Answering services trace back their origin to the period after the invention of the telephone, as this is when switchboards came into being; therefore enabling operators to manually transmit incoming calls to a specific outgoing number. In the past, when phone lines were busy, they would route to the switchboard i.e. call director.
These services emerged as the perfect innovative solution for efficiently answering an increasing number of calls and reducing labor costs. Initially, answering services boasted centralized message hubs that were installed within a company and were managed by a handful of operators. Hence, outsourcing was born.
After recognizing the rising need and demand for answering services, several companies came into existence providing a flexible and economical solution for any business or corporation that could not afford their own switchboards, call answering staff, or any of the required equipment to maintain a central answering hub. These third-party companies came to be known as answering services.
Many believe that answering services began with Bell System’s tone dialing method in 1941, which advanced in 1962 with area code dialing capabilities. However, opinion is divided, since according to many others, said services actually began with the very first automatic call distribution system or ACD that was launched in 1973 by Rockwell.
Major advancements were seen in the mid-1980s when innovations were made in predictive dialing and IVR. In fact, in 1985, Rockwell saw the rise of major competitors, all of whom wanted to capture their own share of the call center industry. This evolutionary process also gave rise to the Private Branch Exchange (PBX) in which vendors started to compete with various technological advancements.
The 1980s saw the extensive use of pagers which efficiently transmitted information without a phone. Using this device, specific to the medical answering service solution, doctors could be informed of room numbers and other numerical details of patients which started to lower labor costs of communications while increasing patient care efficiencies. Later, when computers garnered popularity, a groundbreaking message delivery service called alphanumerical paging was employed to transmit messages and PHI (Personal Health Information) containing texts and numbers via computers. The use of computers certainly revolutionized the medical answering service industry while also decreasing the costs of answering services. During the 1990s however, the use of pagers declined and text messaging via cell phones, SMS, and emails gained prominence.
At present, within the HIPAA-Compliant Medical Answering Service industry, service providers cater to an exceptionally wide variety of medical professionals. Real-time communications not only reduces labor costs but also maximizes doctor-patient care due to easily customizable features that allow telephone answering services to be customized to the specific needs of doctors offices, and physician practices, in addition to hospitals and other various medical professionals and organizations such as home care and hospice service providers.
The most recent evolution of Medical Answering Services is their requirement for HIPAA compliance. When vetting any new medical answering service or call center, HIPAA compliance must be taken into consideration as a high priority for your organization.