Healthcare Communications: VoIP and Unified Communications Solutions offer Business Process Improvements for Medical Practices

nec-appointment-reminder-medical-office-ucThe most successful businesses are the ones that keep clients in the loop. For medical practitioners, your communications platform (phone, email, and notification systems) is your foundation to the management of your patient population and success of your business operations. Consumer-driven healthcare is the new reality, and medical practices rely now more than ever on patient satisfaction and experience to maintain a profitable practice and to sustain reimbursements.

And what many fail to realize is that the large hospital-owned groups are investing in advanced communications systems designed to make that growth easier.

The point of all of this is to say that if your system is too outdated; your patients may choose to find a practice that provides them with a better user-experience around scheduling, notifications and general communication with their provider.

Rather than rely on older analog phone systems and outdated contact center software, your medical office can turn to IP Telephony solutions with Unified Communications features to help manage your daily patient matrix management and care.

Why IP Telephony?

Modern phone system technology delivers so much more today than just a dial tone. Phone systems are constantly changing, and are growing to be part of converged networks that seamlessly tie voice with other Unified Communications (UC) features like data, video conferencing, instant messaging, single-number reach, appointment scheduling, and other business-critical communications tools and applications.

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is a technology that allows telephone calls to be made over computer networks. And while it’s not a new technology, many organizations have not yet transitioned from older technologies to IP telephony (IPT) solutions. IPT converts analog voice signals into digital data packets and supports real-time, two-way transmission of conversations using the internet. So rather than needing to install and pay for multiple lines in your office building, you can tie your phones directly into your internet network rather than needing to utilize a Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS) phone.

Here are some of the ways that Medical Professionals can benefit from IPT systems:

Increased Cost-Effectiveness

Operating IPT systems can be less expensive than traditional wired telephone systems because they require less hardware, less maintenance, and have lower OPEX costs than POTS systems.

Not all IPT systems are created equally though.  When you look at the total cost of ownership for IPT systems, you’ll find that the best systems lower capital, implementation, and operational costs than standard POTS systems.

Plus, maintenance of your telephony system should be easier with all of your organization’s voice and data traffic integrated into one physical network. Although there is an initial setup cost, significant net savings can result from managing one network and not sustaining a legacy telephony system in an increasingly digital and data-centered world.

Enhanced Quality

For medical practices, much of your daily communication will always rely on person-to-person conversations. IP telephony systems provide clear voice quality so that communication with patients is never compromised. Additionally, it complements the other initiatives and investments in your practice such as Electronic Health Records.

Improved Extensibility and Accessibility

The communications industry moves at a rapid pace. The best IP telephone hardware is modular, and much of its advanced functionality is software based. This makes it easier to manage the total system. With the hardware, you can just replace or upgrade certain pieces as needed. The software can be updated to include new components and capabilities when they become available. Additionally, such advanced technologies were previously only available to large enterprise organizations with deep pockets.  Today, these systems are available for small business and independent medical practices.

Advanced Applications

Many IP telephony systems can be bought in conjunction with or are already a part of, Unified Communications systems. UC offers advanced capabilities—such as appointment confirmation, emergency notification, and enterprise-level mobility—that improve the efficiency of your office’s operations.

These additional applications can modernize your communications strategies.  Medical practices are operated by appointment schedules. So any gaps or lost appointments that occur during the day result in lost revenue. At the same time, managing multiple clients and appointments can be tedious, time consuming, and expensive when done manually. It may also counter your Electronic Health Record strategy.  So a VoIP and UC enabled solution makes sense for independent physician practices.

Why? UC can provide you with an appointment reminder system that supports outbound reminder/service calls. This sort of application can be programmed to remind your patient populations about everything from upcoming appointments, to what the vaccination requirements are for local schools.

With the extensibility that UC provides, any member of the medical office staff can keep patients aware of whatever it is they need to know. The bonus is that you benefit from increased efficiency and revenues, reduce missed appointments and last-minute cancellations, and increase customer and employee satisfaction and retention with one program.

Better Integration

Since many UC capabilities are software based, integration with other business systems is relatively easy. This gives your staff the ability to see who is calling your office before they pick up the phone, and gives them the opportunity to pull the patient’s profile before answering the call. The result is a patient who is favorably impressed by your company’s expert customer service and communications skills.

Whether it eases employee frustration or keeps your schedule full of confirmed appointments, we’re sure that a unified communications system with IP telephony can bring your medical practice enterprise-level communications features and mobility solutions that will modernize and benefit your organization.

