Health care institutions and medical practices are adapting to their changing markets through the application of voice over IP (VoIP) technology. VoIP, unified communications (UC), and video conferencing are becoming disruptive technologies in the health care industry, giving us all some lessons to learn.
1. Even Unified Communications Has Its Limits
We espouse the benefits of VoIP and UC here on IT.toolbox.com, but I came across an interesting mention in a post entitled VoIP in the Healthcare Industry on the VoIP Innovations blog about a UC downside for nurses, who would find themselves interrupted by calls while in the midst of performing treatments or procedures.
There’s a lesson there for businesses in other industries that want to use UC as their communications backbone: UC can reach a user even when that user isn’t at his or her desk. The nurses’ predicament shows that just because you can communicate with a coworker or employee anytime, anywhere doesn’t mean that you should.
Some corporate cultures and industries need to think about an escalation path for UC-based communications. At the least, teams need to have some sensitivity of each other’s daily workflows to prevent UC from becoming an interruption instead of a valuable communications platform.
2. Saving Costs Through the Cloud
Federal government mandates, especially the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, are challenging health care institutions and medical practices, forcing some real changes in how the health care industry bills for patient services. Moving phone systems to cloud VoIP helps health care institutions and medical practices save on expensive telecommunications costs, an overhead expense. Health care practices can be relatively conservative when it comes to back-office technologies, because the bulk of the money they pour back into the business goes to employee salaries and other expenses that influence patient care outcomes.
Sure, it’s a basic lesson, but moving your business telephony to cloud-based VoIP is always best done on your terms rather than when market forces dictate that your business make the move.
3. Extend Business Services via VoIP
Hospitals and health care providers are using VoIP to extend their services for patients. VoIP telephony is enabling health care providers to provide better services to their patients, including:
§ Electronic health record transfer and integration with health care management systems;
§ Video conferencing enabling physicians to communicate with specialists who may or may not be in their geographic area; and
§ Connecting corporate and remote offices seamlessly.
The smart application of communications and collaboration technologies has lessons that transcend industries. The majority of VoIP, UC, and video conferencing technology applications in health care revolve around telemedicine and rural health care. A rural physician can consult a medical specialist in an urban area via videoconference. The rural hospital pays only for the specialist’s time.
4. Use VoIP to Improve Back-Office and Financial Processes
To truly realize the benefits of VoIP, the technology needs to become the infrastructure that underlies business operations. Using VoIP to Improve Clinical, Billing, Registration Processes by Reda Chouffani on Search Health IT brings up some interesting uses of VoIP in health care that are transferrable to businesses across multiple industries:
§ Track a patient’s call status during a collection call.
§ Automate monthly reminder calls to delinquent accounts.
§ Prioritize the calls in queue based on accounts that have the highest outstanding balance or other specified criteria.
VoIP is the Rx to Health Care Business Success
The changing nature of the current health care market is causing hospitals and health care providers to become smarter about their business and infrastructure out of financial necessity. Cloud and on-premises VoIP solutions have a chance to become the infrastructure behind business-critical and cost-saving parts of the operation.