Does it Really Matter if Your Medical Answering Service is Onshore or Offshore?

If you want to hire a medical answering service for your hospital, clinic, or practice, is location that important? Why can’t you select an offshore provider and possibly save a few dollars?

With your organization’s reputation at stake and your patients’ health on the line, sending calls out of the country is too risky to attempt. Consider these advantages when you keep your health communications within the United States and use an onshore medical answering service:

English Mastery: Many offshore telephone operations have English-speaking reps. However, just because they claim to speak English doesn’t mean they can do so with ease. Oftentimes these offshore agents speak English as a second language, and they may not have yet mastered the nuances to effectively communicate in a non-native tongue. And even those offshore agents who list English as their primary language, may speak with such a heavy accent as to make communication difficult.

Note that the focus here is nothing more than effective communication. Agents based in the United States and who grew up speaking English have a much better mastery of it than someone from a different country and background.

Don’t subject your patients and callers to the communication challenges of an offshore agency.

Cultural Comprehension: Almost as critical as mastering the English language is the ability to comprehend the culture in the United States. Your callers expect that the people they talk to on the phone will possess a basic understanding of how things normally function in this country.

Achieving this societal understanding is a challenge faced by offshore phone operations. As part of their agent training they even watch US-produced movies and TV shows to better understand our culture. But how many movies and TV shows accurately portray life in the United States? Not many. This means that even those agents who work to understand our culture may comprehend it incorrectly.

The reality is that most offshore phone agents will struggle to possess an accurate cultural comprehension for the people they talk to in the United States. And this will surely irritate your patients and callers.

Legal Awareness: Another concern in dealing with telephone staff from another country is a lack of awareness in the legal ramifications for the things they say. It’s too easy for them to wrongly apply their local understanding to the intricacies of legal requirements and accepted best practices for the United States. Do they fully appreciate HIPAA and its many implications? This includes keeping protected health information (PHI) confidential, along with credit card data and other critical identifiers, such as a Social Security number or date of birth.

Even with extensive training in these areas, non-US-based agents run the risk of falling short in meeting the expectations of US-based clients. And any error made by your offshore representatives becomes your responsibility, both legally and ethically.

Avoid a False Savings: Despite concerns over English-speaking proficiency, cultural comprehension, and legal awareness, some healthcare providers succumb to the temptation to ship calls overseas to save a little bit of money.

This is often a false sense of economy. The main reason is that most answering service work is priced based on the amount of time each transaction takes to complete, be it directly or indirectly. When communication issues get in the way, the length of each call can escalate dramatically, sometimes even two or three times longer, as callers go back-and-forth trying to express themselves and make sure they are accurately understood. And if miscommunication persists after the end of the phone call, it requires more time and expense to clear up the misinformation and any mistakes that may have occurred because of it.

Although offshore call centers have their place in the outsourcing economy, this place is not with healthcare, were people’s lives are at stake.

It’s not worth the risk. Keep your healthcare calls onshore, here in the United States, where they belong. Be sure to use a US-based medical answering service.

Learn how medical answering service from MedConnectUSA can help your clinic or practice, and get a free quote to find out just how affordable their critical communication services are. Peter DeHaan is a freelance writer and call center authority.