you need a bit of help, which is where a professional medical answering service comes in. Learn seven unique ways in which an answering service can boost the capabilities of your medical office:

1. You Don???t Have to Hire a Full-Time Receptionist

If you have a small practice, you might not have the financial resources necessary to hire a full-time receptionist to answer the phones, schedule appointments, answer patient questions and the like. With an answering service, you can easily afford to have someone do all that and so much more. Even better is the fact that the right medical answering service agent will have an abundance of experience, which means you don???t run the risk of hiring someone who???s unqualified.

2. Phones Are Answered Faster

When your office is particularly busy, there might not be anyone on hand to answer the phones, which can frustrate callers and patients in need of answers. Having an answering service on hand ensures calls are always answered ??? and answered promptly ??? no matter how busy things get. Remember that a caller might have an emergency on his or her hands, and being able to get through to your office and speaking to someone can offer an abundance of relief and reassurance.

3. Scheduling Appointments Is Made Easier

At the end of the year when patients are scrambling to use their medical benefits before they run out, you might notice you have more people calling to set up appointments, and that???s in addition to your current patients calling with any questions or emergencies they might have. You can rely on a medical answering service specifically to handle year-end appointments to satisfy everyone, including yourself. Something else to think about is the fact that someone might need to reschedule an appointment, which could require some finesse if you have an especially packed calendar.

4. Remain HIPAA Compliant

Keeping patient information protected under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act is essential in this day and age, and the right answering service better ensures you remain compliant. A new receptionist who???s just getting started might not be aware of the latest changes or developments to HIPAA, which could become a serious liability. Rather than take your chances, rely on an experienced medical answering service instead.

5. You???ll Be Brought in When You Truly Need to Be

Some caller questions are easily and quickly taken care of by an answering service, while others require the professional medical expertise of a nurse or doctor. By pairing with the right answering service, you don???t have to worry about being interrupted or called in for situations that are easily handled by an answering service agent. What???s more is you don???t have to worry as much about callers getting the wrong information from agents who don???t know whom to reach out to or when.

6. Professionalism

No matter how talented a medical professional you are, you???re only as good and successful as you treat your patients. An experienced medical answering service knows how to treat your patients with respect and courtesy, setting the tone for what they can expect when they step into your office.

7. Reliability

Patients also like to deal with medical professionals who are reliable and actually answer their phones. An answering service can go a long way in this endeavor. What???s more is an answering service can make sure calls go through even during local power outages.

If you don???t yet have a medical answering service for your practice, what are you waiting for? Know that you have much more to gain than the seven reasons mentioned above.

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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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The Service your Patients Deserve

Friendlly Answering Service for Doctors After Hours

Your patients who call your office outside of business hours are usually doing so because they are in extreme discomfort and pain or are taking care of a friend or family member who is having medical difficulties. They need professional direction and timely assistance, and there is no better way of accomplishing that than starting out your caller’s interaction with your practice by talking to a live person. Here are some benefits of providing warm and personalized service to your patients through a quality live answering service.

Calm and Reassurance

When patients or their family members feel they are not getting the proper assistance readily, their emotions are likely to escalate and make them increasingly uneasy. By speaking right away to a professional person at an answering service, they feel that their concerns are being addressed immediately. The HIPAA compliant call center employee can gather information and give the caller the expectation of a call back from a provider within a certain period of time.

Customer Satisfaction

The National Institutes of Health notes telephone service is one of the most crucial factors in obtaining and maintaining patient satisfaction. Having intelligent professionals answer the phone after hours with the proper training to handle a wide variety of questions and concerns and the empathy to give warm and personalized service can help would-be and current patients feel more comfortable.

Better Service and Accessibility

More comprehensive service and a heightened level of accessibility can be achieved with a fully trained answering service. A HIPAA compliant call center has a certain workflow order and set protocols that actually streamline the communication process, which in turn gives patients better service overall. A professional answering service with bilingual abilities extends your accessibility to all your patients beyond your traditional business hours. In addition, you can be assured you will never miss a call by having an answering service to help you provide 24-hour access.

