Stericycle Communication Solutions is our pick as the best answering service for medical practices. It specializes in meeting the needs of medical practices while complying with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Stericycle ensures its communications are encrypted in accordance with the law, but, moreover, it is familiar with the inner workings of a medical practice and can help improve communications between patients, insurance companies, physicians, and their staff. Most of Stericycle's agents are located in Indianapolis, but the company maintains call centers throughout North America.
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Medical Answering Service Features
Medical practices have a unique set of needs in an answering service that differ from those of businesses in other industries. Especially critical is the need to comply with the privacy requirements mandated by HIPAA, including communications that take place over the phone or digitally. Stericycle is a fully HIPAA-compliant answering service with years of experience.
Here's more about the services Stericycle offers:
- Live answering: Stericycle agents will answer all incoming calls on a medical practice's behalf and act as if they are part of the practice or organization. Agents capture all of the necessary information during the call and then notify the relevant staff or practitioner via phone, email or text message.
- Call patching: If the agent is unable to assist the caller, call patching allows the caller to be forwarded to the appropriate staff member or practitioner. Patching is included at no extra cost but does take more time than a typical phone call.
- Appointment setting: A key function of any medical answering service is setting patient appointments. In conjunction with your practice, Stericycle uses an integrated calendar to set appointments as patients call in. Your office staff will be able to review the schedule in real time. Notifications will also alert staff to newly scheduled appointments.
- On-call scheduling: To coordinate with available medical professionals, Stericycle offers on-call scheduling that indicates which professionals are available at which times.
- Real-time call monitoring: Staff and practitioners can listen in on live calls to ensure Stericycle is providing quality service. Clients can also listed to recorded calls and retrieve archived messages at any time.
All agents are Stericycle employees, never independent contractors. Agents undergo a rigorous interview process and must pass background checks, which is important since they'll be handling calls with patients and payers, such as insurance companies.
Stericycle's pricing is based on the specific needs of your practice and the call volume. We recommend that you contact a sales representative so you obtain an accurate quote.
To establish a baseline, we contacted Stericyle asking for a price estimate for our hypothetical medical practice in need of a basic answering service.
For our hypothetical practice, we required appointment setting, call patching and transfers for up to 300 calls per month. For a package of 900 minutes per month (roughly 3 minutes per call,) we were quoted $711.90 total. That price included $630 for 900 minutes, a $50 setup fee and $65 for answering service programming. Stericycle also charges $120 for 8 days a year of holiday service. A series of smaller fees ($15) for services like automated email, tech use and others comprised the remainder of the monthly total.
Stericycle requires a 12-month contract and bills in 6-second increments, which is common within the industry. Incremental billing means per-minute usage is rounded up to the nearest increment. For example, a call lasting 1 minute and 2 seconds would be charged as a 1 minute and 6-second call, appearing on client reports as "1.1 minutes."
Stericycle's biggest limitation is its 12-month contract, which many other answering services do not require. It should be noted, however, that due to privacy concerns (HIPAA), a long-term contract isn't necessarily a bad thing. The representative we spoke with stated that if a client was displeased with the service, and it could not be resolved by Stericycle, the company would dissolve the contract.
The other limitation concerned the holiday fees Stericycle charges its clients. Other answering services we reviewed were available 24/7/365 at no extra charge for holidays. Stericycle charges a $15 fee per holiday for 8 days throughout the year. That added $120 to the annual bill. However, given that the monthly base rate for our hypothetical medical practice was more than $700 per month, the holiday fee was only a minor consideration in the big picture.
Our customer service experience with Stericycle was adequate, although it initially took a few attempts to contact a representative. However, once we spoke with a representative, he was very helpful.
Because medical answering services differ from general answering services, we asked how the onboarding process works and what features most of Stericycle's medical clients typically require. The representative was patient and answered our questions thoroughly, including how Stericycle hires agents and complies with HIPAA regulations. We requested a proposal as well, which was delivered along with a 12-month contract following our call.
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