Many Doctors use an answering service to handle after hour calls. Finding a reliable medical answering service is not difficult but will take a little time. Here are some pointers to help you size up different call centers so you can find the right call center for your medical practice.
PEOPLE: First, hiring an answering service for a doctor’s office is like hiring a receptionist to answer the phone. Like most receptionists they do more than just answer the phone they need know what information to collect and what to do with that information. Take the time to outline what information you would like to have the answering service collect on your behalf. What rules will the agents need to follow to get the correct information to the right person? A doctor’s answering service needs training and rules just like a new employee. This will take time. Ask if the call center is HIPAA compliant? What kind of training do the agents get, regarding patient confidentiality? You can never ask too many questions about employees and how they instill the right skills for the job.
COST: Now more than ever, there is a pressure on the medical industry to contain costs. Call centers bill in a verity of ways, the 2 most common are “Per Minute” and “Per Call” pricing. When you look at various packages 95 cents per minute is not always more expensive than 75 cents per minute. If you work with the call center to make the call process as efficient as possible you may find you can save a lot of money down the road. When comparing “Per Call” rates with “Per Minute” many times you will find the per minute rate is a better value. If you are getting a lot of calls that last less than 30 seconds then that $1 per call is really costing you about $2 per minute. Having said all that, a good answering service will work with you to contain your costs take the time to discuss your budget and goals.
TECHNOLOGY: The medical industry has some of the busiest offices around. What systems and services can they share with you that will add to your patient’s experience? The better answering services will identify your doctor’s needs, customize a solution and evolve with you as your practice grows. Some services can help with overflow during lunch and let you catch up on your in box. Maybe they can assist when you are short staffed or your phone lines go down. Ask about their “backup” plan.
In time a doctor’s answering service will become like the after hour “office” and the doctors and staff will get to know the customer service representative, that’s a good thing. Take some time to get to know the staff. Are they the type of people you would like to work with in your own office? If you find the best answering service for you, they will be like part of the team, there when you need them for years to come.