To learn more about how we can help your medical practice improve patient communication and provide cost-effective business process improvements, click below to talk to one of our healthcare technology experts.

7 Reasons to Consider Cloud-based Unified Communications Services

nec-7-reasons-to-consider-hosted-uc1The productivity benefits of Unified Communications (UC) continue to be recognized as it moves into mainstream adoption. As organizations consider how best to deploy, there are a number of factors to consider.  This post focuses on the top reasons to consider Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS).  UCaaS capabilities, also known as hosted or cloud-based UC, include the features found in premises-based IP telephony, as well as presence, integrated audio and web conferencing, mobility, collaboration, video solutions, and business application integration features all delivered as a service.

The benefits of UCaaS go above and beyond simply shifting costs from a capital expense to a predictable operating expense.  Here are our top 7 reasons to consider hosted UC solutions:

1.       Business Agility

Many IT organizations are stretched too thin and struggle to balance day-to-day operations with strategic projects.  One of the advantages of UCaaS is the speed of deployment.  Businesses have the flexibility to rollout UCaaS without the IT time and resource commitments associated with a legacy deployment model. Additionally, maintenance and support time is reduced as there is no longer the need to plan and implement system updates.  UCaaS offers quick updating through the cloud, so a business can choose to deploy new applications to all users or a single department as soon as they become available. This gives an IT department greater flexibility with their communications system, as upgrades can be rolled-out without any disruption to the system.

2.       Increased Efficiencies

Hosted UC services provide business customers with the communications they need without the associated capital costs of traditional on-premises systems and the costs associated with management and support. This increases both budgetary and IT resource efficiencies. With a lower budget barrier to entry, businesses can avoid the upfront capital outlay with UCaaS. Additionally, the predictable monthly expense allows businesses to plan more efficiently. A hosted UC solution can also increase IT efficiencies as there is no need to support and maintain a physical systems on-premises.  Eliminating a number of time consuming tasks for IT folks allows the organization to focus resources on core competencies and provide strategic value to grow the business.

Having your communications solution in the cloud helps avoid technology obsolescence and the time and resources associated with a large scale “technology refresh.” Why? Because cloud-based communications give you a system that scales quickly and is flexible enough to grow alongside your ever-changing business.

3.       Increased Reliability

Hosted UC providers power their UCaaS offerings via the cloud. The best providers have secure and resilient data centers that are redundantly configured and geographically separated to ensure continued service in the event of catastrophic events and Service Level Agreements that provide uptime guarantees. Each organization’s data and user settings are backed up and mirrored in multiple locations, creating a disaster-proof backbone for your business communications.  Hosted UC providers also offer 24×7 monitoring, as well as the latest encryption and security protocols, so you can rest assured that your data is safe and secure.

4.       Disaster Recovery

In the event of an emergency or disaster, a UCaaS service provider can easily adapt to your changed situation without additional expenses on your part.

Most companies have a Disaster Recovery Plan in place to ensure that data and records vital to the operation of the business are duplicated or protected in off-site storage repositories.  UCaaS now provides the ability to ensure that business communications are also protected in the event of an emergency and can be incorporated into the overall Disaster Recovery Plan.

5.       Greater Mobility

UCaaS is a strong enabler for the mobile worker, the BYOD explosion, and remote/home office worker.  It allows users access to all business communications features from any registered user device, including a smart phone, laptop, desktop and, of course, desk phone.  Organizations can enable users’ smart phones to transparently bridge calls from the company’s Wi-Fi networks to cellular networks and back again, keeping  “on-the-go” and “location agnostic” users connected.  Desktop client software can turn any networked PC into a virtual desktop phone and unified messaging terminal.  Users can travel with their extensions, use video conferencing, and access advanced call forwarding and web-browser dialing. IT organizations often struggle with managing application across numerous devices. With UCaaS, users download the device application from the app store and IT can easily manage their access.  An additional user benefit is that the experience is the same across all devices.

6.       Increased Collaboration

True collaboration means anywhere, anytime access on any device. UCaaS gives your users access to applications that will let them instantly chat, set up on-the-fly conferences/meetings (both video and voice), share and exchange documents, and engage customers in real-time dialog. This will not only improve your workforce’s ability to be nimble, but will also improve customer satisfaction.

