Psychologist Answering Service: When You Need Reliable Availability Around the Clock
The benefits of a professional and reliable psychologist answering service are immense when it relates to mental health practices and availability for patients. Get affordable call support for Psychologist and Therapist offices and save up to 35%.
Nearly 60% of Americans prefer to make contact by telephone but 53% are irritated if they don’t speak to a real person immediately.
If you don’t have someone available to answer the phone, you could be frustrating over half of your patients. At least some of them are likely to look for another office they can call.
A psychologist answering service can help you avoid this problem and keep those patients in your practice.
The Benefits of Using an Answering Service
A mental health answering service can handle various tasks that help both your patients and you:
- Setting and rescheduling appointments
- Answering simple questions like your office location or confirming an appointment time
- Database updates for things like phone numbers and addresses
- Outbound reminder calls
- Forwarding emergency messages
If you have a small practice, you may be a one-person office. Handling all these things yourself is going to mean you either have less time to dedicate to helping your patients or they’re not going to be able to reach you when they need to.
If your patients work or have other commitments, you may not be able to reach them either and you can end up playing phone tag. At some point, it’s possible they’ll give up and find another doctor.
An answering service will also pick up your phone 24 hours a day, regardless of whether your office is open or closed. It can be 3:00 AM and your patients will still be able to reach a live voice when they call your office.
Why You Should Look for a Psychologist Answering Service
Not all answering services are equal. Any answering service will be able to take messages for you, but there are some things that are unique to a specialty answering service that caters to the medical profession.
One of the most important factors to consider is HIPAA compliance. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act has specific requirements for all health care professionals. Those requirements extend to any contracted services they use.
Any reputable mental health call center is going to be HIPAA-compliant but that won’t be the case for every answering service. If they’re not trained in the specific needs of psychologists and other health care professions, you could end up being non-compliant with HIPAA.
Aside from the regulatory aspects of a specialized answering service, there are also more general considerations.
A psychologist answering service will understand your business and speak your “language.” When your patients call, they’re going to reach someone who sounds like you. A run-of-the-mill answering service may sound like they’re reading from a script or worse, like they don’t know what they’re talking about.
The last thing you want to do is alienate your patients by having them speak to someone who doesn’t understand their needs.
A specialty answering service will also provide training for their phone agents to help them evaluate a patient’s needs. They’ll be able to determine when someone needs immediate. In those situations, they’ll be able to forward those urgent messages on to you. If you choose, they could even provide an emergency number to your patient so they can reach you directly.
Cost of In-House vs an Answering Service For Psychologists
There are two comparisons to make with the cost of an answering service. The first is comparing it with managing the calls yourself.
There’s no direct cost to handling your own calls, but there are indirect costs. You’re obviously not going to be available to answer the phone when you’re seeing a patient, so you have to work around that.
You can handle those calls outside of the time you spend with patients so it doesn’t impact their care, but it’s easy to burn yourself out this way. And if you reduce your time spent with patients to handle your calls, it’s impacting your patient care and likely your bottom line.
The second comparison is with hiring a secretary or office manager to answer your phone. This will end up costing more than an answering service. You’ll have to pay them a salary plus benefits, insurance, and other added costs of having your own staff.
Having your own staff doesn’t entirely solve the problem. If they’re on the phone with a patient, another caller will either get a busy signal or have to leave a message. Having to leave a message on a mental health answering machine is almost as bad as nobody answering the phone at all. An answering service will have more than one agent so this won’t be a problem.
Aside from the cost of hiring staff you also need to consider equipment costs if you handle your calls in-house. Phone systems can be costly and will need service and upgrades over time. An answering service handles all the technology for you.
How to Evaluate Answering Service Providers
When looking for an answering service, there are several things to consider. First, make sure they’re familiar with psychology practices. You want a company that understands your particular type of health care.
We’ve already covered it but it’s worth mentioning again – make sure the service is HIPAA compliant. Any medical answering service worth considering will be, but you should always verify it.
Find out how the service trains their phone agents and what sort of ongoing training they provide. Regulations and other factors can change and the people answering your phone calls need to stay up-to-date.
While it shouldn’t be the deciding factor, consider the cost as well. And find out what sort of billing terms the service offers. Can you pay month-to-month or do you have to sign a contract for a longer period of time? Do they offer discounts for longer terms?
It’s As If You Were Answering the Phone Yourself
The psychologist answering service you choose is going to be the face of your practice from your patients’ perspective. Make sure you choose one that’s going to represent you as well as if you were answering the phone yourself.
24/7 Doctor’s Answering Service provides 24-hour mental health answering services for the best possible price. Contact us to get a quote today and see how affordable an answering service can be.