What is a Medical Answering Service?
Anserve’s Medical answering service is a 24×7 answering service that will answer calls, take messages, and assist callers when the medical facility is closed, or short-staffed. In addition to answering services, Anserve can also offer many other services to the medical community, such as telehealth and appointment services. Anserve provides support around the clock with bilingual and multilingual HIPAA-compliant agents.
In order to keep our HIPAA-compliant medical answering service status, we partner with each of our clients to ensure we follow their procedures to meet regulations. We make sure to provide all the necessary documentation and safety procedures we need to be a HIPAA compliant medical answering service. We have the security measures in place to ensure your calls and communications are HIPAA compliant preventing expensive violations. This includes compliance with audits and internal procedures that we strictly adhere to. We use secure encryption whenever we document, send, or store personal health information, and when using mobile devices. We utilize secure web portals for access to personal health information.
How Much Does a Medical Answering Service Cost?
Another way of addressing this question is, How much money will using medical answering service save my organization? Fees for this type of service vary depending on what types of services your organization is in need of and how busy your office is.
- Anserve provides services for:
- Startup offices needing a more-established perception
- Startup offices in need of phone support
- Organizations needing live answering without extending office staff hours
- Organizations that prefer to receive transcribed messages instead of listening to voicemails.
In hiring Anserve, you’ve partnered with an organization with over 50 years of experience in medical answering services. This allows you to quickly scale your human resources, ensure your incoming calls are answered at the first ring and extract the highest quality information from each caller. If you try to do all this with in-house staff, you will have to manage a full-scale hiring process, extend your use of HIPAA-compliant technology, take on compensation packages, add management oversight for your staff and monitor employee burnout, etc.
Healthcare Providers Can Get Affordable Medical Answering Services
For-profit and not-for-profit health clinics, in-hospital clinics, and after-hours clinics all struggle with rising costs and increasing patient populations. Their shared core mission is to maximize value for their patients by achieving the best health outcomes at the lowest cost. Many of these clinics around the country are realizing that they can implement affordable medical answering services that help to fulfill that mission.
Minimizing operational expenses and inefficiencies are a top priority for all businesses, but these aspects are critical factors for health clinics. Often short-staffed with a rotating on-call practitioner schedule, there are numerous health clinics that do not have dedicated receptionists. If they do, the likelihood is that they are often overwhelmed by the walk-in nature of clinics as well as the high volume of calls.
Of course, healthcare clinics need more than just a standard telephone answering service. Medical answering services must have the best technology for their back-end systems to provide a great deal of flexibility to the clinic. One aspect of this flexibility is the need to reach the on-call physician who may not be at the facility when the call arrives. Another aspect is the regular need to relay messages from hospitals or imaging centers regarding patient information that must reach the right person promptly wherever they may be regardless of the time of day or night.
Patient health information and its privacy as mandated by HIPAA is also a prime consideration for clinics. While private health information may not be formally shared when patients call, it may be necessary for the patient to describe their health problem generally to the medically-informed receptionist.
Patient names and updates may be part of messages to on-call physicians or to affiliated healthcare providers working with the clinic on behalf of the patient. Not only must this information be kept private, but the messages themselves must also be securely archived in the event of any need by the clinic for legal reasons or statistical data associated with funding or payments.
Dealing with this larger patient population with constrained budgets requires clinics to find ways to efficiently handle walk-ins as well as a high volume of patient calls without compromising patient health outcomes. Today, the telephone answering service that specializes in supporting medical practices and healthcare facilities can provide medical answering services that fit their needs and their budget. From the ability to provide daily secure messages to on-call personnel, automated on-call scheduling, and toll-free message retrieval at no cost can all be inexpensively included in a minimal package that clinics can afford.
Having the ability to understand how a specialized medical practice operates and to tailor their protocols to the clinic based on their needs allows the clinic to make changes as on-call and staff personnel schedules change. The structure to handle after-hours and weekend calls as well as to respond to sudden surges, such as flu season when the medical answering service is needed more, can be easily accommodated.
Since the telephone answering service expenses can be based on the number of incoming calls, the clinic is essentially paying for a virtual receptionist only when they need them. The savings over hiring a dedicated receptionist that must be trained and provided with a salary and benefits can make the difference in treating more patients within the budgetary constraints.
Technologies Your Medical Answering Service Should Offer
From small private practices to large hospitals, healthcare businesses and organizations should expect certain features from their medical answering service providers. These features are vital to ensuring that information is transmitted securely, seamlessly, and promptly so that your staff can offer the best care for patients. Anserve offers the following features:
- Secure Texting Service: Having secure text messaging as a resource at your medical business is one of the best ways for your staff to keep each other up-to-date. Look for a service that provides excellent data security to protect sensitive patient information. Furthermore, make sure you are able to establish protocols for when messages are read and for when they have not been read in a given amount of time.
