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Telephony tips for practices

Choosing the right telephone system depends on what your surgery wants to get out of it, says Nick Coleman.

Ask the practice team what's good and bad about current arrangements (Picture: iStock)
Ask the practice team what's good and bad about current arrangements (Picture: iStock)

Choosing the right telephone equipment for your surgery and deciding which telephone service to sign up to can be daunting even for experienced procurement professionals.

So start by:

  • Looking into what the practice's telephone and telephone-related expenditure has been for the past 12 months.
  • Asking the practice team to tell you what is good and bad with the current arrangements and what additional features would make them more efficient.

With the team's comments in mind, calculate how much the practice can afford or wants to pay in future. Allow for one-off expenditure on, for example, replacing handsets.

Key to cost-saving is improving efficiency and effectiveness using technology solutions. In relation to telephone features and services, what will enable the surgery to significantly increase the number of patients it can reach by phone everyday without spending more and preferably spending less?

For example, the traditional way to make cost savings is via discounted telephone calls and line rental. But many practices in the UK are small and saving 0.5p per minute on calls will not dent the bill hugely.

Top tips

Intelligent auto attendant
Allows calls to be routed directly to the right person. Auto attendant can also stop calls, for example, by allowing calls for test results or repeat prescriptions to go to the relevant staff only at the times the practice requests patients to call.

Some systems offer different options at different times of day or days of the week so practices can tailor them to their needs.

Telephone triage service
Becoming more popular, this allows GPs to take 'duty doctor' calls while away from the surgery via IP phone software and a laptop (two-way transmission of voice over a 'packet-switched' IP network).

Automated reminder system
Making automated calls via landline telephones or texting on mobile phones to remind patients about appointments and the need to cancel if they cannot attend can cut DNAs.

Collaboration with other practices
Get together as a local practices group to negotiate discounted deals. This need not compromise individual practices' telephony preferences.

  • Nick Coleman is director of ProCure Health Ltd

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