01 Nov What Are the Legal Necessities for a Physician Answering Service?
Medical practitioners tend to receive a high volume of calls throughout each day hence, need to resort to a specialized service provider to handle their incoming calls. A reliable physician answering service will strictly follow escalation procedures, screen incoming calls, identify emergency calls, convey messages, and manage appointment schedules. They ensure that all relevant calls are promptly and effectively addressed on behalf of the physician, irrespective of the time of day. Doctors are busy professionals who cannot afford distractions especially while attending to their patients.
Partnering with a professionally operated answering service assures a physician that those trying to reach out to them even after regular working hours are being attended to. Even patients take comfort from the fact that they are in reliable hands and have access to timely help whenever required. Certain basic legal aspects that a physician answering service must conform to are listed here:
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) lay down guidelines for sensitive patient data protection. A legitimate medical answering service is like an extension of the healthcare providers they partner with hence, it is imperative the former also comply with the set standards in existence. The patients or caregivers will share personal information while calling in and the same must be safeguarded against misuse.
Highly Trained Agents
The service provider you hire should not just specialize in being a supportive partner to medical practitioners but must also impart the necessary training to its operators, especially with regards to strictly adhering to medical ethics. Each agent who answers calls on your behalf is representing your practice and must be aware of the basic protocol to be followed that does not jeopardize the trust factor a patient develops over a period of time.
Implement Mandatory Mechanisms
Physical safeguards like limiting the access to the facility by authorizing only some personnel to gain access to workstations and systems that store confidential data, restricting rights to a select few when it comes to editing, transferring, or disposing files maintained with patient history. Similarly, technical safeguards like allocating unique user IDs, automatic log offs, full proof network security and stringent emergency access procedures must be in place. There must be provisions to audit reports and record all activity on electronic media.
Adequate Disaster Recovery
A medical answering service must have reliable contingency plans available that can be resorted to in unforeseen circumstances. Among other things, some key components that need to be given due consideration are offsite back-up and IT disaster recovery. This will ensure that even in the remote possibility of a major network failure and system crash, valuable patient information remains intact and can be accurately recovered.
Patient data must be treated with high sensitivity and handled with discretion. Failure to adhere to medical ethics can land your practice in serious legal complications.