Mental Health Professionals have unique communications problems when trying to setup their small businesses. Many just want to use their cell phone to have maximum flexibility like other business people who work from their cell phones, realtors, property managers and such. But the mental health professional must also comply with HIPAA.
As a solo practitioner just starting into business it seems easy (and inexpensive) to just give out your cell phone number as your business phone number. It becomes the front door to your business. However you may find that very soon after as your business grows that you need a system to better manage your inbound calls and protect your cell or home phone number.
Here are a few tips regarding your telephone and phone number:
1. Get a Virtual Phone Number – This phone number can be your “office” phone number. Using a virtual number allows you to have some separation between you and your clients.
2. Make sure you have the rights to your number, that you can port it – The FCC says you can port your number but that is limited to carrier to carrier changes (CLEC, ILEC & VoIP). There are companies that are not carriers and provide phone numbers to clients that do not allow porting. For example Google Voice did not for a long time but now they do allow porting. OneBox (formerly TollFreeMax) does not allow porting of a number that they provide and will pull the number back if it is and they will charge the customer $500, according to their terms. Office suites will also provide phone numbers for tenants, make sure it’s in the lease that you can port the number and find out who the carrier is. If the carrier is OneBox you still may not be able to port the number!
3. Get your Virtual Phone Number through a HIPAA compliant company – If the voice message is emailed it must be encrypted and it must take a password to open the file. Notification of a message via SMS Text must be handled carefully, the name associated with the caller ID could be considered PHI and should not be sent to a clinicians phone. The phone service and you have to have a Business Associate Agreement between you.
4. Return your voice messages through the system – When you are returning a call you need to have the system show a caller ID, it should show your Virtual Phone Number to your client not your cell phone, home phone or other number you call from.
5. Use a Virtual Receptionist Auto Attendant – A high quality recorded greeting gives your callers the image of a professional medical office. Callers may be calling just to get directions to your office, or your fax number, an auto attendant will give them those options. You may also have an option for appointments that tells callers to visit your website if you have an appointment setting system there. And have different greetings for your business days, after hours and holidays. The after hours greetings should include your office hours.
6. Use a Call Announce for inbound calls – When your client calls your Virtual Phone Number and they select the option from your Auto Attendant to talk with you the system should give you the option to take the call or not. A Call Announce (or Call Whisper, or Call Screen) will alert you to a business call and give you the option to be connected or send the caller to voice mail. This is a VERY important feature! Besides alerting you to a business call and giving you the option to talk or not it prevents the caller from hearing your personal cell phone voice mail or leaving a message there if you do not answer the call!
If you are going to setup your business with a land line you’ll still want many of the features mentioned above but with some variations. The Virtual Receptionist Auto Attendant will be a Backup Attendant, calls forward to your menu if your office line is busy or you don’t answer. Forwarding to your cell phone still uses a Call Announce and only forwards if your caller has an urgent situation.
Urgent calls must be handled differently than non-urgent. Of course you should include some language in your Virtual Receptionist for “life-threatening” or other emergency calls to hang up and dial 911. But urgent calls may be forwarded to your cell phone or home phone but you’ll want the Call Announce.
The goal with your phone system is to make it work for you and your clients efficiently. It should be something that takes little effort to use. It should sound professional, after all it is the front door to your business!
About the author: Greg Standerfer is a Co-Owner and Chief Programmer of All Call Technologies. He is a small business phone systems and services consultant and has been since 2006. Before starting All Call Technologies with his Wife Rebecca, he was a television engineer for 20 years. Visit All Call technologies at www.allcalltechnologies.com/therapist
Or call 877-659-4999 or 208-685-2900 ext 3