7.       Better Customization

UCaaS combines enterprise-grade voice features with sophisticated Unified Communications and Collaboration applications and hosts them in the cloud. UCaaS gives you the flexibility to choose the deployment model and applications to fit your specific requirements. It also offers the flexibility to expand or contract as your business requirements change.

Additional Resources

To learn more about how Unified Communication as a Service can help you take advantage of the latest UC technology, easily connect mobile and remote users, and free up time for the other IT projects you need to get to, click below.

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How a Zero Percent Lease can Enhance Your Communications System

nec-zero-percent-communications-leaseMany organizations find that they need to update their existing communications systems, but lack the Capital budget to do so, or they’re simply apprehensive to make an investment in technology which seems to be ever-changing.  However, in our current business climate, the status quo when it comes to technology upgrades quickly leads to reduced productivity, poor customer service and increased cost. For this reason, many leading organizations have moved their technology upgrades from their Capital budget to their Operating budget by leveraging financing.

To replace or not to replace?

Let’s face it, advances in technology are designed to make us more productive and give us the ability to perform more efficiently while enhancing responses to our customer’s needs. That being said, if you’re not leveraging technology to provide better service, you may be at a disadvantage when compared to your competitors.

Technology is changing so rapidly that whatever you acquire today may be obsolete within five years. If you’re wrestling with the dilemma of whether or not upgrading seems worth it, you’re not alone. More and more businesses are reaping all the benefits of new technology while simultaneously hedging against technology obsolescence through a Fair Market Value lease. A Fair Market Value lease option allows your organization to obtain all of the productivity benefits and enhanced customer service capability delivered by today’s Unified Communications, Mobility & Collaboration tools while giving you the ability to retain your hard-earned cash and providing you with the least-cost option to deliver a solid ROI.

A good example of this is NEC Financial Services’ current offering of Fair Market Value leases with rates at or even below zero percent. For many organizations, these rates produce a monthly cost figure on a new solution which often falls well below what the organization is currently spending for maintenance alone. With these figures, finding the elusive ROI becomes easily achievable. Additionally, this financing structure provides all the benefits derived from the use of the new technology without having to worry about ownership and the risks associated with long-term investment in ever-changing technology.

You don’t have to spend money to make money!

If you think you have to expend large amounts of capital just to grow your business, think again. Financing opportunities like the one mentioned above lends other options. Are you wondering how this is possible? Take a look at the following example:

ABC Company has identified that upgrading their outdated PBX provides an opportunity for significant cost savings. But there’s a problem. With no funds left in this year’s Capital budget, their IT Department will pay more for their existing, inefficient infrastructure until funds are available. Not to mention the risks associated with operating an outdated system that exposes the business to equipment failure.

What now?

With the help of NEC Corporation of America, ABC Company performs a cost analysis and determines that by leveraging NEC Financial Services’ 0% Fair Market Value promotional lease, they’re able to obtain the technology they need now at a rate that falls below what they’re currently spending for maintenance alone! Moreover, the improved productivity and enhanced customer service experience they’re able to produce by implementing Unified Communications and Collaboration is helping them to retain and acquire more customers. This makes the new solution a revenue producer rather than a cost burden.

Don’t get stuck in a rut like ABC Company – leverage a technology financing partner who offers the most accommodating (and cost reducing) structure for you. With NEC Financial Services, it’s a win-win with 0% FMV offered for 48 or 60 months on select communications systems. You’ll want to take advantage of this offer quickly. The savings are great but they won’t last. The offer ends August 30, 2013. For additional details, click here.
For more information and to learn how you can take advantage of a 0% Fair Market Value Lease, ask your authorized NEC Associate, or click below. If you don’t have an Associate, you can find one here.

Improving Communications for Automotive Dealers

NEC recently attended the 2013 National Automotive Dealers Association (NADA) Conference in Orlando, Florida. The NADA Convention is the automotive industry event of the year and the world’s largest international gathering place for franchised new-vehicle dealers.

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NEC participated with Phillip Sherman, CEO of Telecom Advisors Group, Inc. and one of the leading independent automotive industry technology consultants in the nation.

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Like many companies today, auto dealerships are interested in the best ways to cut costs and increase the productivity of their sales team and services advisors. The NADA convention gave the perfect opportunity to show the ROI of Unified Communications (UC) technology and demonstrate how it helps the rapidly growing automotive industry reduce cost, improve productivity, and increase customer satisfaction. Customer Satisfaction is important in any industry, but particularly in the automotive industry, which relies heavily on its Customer Service Index (CSI) score. For example, JD Power and Associates reported that dealerships with high CSI scores during the first three years of ownership retained 79 percent of dollars spent on maintenance and repairs during the first five years of vehicle ownership.

