Many medical offices choose between having patients schedule appointments through their office, through a service over the phone, or through a free automated medical appointment scheduler. The first two options obviously involve a person speaking to someone to set up an appointment while the third requires giving that information to an automated system. This type of service might save time for many health offices, however the question is raised in regards to how compliant this type of method can be with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) that was passed in 1996, which is a privacy act.
With our current society it becomes increasingly clearer that privacy and protection of our information is something that must be in the forefront of each of our minds. Marketers are constantly seeking ways to gain access to our personal information to allow them to be able to target consumers with their products and services. Sensitive medical information without a doubt ends up in a data file as well as a paper file in most offices, and is seen by hundreds of people in the medical field, the insurance industry, and many other businesses related to the medical field every day.
With all of these people having access to information that is clearly very private and personal to each of us, it is important that medical offices review every decision that they make against the standards set by either HIPAA or their state laws. Free appointment schedulers collect patient information and often these types of systems do not meet the strict privacy guidelines that protect each of us. Many of these services collect data online which is then sent to the medical offices' patient record software. There is a risk to security with using programs like these that is not always possible to completely eliminate.
To avoid having issues with HIPAA compliance, medical offices can use any number of scheduling software in combination with either a receptionist to set up appointments or an answering service which is under the same strict constraints as the doctors' offices in regards to patient's privacy and meeting the high standards set by both HIPAA and state laws. In most cases, generic appointment schedulers are not able to handle important medical information that must be collected during appointment scheduling to ensure that the right doctor is seen, that enough time is booked, and that the patient receives the right level of care.
Many different software companies have seen a need in the medical professions for ways to make scheduling appointments and arranging call backs in the most time efficient manner as possible and with recent technological advances, medical offices and insurance companies are finding that they have a huge amount of choices available to them. With a little time and research into the available options, it is possible for medical offices to ensure that not only are their needs being met, but that they are respecting the privacy and wishes of their patients. Avoiding an "easy" answer such as a free appointment scheduler is the first step to ensuring that this takes place.