A Doctors Answering Service: Why a Typical Call Center Won’t Cut it

A Doctors Answering Service: Why a Typical Call Center Won’t Cut it

Most doctors have set office hours, after which they close their doors, hang up their phones, and return to their personal lives. What does this mean for patients that have medical questions and concerns during off hours?

As a doctor, you don’t want to leave your patients in distress when they’re in need of healthcare services or medical advice. An answering service can solve this problem and ensure that every patient can talk to a real person instead of a machine, but you need to take pains to find a suitable vendor. Not all call centers or answering services are created equal, and for any medical professional, the typical call center just doesn’t cut.

We’ll explore several key aspects of a good answering service specifically catering to doctors and the reasons why they and other medical professionals need discernment in selecting a suitable service to outsource to.

Suggested Read: The Benefits of Outsourcing.

HIPAA Compliance

Patient privacy is a huge concern for everyone in the healthcare industry. Although a third-party answering service isn’t technically part of your practice, you need to make sure it will meet the strict standards set forth by HIPAA. Your business could be held liable if the service fails to comply with applicable rules and regulations meant to protect patients’ confidential medical information.

24 7 Availability

Medical questions, concerns, and emergencies can happen at any time of day or night, but it’s simply not practical for doctors to be on call 24/7. Most patients would prefer a well-rested doctor on top of his or her game.

This is why doctors answering services exist – to provide live, human interaction after hours and make sure patients have access to the medical advice they need in a pinch, even if that advice is to head to the emergency room for care. You need to find a call center that is adequately staffed to manage the needs of your practice, ensuring that no patient ever calls in to find themselves talking to a machine.

The best thing about a 24/7 service, as opposed to just after-hours support, is that it can also manage your overflow during the day. If you run a busy practice, your nursing and clerical staff may not be able to keep up with call volume, in which case a 24/7 answering service could prove extremely valuable.


There are two things you need to be able to rely upon when you hire a doctors answering service: that the phone will be answered and that patients will receive correct information. You therefore need to make sure you not only find a service that is properly staffed to manage your anticipated call volume, but also one that is staffed by educated and experienced professionals capable of telling the difference between emergency situations that need the immediate attention of an on-call doctor versus patients that can wait for a doctor to call back during business hours.

A reliable service will not only help to keep your patients satisfied, but it will help to keep them safe when you’re not available to take calls and offer advice to patients. Your answering service must be able to answer questions and refer patients appropriately, whether they go to the ER, they speak with an on-call doctor, or they wait for a call-back.


Calling an after-hours answering service is not the same as speaking directly with a doctor, but you want your patients to feel as though the advice they get is coming from you, and you want the service to provide your patients with the information and directives you might offer. How can you make this happen?

You need to look for an answering service that displays a strong desire to work with you. The right service will not only be interested in what you have to say, but they’ll also seek collaboration, asking questions and requesting information to make sure they can provide your patients with the same level of care they would receive if speaking to you.

A cooperative answering service will also want to know what questions you might ask if a patient called in with a problem. This will ensure that you receive the information you need to fill in each patient’s medical history after the fact and prepare for follow-up calls or visits.

Medical Practices Must Maintain a Strong Reputation

It’s always a good idea to shop around for goods and services, but when it comes to finding the right answering service for your practice, a long-standing reputation for excellence is a good indication that you’ll get the reliable service your patients deserve, as well as essential compliance with all applicable privacy laws.

Commitment to Customer Service

Friendly service is easy to overlook when you’re thinking about whether a vendor has the staff to actually answer the phones when patients call and whether they will properly comply with HIPAA rules and regulations. However, it’s also important to find an answering service that will provide valuable information and treat your patients right.

A company with a good reputation probably earned it by offering excellent service all around, including making patients feel cared for. However, if you start getting complaints about operators that are rude or curt, it might be time to seek another service.

Up-to-Date Technologies

Effective communication is the larger part of an answering service’s duties, and this means the ability to utilize available technologies. These days, calls can easily be forwarded, information can be shared, and patients can receive a high level of support even when you’re unavailable. You want to make sure the service you choose has up-to-date technologies that make communication and information sharing convenient and secure.


The bottom line is a concern for any business, and you probably have a budget in mind where your answering service is concerned. It’s a good idea not to skimp – it’s worth paying a little more for a vendor that offers the security, legal compliance, and knowledgeable and friendly staff you prefer. However, you should discuss pricing up front so that you understand how services are billed and you’re not surprised by the price tag down the line. Some services offer a flat monthly rate while others charge based on call volume.

A Doctor Needs Bilingual Services For Their Practice

Not every practice will need this, but if you live in an urban area where English is the second language for some patients, you might want to seek a service that offers bilingual operators to facilitate the highest level of understanding during potentially complex medical conversations. With the right answering service, every patient can get the help they need, even after hours. Some cities like Phoenix and Los Angeles, consist of large portions of the population who speak Spanish. Having someone available who you can communicate with in your native tongue is a very valuable service that you can offer your patients and this garners a greater sense of loyalty.

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