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6 Important Steps When Setting Up Your Medical Answering Service
Andrew Charles

By: Andrew Charles on March 18th, 2024

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6 Important Steps When Setting Up Your Medical Answering Service

Healthcare | Shopping for an Answering Service

Your medical practice has finally decided on the need for a medical answering service. Maybe you’ve never had one before, or maybe you just simply don’t know what’s required.

Call center service pages tend to exclude the kinds of information they’d need from you for a few reasons. Chances are if they list everything they’d need from you, it would seem confusing and daunting, causing you to look elsewhere.

That’s not the reality of the situation.

It’s a fairly straightforward process for your medical practice. Behind the scenes, the answering service uses the information you provide to create a workflow that makes sense for your practice.

“What kind of information do you guys need for the setup?” is a question we’ve been asked a lot as a company that’s been taking healthcare calls for nearly a century now.

So, don't worry, this article has you covered.

We’ve found these questions to help our clients when setting up a medical answering service. By the end, you should be able to have a clearer idea of what information to provide your physician answering service during setup. Then, you can enjoy the benefits of a medical answering service in your practice!

Here are the 6 questions to be prepared when setting up your medical answering service:

  1. What Type of Healthcare Practice Do You Have?
  2. Does Your Practice Need A Voicemail Prescreen?
  3. How Should You Send Your On Call To The Answering Service?
  4. What Messages Should The Answering Service Collect From Your Callers?
  5. Who Should The Answering Service Contact From Your Practice?
  6. What Calls Count As Urgent/Non-Urgent To Your Practice?


1. What Type of Healthcare Practice Do You Need An Answering Service For?

In a primary care setting, patients often have routine requests. Usually, they are: appointments, prescription refills, and general medical advice. If your patients have urgent medical needs, the workflow the physician answering service agents use is critical. It should have clear escalation paths and guidelines to reach the on-call provider.

In larger practices with many providers or specialties, think about how calls should be directed. Often, it may be helpful to provide a spreadsheet to the physician answering service. This database can include a list of doctors, specialties, and coverage rules.

This information gives operators the information they need to triage calls appropriately. Routine calls can be routed to the front office staff to handle during practice hours. Urgent medical calls will be paged out to the on-call provider.


2. Does Your Healthcare Practice Need A Voicemail Prescreen?

A voicemail prescreen provides the caller with an automated message; usually a menu prompting. This is useful if you have patients requesting prescription refills or other routine non-emergency requests. This way, the prescreen will weed out the routine calls by letting the callers know to call back during office hours. The emergency callers will then be transferred to a live medical answering service agent immediately.


3. How Should You Send Your On-Call Schedule to the Answering Service?

How often do you send out on-call scheduling updates to your current medical answering service? There are plenty of options to update your on-call schedule, like email, fax, and by phone. However, updating your on-call through a web portal would cost you $0.

By updating your on-call through a web portal, you save the money you would by sending it via email or fax. You also have the ability to update your on-call schedule at any moment and have it updated in your medical answering service’s system in real time.


4. What Messages Should the Answering Service Collect from Your Callers?

Knowing what questions to ask your callers is important. Knowing how many, is crucial. Why? Simply put, the more questions asked, the longer the caller remains on the line, and the more you are charged.

However, that’s not the only reason you should be asking the important questions.

In the healthcare industry, asking only the important questions is also about keeping your callers safe. The mother of the sick child on the line doesn’t need to be asked a lot of questions. She’s probably not in the right state to be answering a whole lot of questions either. So, find the questions that are essential for the on-call provider to assess the medical issue and cut the rest.


5. Who Should the Answering Service Contact from Your Medical Practice?

It’s crucial for the medical answering service to always have up to date provider contact information for urgent patient calls. They will need to know who should be contacted during such a time, and how they would like to be contacted. We recommend having a back-up provider in place in case the on-call provider can't be reached.

Having this information on hand saves precious minutes when handling emergency calls. If you share on-call coverage with other practices, make sure you include contact information of these providers too during your answering service setup.


6. What Calls Count as Urgent/Non-Urgent to Your Medical Practice?

Determining what counts as an urgent or non-urgent matter in your medical practice is crucial. For example, in primary care, urgent matters may involve acute symptoms such as chest pain or difficulty breathing. Non-urgent concerns could include medication refill requests or appointment inquiries.

By addressing these distinctions, your answering service can prioritize calls appropriately, knowing when and how to escalate a call. This could be a lifesaver during an urgent call, making it all the more important to choose the right medical answering service.


Which Medical Answering Service Is Right for Me?

You should have a good idea now of what is required when setting up a medical answering service. All you need to do now is have this information ready when you sign up with your physician answering service of choice. Then, sit back and let the physician answering service take over and tailor your service to your needs.

But what if you haven't selected an answering service yet? You might be asking yourself:

What do medical answering services cost?

Which medical answering services are the best to choose from?

How do I choose a medical answering service for my practice?

Either way, we want you to find the best medical answering service for your practice. If you are looking to work with us and our near-century experience with medical calls, you can request a quote from us today!

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About Andrew Charles