Selecting the right physician answering service is one of the most significant decisions that you can make for your practice. Many doctors are clueless when trying to find an answering service. Having a basic understanding of the physician answering service process and relying on a knowledgeable answering service sales agent can aid medical practices in choosing an answering service to meet the needs of the practice and patients and stay within a budget.
Here are a few concepts that you should understand when reviewing service options:
Estimating the amount of calls you expect to receive per week or month is a great way to start understanding the type of service contract you need. Because of personnel issues and system resources in the answering service industry, the total number of calls your account will produce is required information when setting the price for your account. The best way to establish your call volume is to examine past phone records and estimate new business growth. If you have a new medical practice and are not sure of the volume of calls, estimate your amount based upon planned advertising and expected referrals. An sales rep at an physician answering center should be able to assist you in planning your call volume.
When reviewing pricing quotes from medical answering services, you may notice estimates with a per min cost or a per call charge. Many people prefer a per call alternative because it’s easier to monitor. Many phone answer centers use a per minute base because companies that are new to the answering service industry will underestimate the time it can take to complete a patient call. Certainly not all callers are able to quickly describe a problem or concern, and sometimes calls become more involved and drawn out. Some patients just like to chatter. Calls could take up to three times the estimated amount of time you consider, on average.
Since an answering service will become a vital part of your medical practice and often a memorable face for your patients, the answering service sales representative should be someone you want representing your actual practice. It is recommended that you find an answering service that fits your personal style and expectations. Don’t try to fit in with what the service lays out for you. Find a proper fit. You patients don’t know a service is an outside third party or an outsourced service, they will equate the answering service with your practice. When choosing a physicians answering service, find out from the representative who the account manager is that will be managing your account. Your service should present an account manager that can answer the concerns and implementation issues you or your people might encounter. You should pick the proper answering service that will provide an account representative that will be intimate with you specialty if any and responsive to you patient base.
Most likely your patients will prefer a live voice to a recorded message. A live person is always more pricey than using a recording and voicemail boxes or combining automated functions with real person. To lessen costs, ask the sales person at how automated answering services can save you some money on per call pricing. They should have familiarity with setting up a range of applications and ought to be capable of automating your account and still creating a professional system that meets the requirements of your practice.
With the medical answering service industry moving toward the most modern digital technologies, make certain your answering service digitally records all phone conversations. You will be able to better address patient issues, complaints and possible lawsuits if your answering service can provide recordings of any calls in question and email sounds files to you immediately. A recording of a call is the ideal way to conclude any dispute with a patient or with the service itself.
Another thing to consider is a second line of defense so to speak. Because unforeseen circumstances may interrupt service, a physician’s answering services should have some kind of backup plan in place. Uninterrupted power supplies (UPS systems) and backup operators should be waiting in the wings to ensure that your patients’ issues will always be addressed.
Many doctors want to find the lowest priced medical answering service. Remember that you are shopping for a service that will interact directly with your patients and provide a first impression to your medical practice. This is probably not something to be overly frugal with. If on particular answering service considerably undercuts quotes from another service, a red flag should go up. Prices should not vary so greatly between quotes. Expect a quality of service that matches the price paid. Don’t let cost be the only determining factor. Consider the customer service you receive when exploring answering services. Also consider how long the answering service has been in business. Thirdly, look at the caliber of clients that the physician answering service represents. And fourth, verify that the service is up to date on technology.
Shopping for and deciding on a physician answering service can be a trying experience. It’s more than just finding someone to answer customers. Since the answering service industry is unknown to many doctors and medical professionals, the sales representatives at answering services are used to answering a range of questions from potential clients. This is a time when you should not be afraid to ask. Make sure that you ask all pressing questions that you may have, even non-pressing ones too. If you’re curious, ask. And do not hesitate to ask them to explain whatever minutia you don’t fully understand. With the right information at your disposal and a diligent effort on your part, you should be able to find a physician answering service that you are comfortable to have representing your medical practice.