By Dan Rue
Since its invention over 145 years ago, the telephone has become essential across just about every section of society, and for the provision of healthcare, it’s arguably one of the most important pieces of non-clinical technology.
In fact, medical professionals were very quick to adopt the telephone as a way to connect with colleagues and patients alike. In 1888, for example, and only a few years after its invention, a rural doctor wrote to the Lancet to report that the telephone had become particularly useful in helping him and his partner to efficiently run their practice.
Nearly a century-and-a-half later, it remains the primary way for people to make an appointment with their doctor, and has become an indispensable tool in the delivery of community healthcare as a whole. In the past 12 months in particular, lockdown has massively accelerated the growth of phone-based telehealth, helping to maintain that vital link between patients, doctors, nurses and the wider medical profession for many millions of people in the UK.
From a technology perspective, however, lockdown has also highlighted the limitations of traditional phone systems and the opportunities that today’s modern alternatives offer. Most notable is the rapid growth of Cloud Telephony across the healthcare sector - systems which not only release the burden of managing phone technology away from the GP practice, but also add huge versatility and convenience to medical professionals currently working in difficult circumstances.
Top of the list of benefits for most practices is that cloud telephony means doctors, nurses and receptionists can work from home just as if they were in the surgery, using an app that turns their mobile or laptop into their office phone. Calls can be received, made & transferred using their office extension / number, without using mobile plan minutes.
What’s more, Cloud Telephony services, such as those offered here at VTSL, have been designed to provide surgeries with precisely the features they need to serve patients across the community. This includes capabilities such as unlimited cloud-queuing, call recording, easy-to-change auto-attendants and on-hold music.
But one of the major plus points of cloud telephony systems is that they offer much more than just the ability to make and receive calls. Today’s cloud phone systems also connect with clinical systems, such as EMIS, reducing the amount of admin time staff spend finding and updating patient records. Many GPs have come to rely on efficient features such as click-to-call, for instance, because it allows them to spend more time talking to patients.
GP Federations and PCNs are also turning to cloud telephony because it helps them use technology in a more efficient, cost-effective way. Because the technology is provided as a complete service, practices working in a group, Federation or PCN, can share resources and call other practices, as if they were in the same building. And that’s where the cost savings over traditional phone systems really stand out - with no long contracts and low-cost monthly usage charges, users can manage and predict their telephony costs also knowing there is no equipment to install, maintain or replace.
As we look to a future where telehealth is likely to grow further in importance, GPs practices that embrace these proven communication tools will be ideally placed not only to meet the needs of their communities, but to support their staff while improving efficiency overall.
Read our 5* reviews on Practice Index, or to find out more, read our case study on how we delivered a telephony system for Kingston Chambers, a federation representing 24 practices in Kingston, that would allow each practice to retain their independence, whilst delivering the benefits of working at scale: enhancing the patient experience, increasing productivity and improving their bottom line.
VTSL is a leading cloud communications provider, offering GP practices and other organisations across the UK & Ireland powerful voice communications technology that allows them to work smarter. VTSL's service streamlines day-to-day interactions with intuitive and easy-to-use management portals, mobile apps, and state-of-the-art phones. Integrations with applications such as EMIS reduce admin time and provides a seamless working across platforms. Learn more by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org today.