What to Look for when Choosing the Best Medical Answering Service

23 Sep, 2014     admin

Being a healthcare professional, you might agree that your organization’s time management is absolutely critical while also being unpredictable. Differing schedules, priorities, urgency levels, etc. all on top of having a deluge of specific expertise requirements spread throughout the organization.

It is because of these dynamics that it has become necessary for healthcare providers to provide 24 hour response to patients and their personal health demands. This also means that what is required to do so is much more advanced than ever before. Options are limited for several reasons, for example the overall cost, limited personnel and IT management capabilities, scheduling issues, etc. But regardless of the limits, it absolutely has to be accomplished.

Deciding on a medical answering service can be a discouraging undertaking, without a doubt. So in your search for the best service out there, keep in mind there are specific aspects and features to look for in a quality answering service that will help you make the best decision for your personal practice and your organization overall.

Customer Service Ratings

Look for a company that has high customer service ratings. Check out their client testimonials and ask about their annual retention rates. Many companies will post testimonials and other trust signals proudly on their website. These are excellent signs of customer service and quality of service. Keep your eye out for their own personal ratings as well, if customer service is important to them as a company, it’s more likely that they practice what they preach.

Vendor reputation is key to making sure your customers are able to get the help they need and in designing the right answering service for your company. Another way to find out who you might be dealing with is to pick up the phone and give them a call. See what kind of personality is on the other end of the call. If they are helpful, friendly, and supportive of your needs, you might consider continuing further investigation into their company.

Custom Options

One of the most important parts of a good answering service is the ability to adapt to any type of schedule needed. Make sure you are looking at a company that provides a system that is fully customizable, allowing for real-time changes and can support multiple doctors or users.

Some of the best answering services out there can cater to each user, in that they have their own personalized on-call and escalation process. For example, if a response is not given to the first urgent notification, the process escalates to your choice of texts, cell phones, pagers, email, home phone, etc. all based on urgency of message and situation. Other great features could include delivering messages at a particular time of day for other non-urgent calls.

Having access to customizable options will help you and your business achieve daily success. You are better able to provide exceptional client care and have greater ability to respond in the manner necessary, all while never missing any calls.

HIPAA Compliant

Any company dealing with PHI (Protected Health Information) is required to have the appropriate network security measures in place in order to protect this sensitive information. There are heavy fines associated with any type of breach in security for both the service vendor as well as their clients. Even though you might not think it, much of this sensitive information comes through over the phone and therefore over massive amounts of messaging systems.

You might be taking some risks if your medical answering service is engaging in any non-compliancy standards. For example, if you can’t find a named HIPAA Compliancy Officer, one having the right credentials and training associated with the vendor, or, if their transmissions are unencrypted, or they are using unsecured emails or texts, they are most likely not HIPAA compliant.

A good way to make sure the vendor is compliant is to check to see if they have subcontractor business associate agreements on record for every software vendor having access to personal health information that is being stored or transmitted. Do your due diligence on their customer service representatives and find out if they have completed the necessary trainings to stay on track with HIPAA regulations.

Non-Automated Services

Your clients are the life blood of your business and over 50% of people hang up on voicemail systems. This means you are losing a lot of customers and potential customers when phone calls are sent to an automated messaging system. Even if the vendor is claiming to be affordable and perfectly able to handle the intricate needs of a messaging system, they still lack human interaction. The right type of interaction is indispensable in matters of quality patient care.

Why is human interaction so important? This is the age of communication. Odds are, especially with potential clients, that yours is just one of the many numbers they have in front of them on the computer screen. If they reach an automated system, they can easily hang up and dial the next promising number on the page in front of them. Not to mention, there is a high sense of urgency with any medical condition where the person dealing with the condition has un-answered questions. This sense of urgency is more than likely to push them to seize the moment and find someone to answer their questions at that time. If that isn’t you, odds are it never will be.

Updated Technology

Some companies will boast that they’ve developed and maintained their own software while hosting everything in house. Though this might seem more immune to an extent, there are many problems that can follow an in house software/server provider for an answering service.

First, the cost of maintaining your own IT for this type of service will more than likely cut into the pricing structure, not to mention the risks in having limited resources.

Finding a company with the best updated technology and services might very well include one who deals in virtualization. Not only does this allow for complete back up current systems but it can also allow for complete replacement of the current phone system if desired. For example, keeping your current phone and fax numbers while eliminating your phone bill and system, is possible through virtual management.

Virtualization allows for offsite IT, there you have unlimited resources and server backup with state of the art technology being used. This is crucial to your messaging system in order to customize all incoming phone calls, enhance your voice messaging, perfected phone transfers without losing data, disaster recovery, transcriptions, reports, and notifications and so much more.


Pricing can fluctuate with different services and their offerings. When researching the best medical answering service make sure that you find a company that meets all of your needs then talk pricing. Try to find one that has a flat service rate per month. If the company meets your needs and can offer a flat rate, this could be the best situation for your company. Don’t be fooled by the extremely low rates of $19.95 a month or other incredulously low rates, odds are that these companies aren’t HIPAA compliant and might have other dispatching and protocol issues to deal with as well as quality of service.

Make sure the company can actually offer what it claims in the beginning and then compare pricing. If the plan is designed to and caters the way it should to your business, the one you choose should be able to figure a decent flat rate and not tack on extra fees based on minutes incurred. For more information contact us today.

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