If you’re a medical professional of any kind, it’s likely that you have a lot on your plate. Physicians have the responsibility of ensuring that adequate and timely medical care is administered to patients when they need it most. On the other hand, if you are a medical office manager, you are responsible for the supervision of appointment scheduling, finance management, and ensuring the clinic runs smoothly.
Regardless of your exact title, it’s essential to remain up-to-date on new technologies and tools that can aid in streamlining your day-to-day practices in the medical field. Not only will this increase the efficiency of your workplace, but it will aid in maintaining a high standard of care for patients.
One of the most valuable tools you can use to simplify your processes and optimize the patient experience is a doctor answering service. While it is likely you have encountered these services in some capacity, you may have yet to research them and their capabilities in full detail. Fortunately, this guide answers your burning questions by breaking down all the key information you need to know about doctor answering services and how they can benefit your practice.
What is a Doctor Answering Service?
A doctor answering service, also known as a medical answering service or a telephone answering service (TAS), is a telecommunications solution that accepts messages from patients and other callers who call outside of the office or clinic hours. These services take calls for physicians and doctor’s offices when their office staff is unavailable.
How Does a Doctor Answering Service Work?
Telephone answering services are used across a wide range of industries, including healthcare, technology, property management, law, and elsewhere. Any organization that receives calls or does business over the phone could benefit from an answering service.
In the medical field, doctor answering services are the services that receive and process inbound calls. When an answering service is in use, calls made to the doctor’s office are forwarded to a call center, where they may be routed through pre-recorded messages and automated systems, or greeted by a live operator. Often, a combination of automated and live operator solutions are used to deliver routine information, direct and screen calls, take messages, and connect callers with on-call physicians in the event of an emergency.
Most often than not, these answering services utilize live operators and enable patients to speak with a real human to address their needs. The call center assesses the caller’s situation and filters it depending on its level of urgency; in other words, if the medical emergency is urgent enough to require immediate attention from the physician, the call center representative will then dispatch the call to the on-call provider. Otherwise, the call center representative will direct the patient to other resources they can use to treat their medical concern or take a message that’s held for regular office hours.
What Do Doctor Answering Services Provide?
There are several functions that a good physician’s answering service will perform that can greatly facilitate your day-to-day taskwork and improve patient care. Certain functions include but are not limited to:
- After-Hours Emergency Service – A doctor answering service can function as the main point of contact for your practice after hours, fielding calls and using intelligent scripting and decision trees to determine which calls need dispatch to the on-call physician and which do not.
- Patient Appointment Scheduling – In using a doctor answering service, you will give your patients the ability to book and manage their appointments anytime and anywhere through the use of web-based calendar systems. This system acts as an automated intermediary between the patient and the physician when the doctor is unavailable.
- Appointment Reminders – By sending automated reminders to patients about their upcoming appointments, a doctor answering service can greatly reduce the costs associated with missed appointments. It also helps ensure that patients receive the care they need when they need it.
- Pre-Screen Messages – Doctor answering services have the capacity to issue automated pre-screen messages to callers, which can provide them with salient information that may affect the status of their calls (e.g. a statement informing the caller that it is after the clinic’s operating hours, instructions on who to contact in the event of a life-threatening emergency). This helps ensure that the doctor-patient experience remains as professional, transparent, and seamless as possible.
- Secure Messaging – Doctor answering services secure messages sent to and received from patients by encrypting them in a secure location, thereby preventing leaks of sensitive data. The platform then stores the messages off the device which keeps the contents of messages private and unreadable, even if the device is lost or stolen. This sense of security will improve your patients’ sense of trust and confidence in your practice, and subsequently enhance your public reputation.
What Are the Benefits of Doctor Answering Services?
There are several benefits of using a doctor answering service, including:
- Reducing Distractions – Practices want to remain available to their patients, but many after-hours calls do not need to reach the on-call provider. Using an answering service as the first line of defense helps reduce distractions by ensuring only the appropriate calls are dispatched to the on-call.
- Saving Money – Doctor answering services keep clear records of phone calls, which can end up reducing potential liability in the event of a patient claim and help your practice save hundreds of thousands of dollars in the long run.
- Availability – Medical emergencies and patient needs don’t stop in the middle of the night or on weekends or holidays. Patients could be calling your facility at any point, which is why the 24-hour availability of a doctor answering service is so useful. This system also ensures that doctors are not getting bombarded with non-urgent calls after hours and acts as a much-needed filtering mechanism.
- Meeting HIPAA Requirements – Due to the sensitive and private nature of patient data, doctor answering services implement electronic safeguards to protect this information. Additionally, companies offering these doctor answering services ensure that staff members are HIPAA trained, thereby ensuring a strong knowledge base of core medical practice principles.
- Call Reporting – Many doctor answering service providers offer useful online reporting systems that provide real-time access to call recordings, messages, on-call schedules, and even customized reports. Such reporting systems can greatly streamline your operations, improve training activities, and enhance patient care.
- Personalization – Doctor answering services are not one-size-fits-all; in order to be effective, they need to be tailored to your practice’s unique structure and requirements. This level of personalization helps ensure that the answering system will thoroughly address your needs and remain effective in the long run.
Why Choose Continental Message Solution (CMS)?
Having operated since 1967, CMS has helped physicians and medical office managers handle important phone calls and improve the level of patient care for more than 50 years. Trusted by doctors across the nation, CMS is known for its cost-effective, reliable, and innovative solutions. At CMS, the client’s unique needs are at the forefront of service provision, meaning you will receive a doctor answering service that is completely tailored to your organization and specifications.
If you’re looking for new tools that can better serve you, your staff, and your patients, a doctor answering service can significantly aid in filling certain operational gaps and facilitating day-to-day taskwork. From patient appointment scheduling to pre-screening messages to secure communication, doctor answering services can serve a wide array of functions and produce a host of benefits for your practice, including 24-hour availability, improved patient care, HIPAA compliance, cost savings, and complete customization of service.