Healthcare: how hosted telephony can help with winter demand

Winters are a tough time for healthcare organisations. It only takes a brief cold snap and a prolonged flu season to see demand across the country spike. And, with many community healthcare practices closed during Christmas and early January, it means patients often head to A&E instead – putting an incredible strain on hospital resources.

For all healthcare organisations, being prepared to cope with the winter demand is a must. While locum staff can help play a part in keeping waiting times down, an update in infrastructure is also vitally important. It’s here that telephony can help.

A scalability for all seasons

In recent years, a ‘winter crisis’ has often plagued the NHS, with many A&E departments exceeding their maximum four-hour waiting target. To combat this, a scalable service is necessary. A hosted PBX and SIP solution can allow telecoms to grow with demand. Come December, rapidly scaling up networks is easy, as extra virtual phone lines and extensions can be added with minimal capital outlay. Once the winter season is over, cancelling numbers merely requires a simple software configuration. This flexiblity can also generate instant cost savings, as staff are better equipped to work more efficiently.

For many IT Directors within the public sector, their telecoms journey from A to B can be can be endlessly disrupted by external factors. The job of finding a solution to meet their IT needs is becoming harder and harder.

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Increasing a hospital’s immunity to risk

Snowstorms can often leave communities at risk. Not only can they shut down roads and limit ambulance accessibility, but they can also cause telephony downtime, putting patient health in danger. A hosted PBX can help eliminate the possibility of downtime. Being hosted in the cloud means systems are immune to the risks that physical hardware can be exposed to, and ensures that communication can continue, even in the event of an emergency.

Integration to match resources

Over recent years, there has been a rise in multi-location healthcare services. This shift reflects the need for the sector to create operational efficiencies in the face of budget cuts and staff shortages. For this to succeed, an integrated telecoms network is critical. Having a communication network that is shared amongst various clinics and sites can help staff maintain an efficient workflow. A SIP trunking solution means calls can be easily diverted between sites, and integration with existing booking systems can mean patients are seen with minimal delay.

Over the last five years, A&E attendances have risen by 7%, while the number of beds available has decreased by a similar percentage. With the budgetary pressures affecting healthcare trusts around the country, there is a real need to make the most of available resources. And, while it’s important to be ready for winter, it’s also critical to address the root causes of any underlying problems.

Updating telephony to match modern working processes is one step all healthcare organisations can make to ensure they meet demand, for winter and beyond.

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21 November 2016 | Sam Winterbottom

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The views in this article are the personal views of the author and are not necessarily endorsed by Gamma.