HIPAA Compliant Staff Know How to Process Protected Health Information

A professional answering service that is HIPAA compliant will be knowledgeable about what is considered protected health information and how to handle it within the context of patient interactions and provider messaging. When you have an answering service that is well trained in HIPAA compliant procedures, you can be at ease knowing the answering service can truly operate as an extension of your medical practice and preserve the privacy of patient information.

Patient Retention

Improving customer service is key to retaining patients and gaining referrals. It dramatically decreases the level of frustration patients may feel when they call and get an automated voice mailbox at the other end of the line. Having a professional answering service answer your calls after hours extends the personalized attention your office provides during business hours. Patients will know they can count on you and your practice to provide timely service no matter what the hour and will tell others about their positive experiences with your medical practice.

Saves Your Business Money

The cost effectiveness of hiring an answering service is yet another benefit of having around-the-clock phone coverage. Even if you are tempted to offer your receptionists overtime hours to staff the phones in the evenings or early mornings, the cost of the overtime may be prohibitive, especially if you are just getting your practice off the ground. When you hire a remote service experienced in service to medical practices, you get the value of coverage at a fraction of the cost.

An article in Forbes notes that “80% of callers sent to voicemail do not leave messages.” Instead, they hang up in frustration and do not get the interaction they were wishing to have with your practice. For many health care providers, that statistic is unacceptable, and they find that a HIPAA compliant answering service differentiates them from other providers in the marketplace.

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

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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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Why You Need a Bilingual Medical Answering Service

Bilingual Medical Answering ServiceThe benefits of hiring an answering service for your medical practice are numerous and robust. You can dramatically increase your patients’ satisfaction rates without losing money to more salaries and overhead. If you have decided you want to reap the rewards of a medical answering service, then be sure to choose one with operators who are fluent in both Spanish and English. Here are the top four reasons why a bilingual answering service could be your practice’s ace in the hole.

1. Increase in Nation’s Spanish Speakers

According to Pew Research Center, the number of Spanish speakers in the United states will increase to between 39 million and 43 million people over the next three years. Since there is a strong chance that at least some of these people will become your patients, you should make sure your practice is prepared. With a bilingual medical answering service, you can provide care to anyone who calls your office, no matter which language they are more comfortable using.

2. Access to Ready-Made Operators

Even if you already realize it will help your practice to offer Spanish communication, it can still be difficult to implement this service. Recruiting new employees is time-consuming, especially if you are hunting for such a specific skill. It can even be detrimental to your practice if you hire someone who is good at Spanish but does not have other desirable employee qualities.

Instead of being crippled by these issues, you can purchase the services of a trusted bilingual medical answering service and call it a day. Exceptional answering services thoroughly vet their employees and make ongoing training part of their business models. When you hire a company that prioritizes excellence, you can relax knowing that operators will not only speak to your patients in their preferred language, but will do so with kindness and respect.

3. Offer More Comprehensive Services

When your patients are sick, they want to know you will go the extra mile to care for them. One way to make a lasting impression is to offer a variety of amenities, including bilingual answering services. Spanish-speaking patients who talk to your medical answering service will instantly feel better when they realize they can set appointments and request information in the language they prefer to use.

Even patients who do not primarily speak Spanish will notice you offer diverse communication options, and are likely to be impressed by that fact. This extra tier of service may improve patient loyalty and even increase the amount of referral business you obtain.

4. Show All Patients You Care

Some researchers have cited language barriers as one of the main detriments to the overall health of multicultural populations. When bilingual communication services are not available, critical medical information can be lost in translation, and the results can be disastrous. You care about all your patients, so you should do everything you can to combat the threats posed by language barriers.

Your practice’s medical answering service can be just one of several ways you convey your commitment to all your patients. When you offer diverse communication options, your patients who prefer to speak Spanish will know their needs are being met from the outset of your relationship. Meanwhile, you can proceed with treatment more confidently knowing you are taking steps to provide the best possible treatment.

Getting With the Times

Choosing a leading bilingual answering service like VoiceNation can help you offer a higher level of service to a greater number of people. Spanish is becoming more ubiquitous in the United States every day, and offering an enhanced medical answering service can help you stay ahead of the trend.

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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…)

Five Ways an Answering Service Can Help With Patient Care