If you’re setting up any kind of health or mental health practice, then one of the logistical issues you’ll need to consider is your phone arrangements — after all, you probably can’t afford to have an employee sitting in the office 24 hours a day, and yet it’s unlikely your patients will only experience problems between the convenient hours of 9 and 5. The best option, and the one most practitioners opt for, is a live telephone answering service. Here’s what you need to know:
How It Works
You can choose to have either a 24 hour answering service or simply an after hours answering service, depending on what kind of in-house staffing you’d like to maintain. In either case, you’ll get a dedicated phone number that your patients can call. When the operator answers that number, he or she will always answer it with the name of your practice so that patients aren’t confused. The operator can then direct the call, forwarding it to a personal number (like your cell) or taking a message.
Choosing the Right One
When you’re looking at medical answering services, rather than standard business answering services, the stakes are somewhat higher. You need to have confidence that the operators employed by your service will be able to handle frustrated, scared, or angry patients who are experiencing emergencies and still be able to keep calm. They’ll also need to know when to dispatch emergency medical services, rather than forwarding a call to your cell or taking a message.
Of course, all medical professionals need to be mindful of both ethical and legal parameters when it comes to privacy and security (namely HIPAA). As you’re choosing your medical answering service, ask specifically what protocols the answering service has in place to keep data private and secure, both in real-time and when it comes to any recordings or messages. It’s both your legal responsibility and the right thing to do.
Do you have anything to add about medical answering services? Join the discussion in the comments.