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What is a Medical Office Answering Service?

Healthcare offices are some of the busiest workplaces out there! Back-end staff and administrative assistants at medical practices have to handle tons of tasks on an everyday basis in order to keep the practice running smoothly. It can get overwhelming without hiring a huge back-end staff (and paying each employee a salary!) to manage it all. That’s why many healthcare practices today are hiring medical answering services to help them better manage administrative tasks.

What is a medical office answering service?

A medical answering service is an around-the-clock receptionist for your healthcare practice. They are professional inbound call centers that are highly trained to manage a high volume of calls regularly and provide excellent customer service. Medical answering services will customize their solution to your practice’s needs and act as the first point of contact with every patient. It ensures that you are always providing prompt, attentive, and great service at all times while focusing on day-to-day patient care.

Which tasks can medical office answering services handle?

Many people think that medical answering services just answer phone calls, but that’s not the case. They manage a huge range of tasks! Think of them as a 24-7 assistant that helps each and every patient with whatever they need, while you focus on patient care. Their job is to give each patient the time and attention they deserve. Take a look at just some of the important responsibilities medical answering services handle – 

1. 24/7 answering

Most medical offices are open during normal workday hours. During those hours, most healthcare professionals are running around, moving from appointment to appointment, and handling other crucial in-person tasks to keep the practice running. Most simply don’t have the time to answer every patient call and answer questions. Hiring a medical answering service means that you’ll have a live receptionist that understands your practice to speak to patients when they need help. Plus, most medical answering services are available 24/7, so even when patients call after hours, on the weekends, or in an emergency, you’ll be sure to be there to help.

2. Message-taking

When calling your practice, patients can get frustrated when they get your voicemail time after time. They likely want to speak to a real person to make sure the office hears their message. A medical answering service can take messages in real time and forward them to the right person. This helps reassure patients that they will be getting a prompt answer to their question or concern. 

3. Appointment setting

Taking the time to schedule an appointment for each of your patients is time consuming. A medical answering service can handle appointment setting, cancellations, or changes. They can also work with your back-end systems and applications to make sure to notify each practitioner when a patient books a new appointment.

4. Automated appointment reminders for patients

One common issue for medical practices is patients missing appointments or showing up late. This can be draining for practitioners, who plan their day around their appointments. Most medical answering services have automatic reminders that they send to patients to remind them of upcoming appointments. This should reduce the amount of cancellations and missed appointments.

5. Overflow call management

Most practices are familiar with spikes in call volume. If you have an administrative assistant on-site, they can easily become overwhelmed with overflow calls. Plus, most patients get frustrated when they receive a busy signal or voicemail greeting. Instead of hiring lots of receptionists for your office, you can save money by hiring a medical answering service to handle these overflow calls.

6. Call recording

It’s important to many practices to have consistency in their messaging and excellent customer service. Phone calls can be a great source of data for practitioners. Medical answering services use phone systems with call recording functionality, so you can later go back and review the content of your calls.

7. HIPAA Compliance 

It goes without saying that medical practices need to comply with HIPAA laws. Instead of training your administrative staff to adhere to laws, medical answering services are professionals who are trained in HIPAA compliance. You never have to worry about the liability of your phone calls or risk your practice mismanaging patient confidentiality. Learn more about HIPAA-compliant medical answering services.

What is the Benefits of a Medical Office Answering Service?

Medical answering services offer tons of benefits to healthcare practices of all types and sizes. Whether you need help with call volume, patient experience, or something else, medical answering services provide customized solutions for your needs. Consider these benefits – 


One huge benefit of medical answering services is that they normally let you pick and choose which services you want to pay for. Rather than paying for services that you may or may not use, you can customize a plan that fits your practice’s needs.

Confidentiality and privacy

As mentioned, medical answering services are professionally trained and HIPAA compliant. You will never have to worry about your practice mismanaging patient privacy and confidentiality.

