Telephone systems for hospitals/healthcare

Doctor on ipad

Smart systems support the delivery of quality acute, primary and long term care through solutions that allow providers and patients to connect and share efficiently.

Healthcare providers today face tough challenges, dealing with an increasing volume of patients, a problem aggravated by an aging population.

The delivery of  better but less expensive healthcare to more people is a primary goal of both providers and government agencies.

The crux of achieving this aim is the correct choice of communications and collaboration technologies which enable healthcare providers to create a coherent and unbroken “chain of care”, improving patient outcomes at the same time as lowering costs.

Most common communications problems reported by healthcare providers:

  • Long waits on calls being answered.
  • Missed appointments increasing waiting times and losing practices money.
  • Not enough lines for patients calling in and staff calling out.
  • No queuing or routing – reception has to handle all calls for nurses, routine enquiries and appointments.
  • Patients reach voicemail and are given alternative number out of hours rather than routed.
  • No record of abusive calls.

The chain of care

The chain of care often follows this path: the patient is seen by their GP, and if necessary, referred to specialists, admitted to healthcare facilities (e.g. a hospital) and ends up back in the care of their GP post-discharge. The importance of a good communications system is evident at every stage of this process.

If the patient misses their appointment, this costs the NHS money.  But as GPs well know, for them to sit there with no patient to treat costs them money too.

TitusEvery appointment missed is wasted GP time.  You can work out that if every appointment is 10 minutes and every hour costs, say, £60 then that’s £10 per wasted appointment.  In the UK, with up to six million appointment slots wasted annually, that really adds up.  Reducing missed appointments not only makes a practice more profitable but also helps GPs deliver a better standard of care, since they can see more patients in need.

Dr. Titus Bradley
GP and Primary Care Optimisation Expert

A smart system like Avaya’s IP Office allows automatic calling of patients to confirm, cancel or reschedule appointments.  Missed appointments are dramatically reduced, enabling more appointments for patients who need them and consequently, increasing the revenue for the practice.

A further instance of lost revenue occurs from patients who do attend appointments but fail to follow instructions such as fasting before a blood test.  The introduction of effective systems facilitates pre-admission instructions about procedures or tests, and community health information, reducing these occurrences.

On a patient’s arrival, if healthcare professionals are not well prepared, this is a waste of clinical staff and practice resources.  Where facilities do not streamline their processes to optimise the flow of patients, both patient outcomes and the practice finances suffer.

Following initial investigations, it is essential that patient flow is optimised. Effective ‘back channel’ communications ensure, for example, that the original diagnosis from the primary care professional, together with any labs, imaging or records, are relayed to the appropriate people and tests or procedures aren’t duplicated. This requires coordination of all relevant healthcare providers, as well as engaging the patient in their own care.  A smart system likeIP office allows effective communications between staff, equipment and facilities that are geographically dispersed, ensuring that critical information is disseminated in a timely manner. It also facilities the speedy location of supplies and equipment, further reducing inefficiencies resulting from delays.

Where patients are admitted to a facility, further benefits are achieved from tying together all necessary admission touch points, from transport through to the admission office; from bed management through to nursing and pharmacy services.  Resources can be selected automatically according to pre-determined business rules, and the system is able to monitor tasks to make sure they are completed.  Systems can monitor the process from start to finish, automatically generating detailed records to measure performance and management efficiency.

Following treatment, it is essential that preventive and follow-up care is planned and delivered efficiently; failure to do this results in a risk of post-discharge recovery complications and duplication of efforts (for example, from readmission for the same condition), ultimately resulting in waste.  This risk is exacerbated by a move towards outpatient care with a preference for sending patients home to recover.  Improvements here are achievable if healthcare providers have the communications tools to collaborate closely to coordinate care for each patient. These in turn help the system run smoothly, conserving resources and reducing waiting time.

Supporting the way you work best

A smart phone system like Avaya’s IP Office supports the typical working practices and patterns of healthcare professionals.

