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How Much Does a Medical Answering Service Cost in 2020?

If you are trying to learn more about the average medical answering service cost in 2020, this guide will explain it all. From pricing, to ROI, and expected benefits, here’s what you need to know to get the best plans available. 

High-volume specialty medical practices can employ up to seven administrative staffers per physician. Even low-volume practices regularly sport a 4-to-1 ratio.

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Ask almost any physician and they will tell you that adequate staffing is a constant battle. Too many staffers create unsustainable financial strain. Too few and patient care suffers.

Finding and keeping quality staff with the right training is also challenging. Staffing can feel like walking a tightrope.

Increasingly, physicians are exploring answering service costs and benefits as a possible answer.

Cost For Medical Answering Service in 2020

We recently updated the price guide. Here’s what to expect:

50 CALLS – Average call duration 30 seconds: $37 – $55

50 CALLS – Average call duration 1.25 minutes: $49 – $99

50 CALLS – Average call duration 2.00 minutes: $89 – $149

100 CALLS – Average call duration 30 seconds: $61 – $88

100 CALLS – Average call duration 1.25 minutes: $95 – $137

100 CALLS – Average call duration 2.00 minutes: $165 – $209

500 CALLS – Average call duration 30 seconds: $189 – $269

500 CALLS – Average call duration 1.25 minutes: $425 – $560

500 CALLS – Average call duration 2.00 minutes: $789- $975

 answering service for doctors

What is a Medical Answering Service?

Answering services are virtual receptionists. They perform a range of functions, which vary by provider and plan.

A medical answering service works with people in the healthcare industry and can capture after-hours calls, call overflow, or both.

It works like this: 

  • Patients call your office.
  • During work hours, calls go first to your in-office receptionist.
  • If the receptionist or line is busy, calls reroute to the answering service. An operator assists the caller or takes a message.
  • Operators forward messages to your office for follow-up.
  • After-hours calls route to the call center. Operators assist callers or take a message.
  • Operators forward emergency cases to the on-call physician. They forward non-emergency messages to the office for follow-up.

Answering Service Operator

Besides fielding calls and forwarding messages, answering services may be contracted to:

  • Schedule appointments.
  • Handle appointment cancelations.
  • Provide appointment reminders to patients.
  • Issue emergency dispatches, where appropriate.

All answering services employed by medical practices must be HIPAA-compliant.

Who Benefits From a Medical Answering Service?

Almost every type of medical practice can benefit from an answering service. This includes:

  • Private Primary Care practices.
  • Private Specialty practices.
  • Hospitals.
  • Nursing homes.
  • Hospice facilities.
  • Ambulance and medical transportation services.
  • Public health clinics.
  • Dentists and oral surgeons.
  • Optometrists.
  • Pediatricians.

Answering Medical Calls

Answering services can be an invaluable investment for both large and small practices. Providers struggling to find, hire, train, and keep quality staff may particularly benefit.

But these services are not only for struggling practices. They pay dividends to already strong practices, as well.

What a Virtual Receptionist Does

Answering services typically provide a range of options. Practices can select packages that best meet their needs and budgets.

Standard services include:

  • Handling after-hours calls. After-hours patient calls route to the call center. Operators take a message or forward the call for emergency attention, if necessary.
  • Handling calls during office hours. Calls not promptly answered by your in-office staff divert to the call center. Operators take a message or handle the concern, as appropriate.
  • Appointment Scheduling. Authorized operators can schedule patient appointments in your system.
  • Appointment reminders. Virtual receptionists call or text patients to verify, reschedule, or cancel appointments.
  • Verify information and process payments. Authorized operators collect or update patient insurance and billing information. They can also process payments.
  • Triage services. Registered Nurses assist patients or triage calls for optimal routing.

Outsourced Medical Answering Service

Operators may forward messages:

  • To your office administrative staff.
  • To on-call physicians.
  • Via email, text, or other approved method.

How a Medical Answering Service Can Benefit You

The benefits almost always outweigh medical answering service costs. Virtual receptionists:

  • Improve patient experience. Patients connect with real people and receive immediate help at all times. In-office patients enjoy more attention from nurses and staff.

  • Reduce strain on in-office staff. With overflow covered, in-office staff can focus on the patients in front of them. This improves staff morale and performance and decreases turnover.
  • Reduce demands for on-call staff. Triage services reduce the calls forwarded to on-call personnel. This improves physician health and quality of life.
  • Create consistency in staffing levels and quality. Answering services help practices maintain steady in-office staffing. This reduces costs and turnover while improving patient care. 
  • Deliver cost savings. Virtual receptionists are much cheaper than hiring new in-office staff. They can reduce costly overtime and after-hours work.
  • Smarter staffing expansion opportunities. Studies suggest overwhelmed practices often hire administrative staff. This comes at the cost of higher-impact support professionals. Answering services create more opportunities for smart in-office expansion.

How Medical Answering Service Pricing Bills You

There are three basic models of answering service pricing.

  • Billing by call.
  • Billing by unit.
  • Billing by minute.


Billing by call is exactly what it sounds like. You pay a set amount per call that the service answers on your behalf. The length of the call makes no difference.

This can be a smart option for practices:

  • With talkative patients.
  • Who are using Nurse Triage services, which may lead to long calls.
  • Specializing in complicated cases or conditions.
  • With low call volume.

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Billing by unit is similar to billing by call. You pay a set amount for each contact your patients make with the call center. This may include emails, text messages, and other non-call communications.

It may work well for practices that prefer alternative forms of communication.

When billing by minute, answering services tally the total number of minutes operators spend on calls. You pay a set amount per minute.

Flat rate answering service packages may also be an option. Volume discounts may apply in virtual receptionist pricing packages.

Medical Answering Service Cost Ranges

Answering service pricing typically runs from $0.65 to $1.33 per minute. That equates to roughly $1.75 per call.

Service packages start at $39 per month. They can run as high as $2,000 a month for very high volume facilities.

Costs for low to medium volume practices range from $1.15 to $1.30.

To determine your base rate, refer to your call logs. Multiply the number of calls by the rates above. This will give you an average range to start with.

Your actual rate will depend on what services you select.

Additional Fees and Expenses

When asking “how much does an answering service cost?” don’t forget to look for hidden fees and expenses.

Common examples include:

  • Account set up.  While typically $0, some services may charge up to $100 for account activation.
  • Early termination fee. Again, while rare, some services charge hefty fees for ending your contract early.
  • Extra billing cycles. Watch for shortened billing cycles. They can result in unexpected extra payments.
  • Rounding up. Services may round minutes or calls up and charge you more.
  • Late fees. Paying your bill late may incur heavy fines.
  • Overage fees. These apply when your call volume exceeds the package you purchased.
  • Holiday pricing. Services may charge extra on holidays.
  • Miscellaneous. Check potential contracts for miscellaneous fees.

Other Considerations

When shopping for a plan, keep in mind the following.

  • Company reputation. Choose a company with a strong reputation in the medical community.
  • Operator training and staffing. Verify that operators are well trained and adequately staffed.
  • Scalability. If you expect your business to expand, choose a service that can accommodate that growth.
  • Disasters and emergencies. Make sure the service has an emergency plan in place. This prevents your business from suffering should a disaster occur.
  • Language options. Ask what languages operators speak. This is especially important if you serve a multi-lingual population.

Discover What an Answering Service Can Do for You

Are you ready to stop wasting time and energy on the staffing battle? Discover how affordable answering service costs really are.

Get a quote and reclaim your time, today.

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