Your Quick Start Guide to Medical Answering Services

Jan 15, 2020
outsource medical answering services

A medical answering service enables medical professionals to focus all their attention on their patients. Medical answering service is responsible for receiving all incoming calls so that the staff do not have not need to deal with it and instead concentrate on the needs of their patients.

A professional medical answering service ensures that the best customer service is provided and close attention is paid to details of the customers when they call. It enables you and your staff to save time when you practice. You don’t need to hire a receptionist full-time when you opt for medical answering service and this enables you to save money.

The medical answering service can do wonders for your practice since it can take away the stress of handling calls and patients at the same time. It can help improve the reputation of your practice, which is a major advantage of medical answering services. The best part about a medical answering service is that it is suitable for all types of medical practices.

What happens initially when a call is made to your practice, it is routed to a remote receptionist who will speak on behalf of your practice. The professionals who work in medical answering service are trained so that they can answer basic questions about your practice such as the location and timings.

These virtual receptionists can be given training so that they can make appointments, help route the patient information to you, and can help in case of emergencies. For instance, if an emergency call has been made, these receptionists can transfer the calls to the concerned parties so that swift action can be immediately taken.

If the people who are making the incoming calls need to speak to someone in your practice, then the medical phone answering service can transfer the call to you directly. Else, these receptionists can send an email, send a text message, or connect to the practitioner as appropriate.

Medical virtual answering services have another benefit that cannot be undermined. It can enable answering of calls outside of business hours which is crucial in case of emergencies. Emergencies can happen anytime and by being prepared by providing a 24/7 helpline enables callers to get help even when they are calling at 2 in the morning.

Hiring a medical answering service can prove to be a boon to your practice as you will be able to serve your patients better and be able to handle calls without any compromise. In addition, you will be able to save time since someone else will be taking all incoming calls and you will save money too.

HIPAA Compliant Answering Services

Patient health information or PHI needs to be safe and this is why HIPAA or Health Insurance Probability and Accountability Act has put forth guidelines that must be followed by doctors who wish to opt for medical answering services. HIPAA was signed to ensure a patient’s health information is safe and secure and ensures privacy protection.

Regardless of whether you have an office setup or if you work with a lawyer and have a contract with him, everyone involved must be HIPAA compliant. Every party involved must be HIPAA compliant when you opt for a medical answering service. HIPAA applies to anyone who works in the American healthcare industry.

It is important that you choose a HIPAA compliant answering service but there are some things that you need to keep in mind when doing so. In 2013, HIPAA stated that every medical service provider should follow the guidelines that are followed by healthcare providers.

That is, the medical answering service providers should comply with the rules of privacy and security just like the healthcare providers. Irrespective of how the information is being stored, such as in a mobile device, PC, or desktop, the information must be safe and protected at all times whether during transfer, or stored in a database.

The HIPAA compliance checklist is available in the HIPAA Journal that enables you to understand all the compliance requirements. An example is the message lifespan feature that limits how long the message stays in the provider’s electronic device. This prohibits any unauthorized user to access the information. Another example of compliance is protection of terminals and servers where the patient information is stored. You can restrict access to where these terminals are to ensure maximum protection. HIPAA has several such physical and technical safeguards that must be complied with.

4 Markers For A Successful Medical Answering Service

The medical answering service needs to have the following in order for it to work successfully in your favor.

  • You need to ensure that the people in your practice are aware about how they will be affected by the medical answering services. That is, informing doctors, office staff, and patients is of utmost importance so that they know how the procedures work. For instance, doctors should be made aware about the way the call center will contact during afterhours in case of emergency. You should think about whether any changes are required to the procedures.
  • It should work in accordance to the field you are working and operating in. For example, when you opt for a medical answering service there is a chance that they have a standard script that they are working with. This script might not be perfect for your particular practice which is why you should take the time to ensure they are working with instructions that are best for your practice. To do this, you need to understand the types of calls that are going to be handled.
  • As calls are recorded and logged, you can find out how effective the medical call center is. If you find that some things can be improved, then you can make changes accordingly. The data from the call center is vital and you should ensure that you can make improvements so that it is beneficial to everyone involved including your patients. For example, in the case of non-emergency calls, patients can be asked to call during office hours.
  • When you opt for a medical call center, it is important you are always on top of things. This is why updates are crucial and you should not ignore them. For example, you should let the call center know if any doctors have left the practice. When you make the call center a part of your practice, then they will be aware about everything and can handle calls in a better and a more informed manner.. This is why any change in procedures should be informed to the call center too.

