In today’s healthcare system, patients often rely on their doctors to provide them with information regarding medical issues. This means that doctors are expected to answer questions from patients at all hours of the day, even at night and on weekends. Some questions can wait until the office opens again. However, some questions are urgent and require an immediate answer.

Answering services are very popular because they allow patients to reach someone at any time of the day. The answering service can answer basic questions and forward more urgent inquiries to the doctor on call for your practice. These services save time for both parties involved. If you are considering hiring an answering services, here are 15 traits that you should look for when hiring a professional answering service for your medical practice.

HIPAA Compliance & Security

HIPAA compliance is important for everyone with a medical practice, but especially for answering services. It means that the answering service needs to undergo HIPAA security training. 

This training will teach them to protect your medical records from unauthorized access. They will also be educated on the importance of protecting medical information that is deemed private by law, such as your patient’s personal information and insurance information.

Costs Compared to Other Options

There are many options for answering services available to medical practices, such as answering systems and virtual receptionists. The advantage of hiring a live answering service is that the person picking up your call will be an actual person and not a computer. 

Answering services understand that callers are often nervous about calling a medical office and therefore have been trained to help them through their concerns by using calming words. They are usually very patient and always treat the caller with respect.

Call Answer Times

Answering services should have an average call answer time of 10 seconds or less. This means that they are able to answer your call immediately so that you do not have to wait on hold. 

Coverage Times for Medical Practices

A reputable answering service will provide 24 hour coverage or at the very least, offer coverage during the most commonly called times. You want to be sure that your answering service of choice is available when you need them most.

Hold Times

If the answering service has to put your patient’s calls on hold, they should track how long they are on hold for. The best answering services have very short hold times, even for busy periods when call volume is high.

The problem with being on hold is that you are more likely to lose the patient or have a negative customer experience. Hold times may be necessary, but you want those hold times to be as short as possible. The sooner you can get your patient on the phone, the sooner they can get help and have a better overall experience. 

To ensure that your patients are not put on hold too long, you should research the average hold time of each answering service you are considering before hiring them. This is a statistic that they should have on hand when you ask. They are asked so commonly about this that the information should be readily available. If it is not, then that is a red flag that you should probably look somewhere else. 

Reputation

When you are searching for an answering service, you want to choose a company that has a reputation for excellence. You will be able to find reviews about each company on the internet or through word of mouth. 

Reputation is important because it shows what people really think about the services that they have received from an answering service. If you find it difficult to find information about a company’s reputation, you may want to think again about working with them. 

This means that they haven’t generated a lot of buzz through good services, or they may be actively trying to conceal the fact that their customers are not satisfied with the results. Regardless, use what information you can find about the company to determine if it is a company that you should work with. 

Also, keep in mind that most reputable answering services have been around for a long time, so look into how long they have been in business and how many years they have worked with doctors like yourself.

Pricing Structure

The best answering services will have flexible pricing structures. They will provide a free consultation to help you determine what your most cost effective options are. In fact, they might already have a package that will meet your needs. However, you might need something more customized than what they offer so flexibility is a must.

Prizing plays a big part in whether people decide to work with a company or not. If the prices are fair and the pricing structure leaves room to customize services to their needs, customers are happy to continue on with the company. 

Call Operator Proficiency

The best answering services will have a high level of proficiency with patients’ names and other personal information. They should also have exceptional listening skills. They should be able to answer questions and follow up on pressing issues that concern the patient’s health in a timely manner.

Call Operator Attitude

It is important that the call operators have the right attitude to handle medical calls. They should be knowledgeable, patient, and not give advice unsolicited. This is especially important when dealing with patients who do not understand the medical condition they are facing. 

Also, answering services should always be kind and considerate at all times. How the operators handle your patients will determine if you keep patients. An operator that has an attitude problem can hurt your business. 

Look for evidence that the call operators have the right demeanor to handle patient calls. Most, if not all, answering services record their calls and can provide examples of their work when asked. Review enough call records to determine if you think the operators are capable of doing the job up to your standards. 

Complaint Handling Process

The best answering services will offer a complaint handling process that is quick and easy to use. They will also resolve issues in a timely manner through their complaint handling process.

A good process allows you to provide feedback or for patients to file complaints that are dealt with effectively. If the answering service does not take this seriously, that means you could continue to experience problems with no way to address them. Ultimately, you want an answering service that will work with you to make sure the services that they provide are up to your practice’s standards. 

Spoken Language Options

The best answering services will offer different spoken language options on their answering service. This means that you can choose to call the same patient in a different language to ensure that they understand what is going on. This is especially helpful for patients who primarily speak languages other than English.

The service should be able to provide language assistance for the most popular languages in your area. For example, most of the United States speaks English and Spanish. A good answering service should have the ability to service patients in English and Spanish, and maybe a few other options. 

Service Trials

The best answering services will offer service trials. This means that they will allow you to try the service for a set amount of time before making a decision at no cost to you. If a company is confident in its ability to get you as a client, then offering a free trial should not be a problem. These trials are generally a few weeks to a month. 

Expertise in Medical Answering Services

In order for an answering service to be successful at providing medical answering services, they need to have knowledge of the different models of answering services. They should be able to explain the differences between various answering service tools that are available to help patients and doctors with their communication needs.

Emergency Service Availability

Make sure that your chosen answering service is available in case of emergencies. Ask if the answering service provides emergency services and if so, what their fee structure and capabilities are. That way, you have all of the backup that you need if there is a problem in your area. 

Work With Answer Aide to Improve Your Practice Response Time

Every answering service is different, but they do provide an important service. Your practice needs an answering service to make sure that your clients get the help that they need. Companies like Answer Aide are a one-stop shop for all of your answering service needs and we can help you set up an answering service that meets all of your practice’s standards.

If you’re ready to get started with a professional answering service, we’re here to help. Contact Answer Aide by calling (866) 427-3500 or by filling out our online form. We’re happy to partner with you to support your business while it grows.