Cost savings

Let’s face it – medical practices have tons of tasks to manage on an everyday basis and tend to be understaffed! It can cost your practice tons of money to hire an administrative staff that can handle all your practice’s needs. Plus, can you imagine paying your staff for things like after-hours customer service and HIPAA training? Medical answering services provides a solution that lets you efficiently manage all patient-facing administrative work without breaking the bank.

Appointment management

Many medical offices have tons of appointments to manage every day and it can get overwhelming. Medical answering services take a weight off your shoulders by managing your patient appointments for you! They take care of everything from scheduling, re-scheduling, cancellations, and more.

Great patient experience

Every practitioner wants to create the very best experience for every patient. Patients deserve to have their questions and concerns addressed promptly so they can count on their healthcare professionals. Medical answering services are attentive and make sure every patient is getting what they need from your practice.

Emergency preparation

You never know when an emergency or disaster may arise, and you need to close your office unexpectedly. When you work with an answering service, they can alert patients of any closures or change of plans and reschedule appointments for you.

Multi-location streamlining

If your practice has different locations or offices, streamlining communication is probably important to you. When you are busy working at your office day in and day out, it’s easy to lose track of necessary information from other offices. A medical answering service can work for all of your locations, streamlining data and keeping everyone in-the-know.

Data accuracy 

Most medical answering services are able to conveniently integrate their data with your back-end systems and applications. They are trained to keep accurate data and streamline it with your practice management and billing software. Plus, answering services have great record-keeping standards like time stamping and call recordings.

When do healthcare practices need a Medical Answering Service? 

Wondering if medical answering services are a good fit for your practice? Just ask yourself the following questions to see if they could be beneficial for you.

  1. Are you experiencing call overflow? Practices who receive more calls than their staff can manage throughout the day will benefit from using a medical answering service.
  2. Are you concerned about your budget for paying an administrative staff? Many practices need help with administrative duties, but don’t want to break the bank. A medical answering service would be perfect for those practices.
  3. Do you want an automated system for appointment management? Many practices benefit from automating the way patients schedule and get reminded about appointments. Automated appointment management pays off, but many practices don't have the time or resources to set it up. A medical answering service can handle this for you.
  4. Does your practice receive calls from patients while your office is closed? You don’t want to leave your patients hanging. 24/7 call services can make sure your patients are being taken care of at any day or time.
  5. Are you looking to streamline your data? Practitioners are busy as it is, and don't have time to work with data throughout the workday. A medical answering service can help you get your call data in order.

How much does a medical answering service cost?

As we mentioned, medical answering services help healthcare practices save money on their administrative expenses and better accommodate patients. But how much do these services cost exactly? Let’s take a look.

Most answering services will charge your practice by the call. The service may give you a discount as they manage more calls. On average, each call will likely cost your practice between $0.75 - $1.40 per call, depending on the duration of the call. Usually, the answering service will measure by the second. The longer the call, the more you will pay per call. It’s possible that it will cost you even less than $0.75 if the call is less than a minute long. You can normally purchase a “package” or subscription from the service so you can know what to expect in terms of a monthly budget. 

Keep in mind that depending on the answering service, holidays and weekends may cost you more per call. You also may pay additional fees for setup, add-on features, and overages. Most services also offer free trials that last 1-2 weeks, so you can make sure you’re satisfied with the service’s quality.

Learn more

Want to learn more about phone answering services, in general? Take a look at our guide to finding the best answering service for your needs, as well as our inbound call center buyer’s guide.

Note that practices who typically use medical answering services are also interested in outsourcing other non-essential needs, such as medical billing software and outsourced medical billing services. Learn about medical billing software costs and the pros and cons of outsourced medical billing services. By the way, wondering how to choose the best medical billing provider? We’ve got you covered!

Check out free quotes for medical billing services from top industry providers. To get free quotes for a medical answering service that fits your practice’s needs, just fill out our online form.

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