Medical And Healthcare Call Center Services

A medical call center can provide a wide array of services. The following are some of the popular services that a healthcare call center can provide.

  • Customer care is the topmost medical call center service where customer support is provided. Customers call the customer care number with regards to a query they have and then the agents to provide resolutions based on the query.
  • Peak call volume support is a medical call center service that enables better call handling of a high number of incoming calls. In this service, peak call volumes are efficiently handled by the call center through outsourcing or other means.
  • Scheduling and reminders are services provided by call centers to schedule appointments and to remind patients about appointments among others. This service enables patients to remember when something needs to be done.
  • Medication reminders are important services provided by medical call centers that remind people to purchase medication or take medications. These are usually geared towards the elderly of people who are suffering from certain medical health conditions.
  • A popular service of healthcare call centers is new member welcome calls. In this, calls are made to members who have opted to membership options to educate them about the plan, its benefits, and the programs that are associated with the chosen membership.
  • Billing enquiries management is one of the healthcare call center services that most medical answering services have. Patients can call up when they have queries regarding the bills or when they spot a mistake in the bill that is provided to them. 
  • Enquiries are where customers can ask questions with regards to the hospital or other aspects of the facility. Customers can ask about the services that the hospital provides and other general or specific queries depending on what they want to know.
  • Pharmacy helpline is one of the medical answering services where patients can call up to find information with regards to medications. For example, it can provide customers with information about pharmacy or available medicines.
  • Post-discharge follow-up service is for patients who have had successful treatment and then are getting follow-up information through calls. This can be used for providing support and care to the patients who are out of the hospital and in the recovery stage.
  • Dental answering service is a call center service that is made for people working in the dental industry. It enables you to take calls even outside of business working hours. This service enables professional call center services that can take calls, messages, and route calls among other services.
  • Benefit inquiry, pre-certification and claims adjudication is a service that some call centers provide. These enable patients to receive information about the benefit plans they are eligible for and information with regards to pre-certification.
  • Pre-admission planning service is a medical call center service that involves making patient ready before he is admitted to the hospital. The call center agent ensures that everything pre-admission is done and communicates with the patient about the same.
  • Appointment setting and scheduling service refers to setting appointments with doctors and the required medical healthcare professionals. Customers can call the center and book an appointment. The agents can call back to remind them about the appointment.
  • The front desk is a service that enables call center agents to take calls. This service can require the agent to transfer the call to someone else or can transfer the call to the concerned department. The front desk service of a call center is important.
  • Overflow call support ensures that no call goes unanswered. When the maximum capacity of the call center is reached, then calls are overflowed to an overflow group which are often outsourcers. This enables customer satisfaction since all calls are answered.
  • A physician referral is another service that can be provided by a healthcare call center. In this service, a patient is referred to another physician. This is for consultation purposes and to get a second opinion.
  • Answering service is a service provided by healthcare call centers whereby the call is picked by an experienced call center agent.  Depending on the question of the caller, the agent answers the call or routes the call to the concerned party.
  • Emergency services helpline is a service that enables people to call in case of an emergency. This is one of the most crucial services because it enables customers and patients to get the help they need instantly to at least get something in control until help arrives.
  • Medical device (HME and DME) sales are services in which the call center agents call to inform and sell medical devices. This is similar to a sales call since it deals with thoroughly informing and then selling.
  • Any type of survey is beneficial to understand how things are working currently. The physician, pharmacist and patient surveys are services provided by the call center. In these, agents call and ask questions and take a survey to understand how things can improve.
  • Healthcare plan updates is a healthcare service whereby call center professionals call to tell patients and inform them about plan updates. This informative call is there to ensure the patients understand the changes that have been made.
  • 24/7 customer support is the need of the hour for the healthcare industry since people expect to be able to ask questions whenever they wish. This service enables agents to take calls around the clock so customers can get their questions answered whenever they have one.
  • Collections are vital parts of the healthcare industry and this is one of the services that are provided by many medical call centers. This call center service deals with streamlining fee collections so that productivity can be increased.
  • Order processing is a healthcare call center service that deals with the proper processing of orders made by patients. The call center agents enable the entire process to go smoothly and ensuring maximum customer satisfaction.
  • 24/7 medical assistance helpline is a call center service where assistance is provided to customers when they need help at any point of the day. Patients can have questions regarding symptoms or they may want to get answers to medical questions.
  • Clinical trials registration is a process by which patients can take part in clinical trials that are being provided by a healthcare facility. In this type of healthcare call center service, the call center agents get details of interested patients who want to register for clinical trials.
  • Outreach and assessment is a service of the healthcare call center that provides outreach services along with analyzing the data that was gathered through the calls. This enables process improvement.
  • Patient win back services are important because every patient is valuable. This service enables call center agents to speak to the patients, ask about why they left, what changes they wish to see, and utilize ways to win back the patient.
  • Claims status is a service that enables customers to check and track the status of their claims. This is one of the popular services of medical call centers as patients can find out about whether their claim has been accepted or denied.
  • Insurance verification services enable call center agents to verify the insurance details of the patient calling. This service usually includes determining the benefits that the patient can get and the insurance coverage details.
  • Event registration is one of healthcare call center service that enables efficient registration of people who are interested to attend events. In this service, the agents call up people who have shown interest in a healthcare event.
  • Patient information verification is a call center service that enables verification of patients when they make a call. Some call centers go through records to see whether the patient is eligible for insurance and what benefits he or she can get.
  • Drug and medical device launches are healthcare call center services in which the call center professionals call to inform about new medications and medical devices that have been recently launched.
  • After hours support is another healthcare call center service that is important. It enables customers to get customer support outside of business hours. Customers can have questions at any time of the day and call centers can provide customers with the help they need whenever they need it.
  • Health insurance exchange (HIX) payment reminders are one of the healthcare call center services that enable people to get reminders about making payment for their health insurance plan that they have chosen.