- Secure Client Web Portal: A secure web portal gives you an opportunity to access and update information about your practice. The portal should be easy for any of your staff members to use. More importantly, your answering service should be transparent about the security measures in place. Storing in PHI on the web puts your practice at risk for HIPAA violations that could cost you a lot of money.
- Appointment Service: Your office has a lot of jobs to perform, so wouldn’t it be great if your medical answering service could take over-scheduling your appointments, thus freeing your staff to perform other essential duties.
Multi-Lingual Services: Any medical answering service should have dedicated Spanish-speaking or multi-lingual representatives to answer calls from patients who prefer to communicate in Spanish. You’ll also want the option to write customized, pre-recorded greetings in Spanish that can include office hours, directions, and other key information.
- Secure PHI Communications Platforms: Larger facilities, such as hospitals, might want the convenience of combining the features offered from secure healthcare communications platforms with the services offered by medical answering service. Anserve is pleased to be able to offer this level of integration.
How To Decrease Your Communications Costs with Medical Answering Services
Doctor’s offices and hospitals often experience large volumes of patient phone calls, which can be difficult to answer efficiently, especially during busy periods. Staffing and communications costs can quickly add up! Your medical practice or hospital can benefit from the help of medical answering services—these services manage the large volume of phone calls health service providers receive, helping to free up staff, saving time and money.
Medical answering services are no longer considered a luxury for doctor’s offices or hospitals—it’s essential to keep a line of communication open between the patient and health service provider at all times, especially after hours, on holidays, and on weekends. Medical answering services can assist with appointment scheduling, appointment reminders, and follow-up calls. These services can also serve as the emergency contact for patients after hours.
Good medical answering services act as a platform for the health service provider and the patient, working with entire hospitals, in-hospital clinics, after-hour clinics, and hospital-owned practices in hospitals across the country. These services can design answering programs to fit your individual needs and budget.
Medical answering services provide a range of services that help save your office time and money. Professional operators will answer all calls in your name, providing consistent service all day, every day. You will be able to call in for messages toll-free anytime or have sent securely to you for free. The monthly rate for medical answering services includes daily secure message delivery. Operators provide bilingual service and will accept text messaging to cell phones and other handheld devices. You will be able to customize the service to fit your needs, providing operators with customized scripting on every account. Medical answering services provide automated on-call scheduling, automated first-ring pick-up with your personalized greeting, automated check-in and check-out, and caller ID on every message. Outsourcing your telephone answering needs can save your doctor’s office or hospital significant time and money.
What Constitutes HIPAA Compliance for a Medical Answering Service?
Working in the medical field can be rewarding as well as challenging. One of the responsibilities of medical staff is ensuring the protection of patient information. Securing personal health information (PHI) is one of the most critical aspects of the medical field, and it is incredibly important for anyone with access to patient information is properly trained and vetted to ensure they are HIPAA compliant.
What Does HIPAA Compliance Mean for Medical Answering Services?
HIPAA refers to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. This legislation was passed in 1996 by Congress, and it focuses on setting industry-wide standards in the medical field, affording protections to patients and their families. These standards protect both health and medical information because of the strict criteria for maintaining patient confidentiality.
HIPAA compliance refers to the standards and safeguards put in place by any health organization and its associated staff, companies, business partners and any other technology integrated with patient PHI. These safeguards include network and system security measures as well as personal and professional guidelines that protect PHI.
What are the Three Types of Safeguards?
There are three different types of safeguards necessary for HIPAA compliance: administrative, technical, and physical. Administrative safety measures include proper training on policies and procedures as well as ensuring the other two safeguard procedures are carried out correctly. Many organizations now employ a HIPAA Compliance Officer to provide further oversight of this important responsibility.
Physical safeguards refer to the physical information and the structure that houses it. Making sure office entry points are secured is the easiest level of compliance you can implement. Having a multi-level security system in place is required to prevent unauthorized individuals from entering a HIPAA compliant environment. Another form of physical safeguards includes access to areas of your organization where electronic equipment is housed. Only authorized employees should have access to these areas of your company.
Since HIPAA was adopted in 1996, the ways in which we do business have changed dramatically. Technical safeguards are necessary to prevent a data breach of PHI. While no organization can claim to be 100% technologically secure, the technical measures put in place have us all operating from the same standard. Technology is highly vulnerable to loss or theft. When interacting with technology, the easiest level of compliance involves having unique usernames and passwords for each employees’ access to PHI.
How Do You Maintain HIPAA Compliance?
Maintaining HIPAA compliance means conducting extensive training for employees, to ensure they understand both the specific guidelines of HIPAA as well as the importance of preserving and protecting patient health information. At Anserve, extensive training is given to our employees before they answer calls, and their training is updated annually to ensure all are in full compliance with HIPAA regulations.
