Doctors Answering Services Meet Specialists' Needs

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In today's economy, businesses are looking for ways to cut costs without losing customers to their competition. There's plenty of competition in every sector, including the medical field. But as a doctor, you're not only concerned about losing a patient to another practice but about making sure a life-threatening call from a patient is handled properly. So is our answering service is a practical way to cut costs? It is if the answering service helpful for doctors you choose is knowledgeable about the different needs among medical specialists.

Most service provider offer an operator reverts greeting to screen calls first. When a patient calls, a recorded message announces the practice name and the office hours. It tells the caller to hang up and dial 911 if this is a medical emergency, or to press zero to speak with the doctor. If the call comes through after hours or on the weekend, the recorded message suggests calling back during regular business hours for non-urgent matters. As part of the service, this pre-screening means only the necessary calls go through to the service receptionist, reducing call costs.

This type of doctor answering-service pre-screening can be used by all doctors in every specialty area. The differentiating factor is whether or not you can create detailed call protocols for the medical answering service to follow when the calls come through to an agent and how responsibly those protocols are handled by the answering service agents.

Family Practice Specialists

In a family practice, many doctors use the recorded operator revert greeting to allow the patient to decide whether it is an emergency. If the call goes through to a agent providing doctors answering service, she will reconfirms this is an emergency, gets the necessary information from the patient and pages or texts the doctor on call.


Pediatricians have high call-volumes and often need to know the age of the child and more specifics about symptoms. This requires arranging different call protocols with the doctor's answering service so agents get the information the doctor needs. Calls also come in from hospitals about newborns, so a VIP patient list is something to ask about including in the medical answering service call protocols.

Ob/Gyn Specialists

Very specific instructions often must be followed when it comes to obstetrics and gynocology. Depending on how far along in a pregnancy a patient is, certain conditions will require doctor's answering service agents to direct the patient to go to the emergency room or to immediately contact the doctor.

Cardio, Gastro and Internal Medicine Specialists

Cardiologists, gastroenterologists and internal medicine specialists also need call protocols in place for answering service agents to follow, without question. The calls the agents take have already been prescreened, so these patients feel they have an emergency. The protocols allow agents to get the necessary information so the doctor can quickly and accurately evaluate each message. In these practices, it's often helpful for doctors to have VIP lists to help agents immediately know how to handle calls from specific patients.

Clinical Psychologist Specialists

Clinical psychologists also can use this kind of answering services to prescreen calls. Unless callers are suicidal, messages are relayed to the doctor to determine if a call back is necessary. Special instructions regarding specific patients or situations can also be included as part of call protocols.

Another service to check into when looking at medical answering services is appointment scheduling. Some services offer this option, which can save physicians time and money by routing calls to the doctor's answering service. Using the practice's scheduling software, the agents can schedule and confirm appointments, freeing office staff to do other things.

HIPAA-trained Agents

In addition to providing operator revert greetings and offering call protocols, the best answering services have agents with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) training. There are legal ramifications to consider if you choose a doctor's answering service without HIPAA-trained personnel, so it's worth the additional time to ask questions about whether or not the agents have HIPAA training.

Remember, too, that HIPAA laws also require that any patient information being sent to an electronic device be encrypted. This includes receiving text messages from a physicians answering service. A specialized doctor's answering service has the necessary technology and software to protect physicians from HIPAA violations.

It's a very realistic goal for medical practitioners to cut costs by choosing a doctor's answering service to handle calls and schedule appointments throughout the day and take care of after-hours calls. The key to success is choosing a service that offers the right call-handling options for the practice as well as HIPAA-trained agents to answer those calls.

Judy O'Brien is a writer with more than 20 years experience in print and Web media working for Alert Communications to foster information about doctors answering service. She is principal of Cobblestone Communications and provide 24 7 Call center service solutions.

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