How To Choose The Right Medical Answering Service?

Medical answering service can indeed prove to be an asset for any healthcare industry, but this is the only case when the right medical answering service has been chosen. If you choose the wrong one, then you can expect unsatisfied callers and a negative impact on your practice. You need to be clear about the features that you are looking for.

Every practice is different and so are the requirements. You want to ensure that every single feature that you need is available in the medical answering service. This enables you to go forward and eliminate the answering services that do not provide the services that you are looking for, thereby saving time in the process.

 Transparency

You should first ensure that the medical answering services that you are considering are transparent with regards to their services, fees, and terms. If they are not, then it is best to look for other answering services. Instead of talking about it, it is best if you take this all in writing. This will make it clear for you and the medical answering service about what is to be expected and it makes it safe for both in case any problems occur down the line.

You can have an attorney review this written contract to make sure it makes sense and it has all the important things in order. You should make sure that the written contract is like you discussed.

Infrastructure and Backup Services

You should have information about the infrastructure of the medical answering service. This is because it will enable you to know how well it can handle in case of things going wrong. For example, does it have the infrastructure that supports a high uptime? Does the medical answering service provide backup so that in case of a natural disaster or other problem, service is not affected? You need to ask these questions to ensure that all the incoming calls will be answered at all times without any interruptions even during natural disasters or blackouts. It is important to take time considering what you want and then go forth from there to find the right answering service.

Call center services are vital and their role is crucial in any industry so that customers are given the professional service they are looking for. Call centers provide a wide range of services such as order taking, inbound telemarketing services, claims processing, 800 number answering service, and interactive voice response. 

There are two types of call center services – inbound call center and outbound call center.  Inbound call center services are those where customers make the call and the call center agents answer the calls. These involve inbound telemarketing, inbound customer support, inbound call services, inbound customer service.

Medical answering service can give you a range of services which can prove to be advantageous especially if you have a busy office. It can enable your practice to run more efficiently and enables you to save money in the process since you don’t have to pay for a receptionist who works full-time.

Talk to us

If you are still not sure whether a medical answering service is good for you then you should consider hiring a medical answering service for attending calls after business hours. You can opt for a medical answering service when the incoming calls are overflowing too. You should be clear about the features that you are looking for in medical answering services before you choose one. Speak to an Expert Callers representative today for more information.