Reducing Your Telecommunications Spend and Improving Performance

Michael Higgins

By Michael Higgins

There are many reasons why medical practices should be taking a closer look at their telecommunications system and services. Two of the most significant are as follows: 1) More than 90% of practices Medicus IT has audited can reduce their telecommunications bills, and 2) Smart design in telecom improves the patient experience, which can help with patient retention and attracting new patients, and a practice manager's experience, which can strengthen overall facility performance.

In this column, I'll take a closer look at each of these areas.

Telecommunications Cost Savings Opportunities

How can nearly all practices save money on their telecom bills? Below are eight of the ways we help our partner facilities cut their costs. It may take some time to achieve these cost savings, but how much a practice spends will decline when Medicus IT helps execute one or more of these initiatives.

1. Price shop. Carrier services include Internet access, phone lines, and fax lines. By leveraging our decades of experience in reducing carrier bills, we know how to effectively review bills to identify where a practice is spending too much and where services can be cut without harming quality. Then we use online tools to compare pricing from about 80 carriers and see where savings opportunities exist. Most practice managers only have time to look at one or two options, which typically means that at least a few better options are missed.

2. Too many phone lines. Most medical practices are paying for too many phone lines but don't realize it. Why? Patients only complain where there not enough phone lines. By setting up a proper call accounting system, we help practices eliminate that waste. Centralized answering (for multi-site medical practices) of inbound calls should translate into a smaller head count or opportunity to assign staff to other tasks.

3. Legacy solutions. Some practices are using legacy solutions that are more expensive than newer options. For example, legacy fax lines from one national carrier are almost twice the price of other options. Our team can quickly identify when such low-hanging fruit savings opportunities exist.

4. SD-WAN. If appropriate for a practice, we can bring in SD-WAN (software-defined wide-area network) as a service. Users who switch to SD-WAN — a newer approach to network connectivity — from multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) can save up to 40% — sometimes even more. SD-WAN is particularly beneficial for practices with multiple sites.

5. SIP trunks. A SIP (session initiation protocol) trunk is a virtual version of an analog phone line. In other words, it's a way that you can make a voice over Internet protocol (VOIP) call. Using SIP trunks can allow a multi-site practice to pool lines and greatly cut its costs.

6. Hosted VoIP vs. Premise. Telecommunications vendors are increasingly pressuring practices to switch to a hosted VoIP solution. But in many instances, doing so will be much more expensive than using a premise-based solution. Unlike these vendors, Medicus IT offers partners the choice of a hosted and a premise-based solution. Our telecom experts provide an unbiased assessment of a practice to help managers choose the option that will best meet their short- and long-term needs.

7. Contracts. For practices that choose Mitel as their business VoIP phone system provider, Medicus IT offers competitive support contracts on Mitel products. In addition to providing a fair price for Mitel support, our contracts cover unlimited over-the-phone assistance, product warranties, and other valuable extras, such as call analytics and proactive monitoring. Finally, contracting with the right telecommunications partner will reduce the responsibilities of a practice manager, helping free up valuable time.

8. Remote workforce. For practices looking to reduce what they spend on their physical space, we can provide the telecommunications services and solutions that permit staff to work effectively and compliantly from home. With fewer personnel on site, a practice can reduce the size of its office.

How Telecommunications Delivers a Better Patient and Manager Experience

While some of these cost savings initiatives are strictly intended to save practices money, such as switching fax line vendors, others deliver benefits that go beyond improving the bottom line. For patients, strengthening telecom can lead to improved call flows that translate into patients speaking to the right person faster. With better queuing comes shorter wait times, which helps keep existing patients happy (reduces hang-ups) and enhances the appeal of a practice to new patients. For larger, multi-site practices, the addition of a call center can centralize calls to a single location, enhancing efficiency and patient coordination.

From what we have studied internally by reviewing thousands of data points, only about 1 out of every 2 calls made to a practice is answered. The rest go to voicemail or are abandoned. These voicemails and dropped calls contribute to more time spent by staff reaching out to patients and lost opportunities to grow volume. Changes such as those described above can greatly reduce this figure. In addition, a strategy around on-hold messaging can improve the patient experience and lead to fewer abandoned calls, while the usage of automatic callbacks can give patients the choice to not wait on hold. Finally, telecommunications can give a practice the ability to communicate with patients in a manner they are increasingly looking for that goes beyond voice, such as online chat.

For practice managers, a proper call accounting system can be a difference-maker. Regular call reports generated through the system can allow a manager to track the likes of call volumes, underperforming employees, abandoned call rates, percentage of calls that go to voicemail, and more — all of which can be used to make data-driven improvement decisions. The use of customized dashboards can give practice managers the ability to watch call queues and identify bottlenecks and other areas of concern faster. Proactive monitoring by a vendor partner means many problems are resolved before a practice opens. This can help ensure patients successfully reach a practice first thing in the morning when calls are often made and avoid wasting staff time on resolving issues at the start of a day. And by choosing a partner that provides unlimited assistance in its support contract, thus eliminating any "nickel and diming," it's easier for a practice to create and manage a telecom communications budget.

Do More, Do Better with the Right Telecommunications Partner

In addition to reducing costs and improving patient and manager experience, Medicus IT's telecom services and solutions help medical practices with many other important areas. This includes developing a proper backup plan if a telecommunications carrier fails — something practices often lack that could potentially hinder or even cripple a practice for an extended period. But what many practices don't realize is that a strong backup system is likely to be less expensive than you might expect.

In addition, for practices looking to not only strengthen their emergency preparedness but their compliance as well, we can help with Kari's Law and RAY BAUM'S Act — federal laws concerning emergency calling. And, of course, we enter into business associate agreements with our partner practices and explain how we help maintain compliance with HIPAA requirements.

Interested in learning more about Medicus IT's telecommunications systems and services? We'd love to tell you about them. Email us at sales@MedicusIT.com or fill out the form here and a member of our telecom team will be in touch to provide more information and answer all of your questions.

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