Certain fields routinely use 24 hour answering services in case of emergencies outside of regular business hours, among them the medical field. But while nearly any answering service can provide certain basic benefits, choosing a medical answering service requires a bit more thought. Here are three things to keep in mind if you’re in the healthcare industry and are looking to hire a new answering company:
- Experience With Medical Situations
Medical and mental health practitioners often use an answering service so that patients can contact them in case of emergencies. But a patient in distress may require a higher level of professionalism and specialized knowledge than a customer who just needs to know a widgetmaker’s hours or leave a message. The staff for medical answering companies often have the training to offer both of these, which means that your patients have a better experience — and you’re less likely to be woken up in the middle of the night for a call that isn’t a true emergency.
- HIPAA Compliance
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act protects the privacy of patient information. Because a medical answering service may interact with patients and record their data, it’s important that you determine whether you are required by law to work with a HIPAA-compliant answering service. This is a step that doesn’t even occur to many health professionals; don’t let yourself be among them, opening yourself up to lawsuits or fines.
- Secure Messaging Capabilities
Another concern related to HIPAA is the method by which a medical answering service transmits data to you and other health practitioners. Most answering services transfer calls; record voice messages; or transcribe and transmit messages via email, text or fax depending on your preference. But if confidential data is included, it’s important that these communication methods be properly encrypted or otherwise secured.
Have you used after hours answering services, either inside or outside the medical field? Do you have any more advice to share? Join in the discussion using the comments. Get more on this here.