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Manage your GP Practice phone system - don’t let it manage you!

Updated: Nov 1, 2022

Omicron is here.

Manage your GP Practice phone system - don’t let it manage you!

Here is some important information for GP’s, Practice Owners and Practice Managers to help you manage the impact of Omicron on your business and increased pressure on your telephone system.

Most initial contact with patients is by phone. In fact, some GP practices have stated that they don’t want patients just turning up while there is the risk of Covid spreading. Having your phone system configured and set up to help you is what you need to do.

This has what has happened in the last two years since Covid arrived in NZ at most GP Practices.

Inbound calls have increased dramatically and the impact of this is increased pressure on staff trying to manage and keep up with increased call volumes, increased patient frustration due to busy lines, increased waiting times and increased staff stress levels from continually dealing with angry patients who are often rude.

It has also impacted the outbound call process for most Medical Centres when Doctors are not able to get a line out of the system when they need to call a patient for a telephone consultation. The higher volume of patient telephone consultations has resulted in substantially increased call costs.

Another major issue that will affect Medical Practices when the Omicron variant spreads through the community will be the need for staff to work in multiple bubbles resulting in more telephone calls being dealt with by fewer staff members. A positive case or close contact may see a staff member needing to be away from the practice for 24 days or even longer. If Omicron was to go through a family with delayed transmission between family members, the timeline could extend from weeks to months.

Probably the biggest decision to consider right now is whether you set up your telephone system so you can unplug your phone on your desk in the practice and plug it into your internet connection at home. This then will work the same as being in the practice. Otherwise, your mobility options include transferring calls to your mobile or laptop which can be configured and used as an extension of your phone in the practice. You can also look at Wi-Fi and Bluetooth options. This is something you should look at setting up immediately to future proof your business and staff to ensure you can provide business continuity.

We asked Mark Farrell, the Managing Director of Simplyfree Medtel, a leading provider of VOIP Telephone Solutions for NZ Medical Practices how can these challenges best be managed to lower the pressure in the practice and increase flexibility and productivity.

Mr Farrell replied “you won’t be able to stop the increased call traffic to your practice, but you will be able to implement a system to ensure the most efficient management of that traffic. When we start working with GP Practices and Medical Centres, we always analyse the existing traffic and how it is configured to flow to the various positions and staff. By using our Call Traffic flow chart, we can quickly identify bottlenecks and backups. This provides a blueprint for how you answer, field and complete calls in the shortest possible time. By using better set-up and configuration we have seen up to a 60% drop-off in delays when answering calls and booking an appointment. Sometimes call traffic needs to be routed to different staff and departments or voice messages, which can all be automated.”

“It is important to choose a VOIP package that can offer unlimited lines and unlimited calls. These are now standard and provide a more cost-effective solution for a GP Practice. This means a patient will never ring and get a busy line. It also means that when a doctor or staff member goes to make an outbound call, they also will never get a busy line. Taking the unlimited calls package option ensures that you won’t have variable call costs with nasty surprises for your P&L at the end of the month. This has become particularly relevant when Doctors are having to call patients on their mobile phones, said Mr Farrell.”

He continued “to get the most from the telephone technology you need to understand how to configure your menu, extension structure, voice messaging, staff telephone protocols/rules and call queue structure. We have the most advanced VOIP telephone technology in the world and our platform was designed and built specifically for NZ Medical Practices. The difference we see from practices using an old telephone system compared to a properly configured latest solution is light-years apart. It has a massive impact on your staff morale and your bottom line. It is a no–brainer for the Medical Centre business model.”

“Our consultative approach allows us to collect data to make key decisions on how to set up and configure each different practice with what will work best for them after taking into consideration the human resource element. Our in-depth understanding of the GP Practice environment ensures we come up with the best-customised solution for each client. You should not have your telephone system slowing down your business, it is just another technology tool, and you can get the most from it by using specialist expertise, said Mr Farrell.

If you need help to migrate to VoIP PABX, call Simplyfree.

Simplyfree is based in Wellington, New Zealand and provides smart business phone solutions such as Fibre, Broadband, Toll-Free, 0800 numbers, Unified Communications, Conference Calls, Call waiting, Call queuing, Voicemail to email, call recording, video team meetings and more!

Email if you need further information about Simplyfree's VOIP Telephone Solutions.

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