How a Medical Answering Service will Handle Sensitive Information from Incoming Calls to Your Medical Practice
Patients put their health and even their lives in their doctor’s hands. However, maintaining a patient’s privacy should be just as important. HIPAA laws are in place to protect a patient’s right to privacy and to ensure that medical practitioners are dealing with sensitive information in an appropriate manner. One of the ways that medical professionals can ensure that they are securing information accordingly is to exercise best practices when it comes to answering incoming medical calls.
Those answering incoming medical calls must comply with both the privacy and security rules in HIPAA.
- Complying with the HIPAA Privacy Rule – HIPAA privacy rule compliance ensures that personal information is kept confidential, whenever that information is accessed, recorded, or shared. Your medical business should have procedures to seek patient consent and ensure privacy for all medical information including patient demographic information, medical conditions, treatments, and payments. Anyone answering incoming medical calls should be trained to ensure they follow your procedures and know to discuss personal health information.
- Complying with the HIPAA Security Rule – The HIPAA security rule refers to storing personal health information safely. Information needs to be encrypted, protected by strong passwords and firewalls.
HIPAA Compliance in Incoming Calls
What exactly is the best way to handle medical incoming calls in accordance with HIPAA standards? First of all, keep calls as short as possible. Anything that is being discussed via phone is subject to HIPAA regulations so it’s important to make sure that any information that is exchanged over the phone is HIPAA-compliant and that interactions are as limited as possible to prevent violations during medical incoming calls. In addition, Anserve has procedures in place that force call agents to log off their computers when they walk away from their workstations and writing down passwords is forbidden.
Is Saying a Patient Name a HIPAA Violation?
Revealing PHI, or Protected Health Information, is a HIPAA violation, so it’s critical that this information is protected at all costs. One way to avoid giving away PHI is to be cognizant of one’s surroundings. While it is not a violation of HIPAA to mention a patient’s name over the phone, you should use the same caution that you would use when in a waiting room. Try not to use the patient’s full name, for instance. This way the patient cannot be easily identified.
Is it a HIPAA Violation to Email Medical Records?
Although it is not considered a HIPAA violation to email medical records, it’s important to take precautions when using email, just as you would for medical incoming calls. Use encrypted email whenever possible to add an extra layer of safety to email transmissions.
How do I Find the Caller Identity?
Before you discuss any private information during a medical incoming call, it’s important to ensure that you are talking to the correct person. Ask the patient for their first and last name, and then ask for at least two additional identifiers, such as date of birth, insurance information, or address and phone number. Make sure you have the patient give you the information, do not provide information to the patient, and ask them to verify.
Can a Doctor Disclose Patient Information?
Under HIPAA laws, a doctor should keep any patient information or records secured and only disclose PHI when granting permission by the patient. HIPAA rules are in place to protect the patient’s privacy and personal information and a doctor must ensure that they are doing all they can to secure patient information.
Can a Spouse Access Medical Records?
Marriage does not necessarily mean consent when it comes to medical records. A spouse may have access to medical records only when a patient gives their doctor or medical provider consent.
Protecting patient privacy and ensuring HIPAA compliance are extremely important. At Anserve, we understand how crucial it is to safeguard PHI. All Anserve Employees are certified HIPAA Compliant.
The medical answering service agents at Anserve understand the HIPAA rules, and Anserve invests heavily to stay at the forefront of changing technology and has a long history of helping healthcare organizations and staying HIPAA Compliant.
Contact Anserve to ask about our medical answering services if your healthcare practice is struggling to stay compliant with HIPAA. Our professional team of highly trained HIPAA-compliant call center specialists can help.
Medical Answering Services FAQ’s
Your business may benefit from medical answering services or business phone answering services. An answering service can assist with order taking, voicemail, paging, setting up appointments, taking messages, answering customer questions, and more. Many provide bilingual service and can keep you connected to your customers in the off-hours. Here are some answers to common questions concerning medical answering services or business phone answering services:
Q: How Does the Medical Answering Service know about My Practice?
A: While setting up your account, the medical answering services team will ask you questions about your business, and store the information. The answering team can view your information, as well as the personalized script you provide, whenever they handle a call from one of your customers.
These services do more than just act like an answering machine — medical answering services can assist with appointment scheduling, appointment reminders and follow-up calls. Your customers will appreciate talking to an informed, English-speaking (or bilingual) human being!
Q: What Benefits do Medical Answering Services Provide?
A: If you receive a large volume of patient phone calls, and your staffing costs are quickly adding up, your medical practice could benefit from medical answering services. Medical answering services can free up your staff and provide a reliable line of communication between your office and patients. Benefits include 24/7 phone answering, appointment scheduling, and messaging. Medical answering services also provide automated on-call scheduling, automated first-ring pick-up with your personalized greeting, automated check-in and check-out, and caller ID on every message.
Contact Anserve today and find out how we can assist you with medical answering service needs!
Rob represents the second generation of the Ward family at Anserve. As President of Anserve, Rob oversees all current operations cementing Anserve’s position as the largest answering service in New Jersey. Read more about Rob Ward on our Company page.