What is a medical office answering service?

A medical office answering service is a company that answers your phone calls for your practice or healthcare facility when you and your staff aren’t available. The most common application is answering calls outside of your regular office hours. This includes evenings, weekends, and holidays.

A medical office answering service, however, can do more than just handle after-hours calls. They can also answer calls during office hours. Typical scenarios include during lunches, breaks, and other times when your office is understaffed. A medical office answering service can also help during vacations, sick days, and personal time off.

Regardless of when your answering service answers, there are two general types of calls they’ll encounter: emergency calls and routine calls. This results in the following four situations:

After Hours Emergencies

The most critical of these four types of calls are emergencies that come in after hours. These are situations that can’t wait until your office reopens. The caller needs medical help, and they need it quickly.

You can provide your telephone answering service with the criteria of what constitutes an emergency. The other alternative is to let the caller decide. But don’t expect your answering service, whose staff lack medical training, to make this decision. You provide guidelines, or let your patients decide.

Regardless, give your answering service instructions of what to do with these after-hours emergency calls. Should they refer the caller to the emergency department or urgent care? Do you have an on-call person they should talk with to determine the proper course of action?

Tell your telephone answering service how you want your calls handled, and they’ll do it. It’s that simple.

After Hours Routine Calls

When your office is closed, you will also receive routine calls. These are calls that can wait until your office reopens. People call when they think about it. This may be during office hours or not.

The important thing is for your answering service to be available to take the message and let the caller know they’ll pass on the concern to your staff when your office reopens. This sets the proper expectation for callers and allows your staff to deal with the situation.

What you don’t want to have happen is to ask patients to call back when your office reopens. And the worst thing is to not answer these calls at all. The only thing these unacceptable responses accomplish is sending patients to your competition.

Office Hours Emergencies

When you’re answering service covers your phones for you during office hours, they can also receive urgent or emergency calls. Your answering service can follow the same protocol with these calls as they do after-hours, or you can establish a separate set of procedures.

Perhaps you have an unlisted number, a backline, that your answering service can call and connect the patient directly to a nurse or doctor. You, of course, don’t need to do this. It’s just one option. Or you can direct your answering service to send them to a walk-in clinic or urgent care facility.

The important thing is that you decide what your medical office answering service should do.

Office Hours Routine Calls

Routine calls during office hours are the fourth type of call that your answering service could handle. A common response is for them to take a message and relay it to your office. This could be by email or text. Other message delivery options are also available.

Medical Office Answering Service

Given these four call types, a medical office answering service can handle any or all of them, answering your phone calls when your staff can’t, taking messages on routine calls and handling emergencies according to your specifications.

The result is around-the-clock accessibility for your patients, without the need for you to be available 24/7.

Enhances Professional Image

In the business of healthcare, the impression you make on your patients can greatly impact your practice’s success. A well-organized medical office answering service contributes to a polished, professional image. When patients receive a prompt, courteous response, it reinforces the perception that your practice is committed to high-quality care and excellent customer service. The benefits extend beyond the individual patient to reflect favorably on your entire practice, attracting more clients and enhancing your overall reputation in the community.

Regulatory Compliance and Legal Protection

When operating a medical practice, it is essential to stay compliant with various regulations such as HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). A reputable medical office answering service can provide a HIPAA-compliant platform for all communications, ensuring patient information is handled with the utmost confidentiality and security. This compliance not only protects your patients but also safeguards your practice against potential legal repercussions that could result from the mishandling of sensitive information.

Data-Driven Improvements

A sophisticated medical office answering service can provide valuable data analytics, such as call volumes, peak calling hours, types of calls received, and even customer satisfaction surveys. These metrics can help you make informed decisions about staffing, office hours, and other operational aspects of your practice. In this manner, the answering service becomes not just a cost but an investment that helps you optimize your practice’s performance and customer satisfaction.

Streamlines Appointment Management

Handling appointments effectively is crucial in a medical practice to ensure smooth operations. A medical office answering service can take on this responsibility by scheduling, confirming, or rescheduling appointments, thereby freeing up your internal staff for more clinical tasks. This increases the efficiency of your operations, enabling you to serve more patients and thereby increasing revenue potential.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q16: How quickly can the answering service be implemented into my existing operations?

Answer: Most medical office answering services can be implemented relatively quickly, often within a few days to a week. The exact time frame depends on the complexity of your requirements and how integrated the service needs to be with your existing systems.

Q17: Can the answering service handle calls for multiple locations of my practice?

Answer: Yes, a robust medical office answering service can easily manage calls for multiple locations, ensuring that each office’s specific protocols and procedures are followed. They can route calls to the appropriate location or department, making life easier for both your staff and your patients.

Q18: Do I need special hardware or software to use a medical office answering service?

Answer: Generally, no special hardware or software is required. Most medical office answering services can integrate with your existing telephone system and electronic health record (EHR) software. Some may offer web-based portals for easier message retrieval and call analytics.


Regardless of your situation, a medical office answering service can help with any or all of these four call types. To begin service, sign up online or call 800-450-9045 to discover how we can provide you with an affordable and effective HIPAA compliant medical office answering service pricing to serve you and your patients.