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Stericycle Communication Solutions

Best Answering Service for Medical Practices

A Business News Daily Review

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After conducting considerable research and analysis of call center and answering services, we recommend Stericycle Communication Solutions as the best answering service for medical practices in 2019.

Stericycle Communication Solutions is our pick as the best answering service for medical practices. It's critical to have an answering service partner acutely familiar with privacy requirements and secure HIPAA communications, and on this front, Stericycle Communication Solutions delivers.

Whether agents are communicating with patients, insurance companies or other healthcare professionals, Stericycle understands the industry intimately. Stericycle requires a 12-month contract, but for healthcare businesses, continuity with a communications provider is likely desirable, especially when it comes to sensitive data and secure messaging. Most of Stericycle's agents are located in the U.S. at its largest call center in Indianapolis, but the company maintains several contact centers throughout North America.

To read all of our call center service recommendations, visit our Business News Daily best picks page.

Editor's note: If you're looking for information to help you choose the call center that's right for you, fill out the questionnaire below to have our vendor partners contact you about your needs. 

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Stericycle Communication Solutions provides answering services for several industries; however, one of its key verticals is the healthcare space. With its recent acquisition of NotifyMD, another medical answering service, Stericycle has cemented its position as a leading service. The healthcare industry is, more than most, a highly specialized industry with a significant amount of sensitive data and communications consistently flowing in and out of businesses. It is also a major target for cyberattacks.

Stericycle is not only HIPAA compliant, a regulatory mandate, but it meets the operational needs of the modern healthcare industry. That means keeping communications to payers and patients efficient and highly secure. Stericycle does both while offering a range of industry-specific services that are useful to any medical practice.

Stericycle's pricing varies by client. There are no preset monthly subscription pricing plans, as is the case with other answering services we evaluated. Instead, when you contact Stericycle, they will gather information about your average call volume, service level requirements and other specifics about your practice. Stericycle's sales department will then send you a quote.

To establish a baseline price point to gauge what Stericycle typically charges, we obtained a quote for a hypothetical medical practice with three healthcare providers in need of basic answering services.

Our hypothetical medical practice received roughly 300 calls per month and required appointment setting, call patching and transfer services. For a package of 900 minutes per month (which amounts to an average call time of 3 minutes per call,) Stericycle's sales representative quoted us at a total monthly cost of $711.90. That cost included 900 minutes ($630), eight holiday fees to cover the full year 24/7/365 ($120), a setup fee ($50), a programming fee ($65) and several smaller fees that made up the remainder of the monthly cost.

Stericycle requires clients to sign a 12-month contract, which is unusual for the answering services we evaluated in our review; however, given the sensitive nature of the healthcare industry, it's likely a benefit to have a long-term partner handling private communications. Still, most of the answering services we reviewed were month to month with no contract requirements or monthly minimums, so practices or businesses concerned about a long-term commitment should think twice about whether a one-year contract is right for them.

Stericycle's medical answering service includes the core services we looked for in an answering service, as well as industry-specific functions that are beneficial to a medical practice.

Here's more about the key services Stericycle offers.

  • Live answering: The hallmark of an answering service is live answering with agents who follow a client-provided script or set of guidelines to represent the practice/business professionally. Stericycle's agents are available 24/7/365, during business hours, after hours or for overflow calls. They are trained in HIPAA requirements and undergo background checks to ensure the security of sensitive information.
  • Appointment setting: Many answering services offer appointment setting, which is especially important for medical practices. Stericycle agents can set new appointments on a shared calendar, which is updated in real time. Contacts within your practice are notified via email or text message of these appointments.
  • Physician referral: Stericycle agents offer physician referral services, which help match callers to the appropriate specialists or care providers.
  • Appointment reminders: Missed appointments are costly; Stericycle offers patient appointment reminders to reduce no-shows or last-minute cancellations. Automated and customizable notifications can be delivered via email, text or phone call.
  • Post-discharge services: Stericycle agents can follow up with patients following hospital or clinic discharge to review medical instructions, check in on the patient, conduct surveys and set follow-up appointments.
  • Real-time call monitoring: As a client of Stericycle, you can listen in on agents engaged in real time as they handle calls to ensure they are representing your medical practice appropriately.

The most notable limitation with Stericycle is its requirement for a 12-month contract. While it is beneficial to have a long-term partner handling your sensitive communications, it is an uncommon requirement in the answering service industry. Other healthcare-specific services do not require a long-term contract.

An additional, albeit minor, limitation is that Stericycle charges holiday service fees, which apply to eight holidays throughout the year. Other answering services we reviewed offered 24/7/365 service with no extra charge for holidays. Given the total cost of holiday fees ($120) in relation to the monthly price we were quoted ($711.90), the fees represent a tiny fraction of the annual cost of service.

Our experience with Stericycle's customer service department was satisfactory, although it was initially difficult to contact a representative. After a few requests, we finally got in touch with a representative. The representative we worked with was very helpful and followed up with additional materials that gave us a deeper understanding of Stericycle's services. He also provided us with a price quote, which included a breakdown of the costs, along with a sample contract.  

Medical answering services differ from typical answering services in important ways; we were impressed that the representative asked a lot of specific questions relating to our practice and its communications.  He patiently explained how Stericycle handles sensitive information, from encryption and HIPAA compliance to agent training practices. Overall, our customer service experience with Stericycle was above average.

Ready to choose a call center service? Here's a breakdown of our complete coverage:

Editor's note: If you're looking for information to help you choose the call center that's right for you, fill out the questionnaire below to have our vendor partners contact you about your needs. 

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Adam C. Uzialko

Adam C. Uzialko, a New Jersey native, graduated from Rutgers University in 2014 with a degree in political science and journalism and media studies. He reviews healthcare information technology, call centers, document management software and employee monitoring software. In addition to his full-time position at Business News Daily and Business.com, Adam freelances for several outlets. An indispensable ally of the feline race, Adam is owned by four lovely cats.