How your patients’ calls to your practice are handled is their first indication of whether you’re there for them regardless of the time of day or night, or you’re not. This is true whether they’re calling to schedule an appointment, ask for advice, or are having an urgent health issue.
In order to ensure that their patients’ calls are never missed or mishandled, more and more healthcare practitioners are relying on virtual receptionists at live answering services to manage their calls, either after hours, or when in-office receptionists can’t answer a call, or around the clock.
However, answering calls for a medical or healthcare practice requires specific training and treatment that not all answering services can provide. Here are 4 of the most common mistakes doctors or healthcare practitioners make when choosing the wrong answering service.
Choosing automated answering instead of a live receptionist.
Automated services often claim to be an easy-to-use, lower cost call answering system than when live receptionists answer calls. However, when calls of a medical nature are answered by an automated voicemail prompt system, the absence of human interaction too often leads to inadequate if not improper responses.
When patients have no choice but to leave a voicemail or follow an automated prompt list, they not only lose the reassurance that a live person is hearing their concerns they also aren’t given the opportunity to ask follow-up questions or know when their call will be returned and by whom. In any healthcare practice, this is a top cause of patient stress.
Choosing quantity over quality.
Many low-cost medical answering service providers claim they can handle the highest call volume in the shortest time, but healthcare providers need to be cautious about what this means. If virtual receptionists are required to handle a certain amount of calls in a specified time period to be considered productive, this could compromise how your patients’ calls are handled. Your patients deserve to know that their call will be answered professionally, politely, and that they will not be rushed. Handling and billing calls based on quantity versus quality is a recipe for inattention and mistakes—in which case both your patients and your practice suffer.
Choosing a service that is not properly HIPAA trained and tested regularly.
It’s every medical provider’s responsibility to protect patient health information, and this includes each time they interact with a receptionist over the phone. The virtual receptionists at an answering service must be fully HIPAA trained, certified, and tested annually to avoid data breaches. Failure to do so can lead to HIPAA violations and fines of up to $1.5 million. Ask for verification that the answering service provides the proper training and testing of its agents for securely transmitting patient health information via phone, email, voicemail, and text messaging.
Choosing a service that doesn’t offer a secure app.
Along the lines of HIPAA compliance, all healthcare providers are liable for the secure and confidential transmission of patient health information on both the sending and receiving end of any data. Some healthcare professionals assume that if they receive a text or email from a third party, such as a virtual receptionist, they aren’t responsible for HIPAA violations on that party’s end, but this isn’t true. If a virtual receptionist sends a text with patient information, it may be encrypted on their end but not on the physician’s screen, or vice versa.
Medical providers should choose a service that offers a secure communication app that lets care-providers text and receive patient information without putting patient health information at risk. Voice Link of Columbus, Inc. provides an app that allows medical providers to receive and send secure messages to other providers or to all members of their group. The app allows providers to also attach dictation on a message, which can be downloaded right into the patient’s electronic chart.
In addition, the app makes it easy to track if messages are received or not. When virtual receptionists at Voice Link send a provider a secure message, they are notified when the message has been read. If the provider does not read the message in a timely manner, the virtual receptionist then calls the provider to deliver the message and escalate any action steps that need to be taken.
The secure app is just one of the many ways we customize communication solutions to make it easier for medical and healthcare providers to enhance patient care. In addition, Voice Link offers web portal accessibility that enables medical providers to be in charge of their on-call schedule so that we know who to call in the event of an after-hours emergency.
At Voice Link of Columbus, Inc., we developed our answering service based on our own experience in the medical field and have served many healthcare practices for more than 30 years.
Day or night, outsourcing your practice’s calls will ensure that your patients are attended to with care and compassion, 24/7, 365 days a year. Voice Link offers month-to-month service agreements to meet your unique needs with no hidden fees, and provides live answering services that will exceed your expectations. Request information online or call us at (800) 262-2799 for a free consultation.