Shift working is common and frequently professionals will share patient responsibilities.  With this model, risk of miscommunication is high.  The IP Office helps staff deal with scenarios such as routing the critical call that comes through on a shift change.

The system can also allow doctors, nurses and other clinicians who are often mobile to be more readily while they are on duty available in a way that best suits them.  IP phones, PDAs and touch-screen tablet devices can be used to keep clinical, administrative and operations staff connected, whether by voice, video, instant message, e-mail or paging. These devices can be programmed for voice-activated number lookup and dialing. Doctors and other clinical staff can be located and communicated with via instant message and “presence” capabilities.  This facilitates frequent communication with patients, administrative personnel and each other, and ensures knowledge sharing is maximised.

Further, powerful call routing functionality enables the elimination of intermediaries where appropriate, such as nurse station attendants or clinic operators, meaning that patient calls can get answered sooner at less cost with fewer opportunities for errors.

Sustainable procurementAs a provider of healthcare, you’ll be familiar with the Government’s drive to put sustainable procurement at the heart of your decision making process.

Sustainable development is about acquiring goods and services for your company in a way that achieves value for money on a whole life basis in terms of generating benefits not only to your business but also to society and the economy, whilst minimising damage to the environment.  Your choice of phone system has a huge role to play in achieving this goal.

Achieving value means looking at a solution that is not only competitively priced but delivers a high quality service to your end users.  Avaya’s systems offer great value for money and reduced running costs, as well as a host of features that support the Government’s sustainability recommendations.

Reducing travel

The Government* recommend where possible that you provide facilities and working arrangements that reduce the need for travel and distances travelled.  This helps save money that can be used to protect health by reducing transport costs, as well as helping to meet legally binding UK carbon reduction targets.  A reduction in travel also reduces health risks and the pressure they put on the health service by decreasing road collisions, stress, noise and air pollution.

Avaya’s IP Office provides the full functionality of your practice’s system for homeworkers, enabling staff to work remotely when they are not needed in the surgery.  Click here to find out more about how IP Office supports homeworkers.

Supporting the environment

The Government* recommend that healthcare providers seek innovative, lower impact products and services, demanding environmental standards through the procurement process and ensuring that procurement supports and facilitates a reduction in resource use and waste.

Avaya’s systems are some of the ‘greenest’ available on the market today and Avaya is a ‘green’ company, utilising an ISO 14001-based EH & S Management System for its facilities and services since its inception in 2001.  The IP Office typically uses 45% less energy and produces 45% less CO2 than other systems.  Electricity costs to run the IP Office are therefore around 45% cheaper.  By choosing Avaya solutions, healthcare providers can help protect the environment, reduce costs, meet their carbon reduction targets (as set out in the Climate Change Act) at the same time as upholding expectations of staff, patients, visitors and the wider community.

Thinking long term

The Government* recommends that as a healthcare provider, you base procurement decisions on whole life rather than short-term costs and benefits.  This means choosing a system that is reliable and expandable to meet your facility’s future needs without needing replacement for a significant period of time.

Avaya’s IP Office is a highly durable system – it has no ‘moving parts’ and so is less likely to break down than many other comparable devices.  IP Office also offers different editions to support the growing needs of your practice, and you can expand up to 1,000 users across 32 sites, with add-on applications as you need them.

Collaborating with others

The Government* recommends that businesses, schools and healthcare providers collaborate to increase their buying power.  The Efficiency Review by Sir Philip Green, highlighted the need to take advantage of scale, buying power and credit rating as part of sustainable procurement.

Healthcare providers can collaborate with others locally to achieve greater cost savings on the acquisition of their system as well as lower maintenance costs.  You may also wish to take advantage of Avaya’s current 0% interest free credit offer on terms of 2.5 or 5 years for new equipment or upgrades, increasing your buying power even further (click here to find out more).

* NHS Sustainable Development Unit

NT supplies smart communications solutions  for healthcare providers in the Nottingham, Leicester, Derby and East Midlands area, as well as serving institutions nationwide.  Ask our expert team about a solution to help you reduce costs and provide a better service to your patients. Call us on 01623 687750 or email