Top Ten Reasons To Fire Your Medical Answering Service

Over the past several months I’ve had the opportunity to speak with many physicians and practice managers interested in On Call Central as a replacement for their medical answering service. The discussions frequently return to a handful of key points, and I have compiled these into a top ten list of reasons you should fire your medical answering service.

  1. Reliability. Most clients call us because they are very unhappy with the reliability of their medical answering service. Live operators are typically poorly trained, and the industry is burdened with high employee turnover rates. Quality varies greatly from day to day (and hour to hour) based on the operator who answers the phone. On Call Central establishes a consistent protocol that is followed each time a patient or other provider contacts your practice, and provides a level of reliability atypical of a medical answering service.
  2. Professionalism. Operators who receive calls for OB/Gyns and cardiologists require a different skill set and should be held to higher professional standards than those receiving calls from plumbers and electricians. Unfortunately, it is difficult or impossible to continually assess the professionalism of a live medical answering service, and many providers realize the problem only after a patient complaint. Establishing a consistent protocol, and automating the handling of calls ensures that your patients receive a consistent, professional interaction day or night.
  3. Privacy & HIPAA. Live medical answering services constitute an unnecessary “middleman” HIPAA risk that can put your practice at risk for the disclosure of protected health information. A well-designed, secure automated system is far superior to a live operator when it comes to protecting sensitive patient information. Since On Call Central enables direct provider/patient communications with no middleman, privacy risks are significantly reduced.
  4. Call Schedule Management. The majority of medical answering services use antiquated technology to manage the call schedule. Most medical answering services require practices to fax a copy of the call schedule and call in any last minute modifications. On Call Central puts you in control. Members of your practice can update the call schedule at any time through the On Call Central web interface, or even change the person on call through their On Call Central voicemail box using a dial-by-name directory.
  5. Cost. Medical answering services bill based on minutes used. Minutes in excess of the allotment are billed at a significantly higher rate. The result is that cost can vary significantly from months to month; we have, in fact, seen bills that vary by a factor of 2-3X based on only minimal incremental usage. On Call Central offers a fixed rate structure based on the number of providers who take call. Your bill is the same each month.
  6. Documentation. Studies show that only 30% of patient phone calls are documented. On Call Central automatically time stamps all incoming voicemails and return calls. Additionally, we archive all patient voicemail, and allow providers to attach audio and written notes to patient communications. The documentation process through On Call Central is far superior to a live medical answering service, and it helps protect your practice from frivolous medical malpractice claims.
  7. Caller ID Block. If you’ve ever had a patient call you on your cell phone at 3AM, you know the value of caller ID block. When you return a call through On Call Central we display the caller ID number of your choice (e.g. your office number), not your personal contact information. Most medical answering services do not connect you directly to callers, and those that do usually bill you for the service.
  8. Automated Backups and Reminders. If you do not listen to a patient message within a specified amount of time, On Call Central can automatically send you a reminder, or notify a backup provider. No medical answering service can respond in a rules-based manner to remind providers and escalate communications in instances where a message in unheard.
  9. Call Recording. On Call Central makes it easy to record and archive live patient calls. If call recording is enabled, callers are automatically notified, making the recording compliant with laws in all 50 states.
  10. Device Elimination. Since On Call Central works with cell phones, pagers and landlines, you can eliminate any unnecessary or redundant devices. Many medical answering services are unable to send notification via cell phone text message, meaning that you often have to carry around an extra device.