Friday, November 27, 2009

Internet Protocol Communications in a Medical Practice

Author: Ray Torres

Did you know that good-old traditional business phone system switch is quickly becoming replaced by software base IP PBX systems? In fact, sales of new IP-PBX systems surpassed traditional PBX switches in 2005, and IP Telephony products sales will represent 90% of the new phone sales by 2010 -- only a few years away.

So how does a medical practitioner know if their office has a traditional PBX system? Here are a few clues:

• Calls are being made to the phone system vendor to make simple adds, moves, and changes.

• Staff is busy and is oftentimes placing the patients on hold, and patients are having to wait too long.

• Important voice messages are not getting to the practitioner because the message is buried in a lengthy voice mail box or the hand-written note is inaccurate.
• Patients are complaining about getting lost in the phone system.

• There is a separate phone system at each remote office, thus costing more for phone lines at each of these locations.

A software base IP PBX business system can provide the features and flexibility of customizing it to address a specific medical Practice. Just imagine these few benefits:

• Staff can spend less time trying to answer and route calls.

• System provides the flexibility to route and manage calls from referring or other physicians directly to the right service provider.

• Voicemail messages appear just like email messages and can be shared among several staff members for quick, easy retrieval and response.

• If a Practice prefers, their voicemail box can be forwarded to an email box for a single unified message platform.

• Staff can record and store voice messages or live conversations, and create personalized, targeted voice and broadcast messages that save time and enhance communication.

• Customized announcements and system prompts, such as for Spanish, can be accomplished easily and quickly.

• With a point-and-click interface, staff can easily take advantage of everything the system has to offer.

• Reduce or even eliminate answering service fees.

Now suppose a Practice has these functionalities available on their IP-PBX system, and the medical practitioner is either opening a new office or already has a multi-facility Practice. At this juncture, the Practice could consider Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) as another effective communications application.

Simply said, the Practice can setup/use their existing data Wide Area Network to transfer voice and data over the same high-speed connection. The implication of this connectivity, besides real telecom cost savings? In three words: better call management. Examples of better call management include:

• All users, regardless of location, can dial by extension.

• Key functions, like scheduling, can be easily centralized. Since the phone system is software based, with standard Windows based reports, the administrator will know quickly which periods of the day are high volume calls and what the calling trends are at each office.

• Non-official phone use gets eliminated almost immediately since call logs can be easily viewed by the administrator right at their PC.

• These offices are not stand alone any more, but are now connected to the central office.

With intra-office communications capability, the practice administrator will become more effective in many operational areas including staffing and handling of patient calls.

In every aspect of business, whether it’s a medical doctor or other licensed professional, patient/client satisfaction is a goal. By using proven communications technology wisely one can accomplish that aim. I know that a single communications configuration does not apply equally to all medical Practices, so upfront consultation is the first smart move toward IP communications. Waiting on the side lines to implement a software base IP PBX system may not be an option. Just around the corner are the obsolescence of the traditional PBX systems and the lack of product and service support.

About the Author:
As a senior manager and executive whose diverse business background, includes IP Telephony, Point-of-Sale Kiosk, Web Enabled Systems, Systems Integration, Information Technology Networks and Technology Staffing, Mr. Torres offers growth, operational and productivity solutions as a consultant.

Mr. Torres has held board of director and business advisory board positions with small-to-medium size, privately-held companies.

He earned his Master in Business Administration from Pepperdine University and a Bachelor of Science from Arizona State University. He is also a Stanford University Executive Development program graduate.

Article Source: Internet Protocol Communications in a Medical Practice

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