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The auto industry is heavily impacted by technology to help make improvements for both the dealer and the customer. NEC employees were also on hand demonstrating our communications solutions to more than 20,000 conference attendees. With the need for uninterrupted roaming and productivity from any location within a dealership, applications that allow cellular and Wi-Fi roaming were of key interest to attendees. For those automotive dealerships tired of losing revenue due to appointment no-shows, we demonstrated our Appointment Reminder to show them how to alleviate this frustration by simplifying the appointment reminder process and communicating with their customers more efficiently. In the auto sales environment, responding to and distributing call-in and internet leads is critically important. Leveraging contact center technology that queues, distributes and tracks customer opportunities provides dealers with a competitive advantage and the ability to respond as quickly as possible.

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To learn how uMobility or Appointment Reminder can enhance your organization click below.

NEC Appointment Reminder

  NEC Fixed Mobile Convergence

Moving? We can help.

nec-uc-movingAre you considering relocating your data center? Or maybe you’re thinking about moving your entire organization. Either way, we know moving can be an extremely stressful (and expensive) process, and one you’d prefer not to repeat often, so we’ve gathered some helpful tips to help you address, and consequently avoid, common oversights when moving. Whether you’re moving for business or technology reasons, remember that, when moving day comes, it is important to establish and maintainfocus. It is likely that everything will not go exactly according to plan. Focus, combined with a well-developed plan, will help you overcome the speed bumps, and before you know it you will be settled in your new location and back in the flow of day-to-day business.

1. Think ahead – It is never too early to begin planning for your move. Moving a company is a huge project, and it is always beneficial to develop a well thought-out game plan.  Moving is a good opportunity to take inventory, so to speak.  Are you planning to move your communication system as a whole, or use the move as an opportunity to upgrade?  Perhaps you’re considering moving to Unified Communications as a service (UCaaS). Regardless of where you stand, don’t just plan for today. Assess the needs and analyze the growth of your business up to ten years ahead, that way you get the most out of your move.

2. Location, location, location – Aside from moving to a location that is convenient for your customers, it is important to look at a low-risk location in terms of natural disaster. Also in terms of safety, avoid locations near major highways as part of risk mitigation. Conduct an analysis to determine whether the intended site is suitable to house your data center. Aside from geography, other factors to consider include power availability and budget.

3. Power – When you are moving it is important to consider what your current and future power needs will be. Some questions to consider are: Is power abundant? (This is perhaps the most important question to ask), where are you on the power grid? Are there at least two sub stations providing power to the building? Does the building have a backup generator? According to a Transitional Data Services report, in 2010 data centers consumed about 2 percent of all electricity generated in the U.S., and the same report projected that power consumption would continue a rapid growth. Any site under consideration should have easy access to abundant power from multiple sources of electricity, taking advantage of low cost providers whenever possible. When assessing your power needs, also consider the following:

  • Fiber – Be sure to research how many and which fiber providers connect to the building.
  • HVAC – does the AC run only during the week? This is often overlooked but it is important to keep your server room cool during the weekends too.

4. Budget – While it is difficult to estimate a fixed budget for a project as complex as a move, you can alleviate some stress in this area by taking an in-depth look at what hardware and software your company is using. That old PBX that you’ve been using for the past 10 years might not be worth moving, so why pay to have it moved?

5. Enlist your employees – Before you begin the moving process, it is important to note which employees will be involved in the move and keep them informed every step of the way. Once you know who will be involved, determine how your manpower will be allocated: What will employees be responsible for? Be sure to announce what the company will and will not transfer with the move.

6. Data backup – Just as the IT staff should perform data backups prior to the move, you should also remind your employees to back up their personal work computers before the move as well. This will help to limit downtime once the move is complete.

7. Communications – We may be mentioning this tip last, but that doesn’t mean it should be taken lightly. If your move is communicated poorly, it could result in customer resentment and consequently a loss of business for you. Be sure to give advance notice, not just a last minute e-mail. MARKET, MARKET, MARKET: tell your customers you are moving and how your new facilities will better accommodate their needs.
Proper planning can help you avoid prolonged downtime and business disruption, as well as the need to move more often than necessary. These tips are a good start to help you prepare for your move. As the economy continues to change, an increasing number of organizations are relocating their data centers and offices as a whole. Good luck with your move!