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Medical Answering Services Prices: Pros vs. Cons of Hiring an Answering Service for Your Doctor/Physician Practice

As any healthcare facility knows, patient concerns are not limited to the hours of eight to five, Monday through Friday. Since keeping staff on-hand 24/7 is not a fiscal possibility, many facilities rely on voicemail. Unfortunately, this does nothing to assist patients, who may have legitimate concerns requiring immediate help.

What Are the Pros of Hiring an Answering Service?

Hiring an answering service, particularly one specializing in healthcare, has a variety of benefits.

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  • Services with experience as a medical call center have full understanding of HIPAA, with policies and procedures that ensure they remain compliant. In addition, their agents receive HIPAA training, including proper handling of patient health information
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  • You can arrange for your answering service to be available whenever needed. This includes afterhours calls, of course, but also overflow calls during regular work hours. This is especially valuable on Monday mornings, the day after a holiday, and common busy seasons.
  • Your answering service can also help screen calls during work hours, allowing internal staff to focus on tasks only they can complete. This includes scheduling, requests for directions, and checking the status on tests or prescriptions.
  • Hiring an answering service reduces staffing costs. You can focus your resources on vital internal staff, reducing the expense of full-time employees whose main role is answering the phone. This saves on salaries, vacation and sick time, holiday pay, insurance, and training.
  • If you choose an answering service that includes appointment reminder services in its package, you reduce the number of no-shows in your practice. Many of these services even allow you to customize your reminder system depending on the patient's scheduled procedure.

What Are the Cons of Hiring an Answering Service?

While there are many pros to hiring an answering service, there are, of course, also cons.

  • With an around-the-clock service, you lose some of the multi-tasking capabilities of keeping everything in-house. Employees who spend most of their time working directly with patients of course have other tasks and responsibilities they perform when not speaking on the phone.
  • Answering service employees are not your employees. While this is a "pro" for many, for some it belongs firmly in the "con" column. There is a certain level of comfort in hiring your own employees, conducting background checks and training, and personally knowing your people.
  • Patients often express concerns about where a call center operator is located. This becomes doubly important to them when discussing private health matters. It's one thing to talk to a medical provider about an embarrassing medical issue, but many patients balk at having these same discussions with a non-medical person. They may also feel nervous if the call center is located in another country.

How Much Does a Medical Answering Service Cost?

Pricing on these services varies dramatically, both in terms of actual number and how the service bills. You find services that bill a flat monthly rate, others by the call or the minute.

You need to look beyond the cost to see what you get with that service; otherwise, you're comparing apples and oranges. Many of the less expensive services do not specialize in healthcare, or do not provide the same level of features for their clients. You may save money but lose quality and reliability in the process. Compare quotes carefully when hiring an answering service for your healthcare facility.

You also want to make sure that any medical answering service you hire is HIPAA compliant. Saving a couple hundred dollars a month won't matter much if HHS slaps you with fines for noncompliance.

Sample Pricing

Though pricing varies, we offer sample rates for two different HIPAA compliant services.

Call4Health

The basic plan for this service is around $150 per month for 150 minutes of call time, which the provider estimates covers around 100 calls on average. Holiday coverage costs $20 per holiday, and the service observes eight holidays each year.

There is also a separate service for appointment setting, costing around $130 per month for 150 minutes. Add-on features include reminders, at the rate of $0.13 per call. Nurse triage costs $14.50 per call, with a minimum of 10 calls per month.

Stericycle

The basic plan for this service is around $180 per month for 150 minutes of call time. You can add features to your plan, such as appointment setting and reminders, with the maximum plan amount coming in at around $2,000 per month.

They also offer appointment reminders at the rate of $0.20 each, as well as a mobile app that costs $10 per month with a $135 setup fee.

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