Using UC to Boost Patient Satisfaction and Quality of Care

Communication is the foundation of any medical practice. Now that most healthcare providers have completed their electronic medical record deployments, they are looking to other ways that technology can help improve patient care and lower cost. Many healthcare providers are reaping benefits with communication and collaboration tools.

Better communications and collaboration, both among clinicians as well as between caregivers and patients, can help practitioners deliver the personalized medical care that raises patient satisfaction while better utilizing resources. Patients don’t want to be left waiting on hold, whether they are making an appointment or seeking the advice nurse. They want communications that are convenient, whether that is email access to doctors, test results via a patient portal or click-to-call from the practitioner’s website.

A Better Patient Experience

A business phone system is more than dial tone. ShoreTel offers a comprehensive and cost-effective unified communications solution that includes enterprise contact centers, mobility solutions and cloud services. Nearly 1,000 hospitals, physician practices and extended care providers use ShoreTel. With ShoreTel, healthcare providers can connect teams via instant messaging, video collaboration and one-click conference calling. Automated call routing and messaging makes it easier for healthcare providers to accommodate variable hours, staffing and call volumes. Callers can use self-service options so they can get the answers they need faster. Providers can automate outbound reminder calls and coordinate post-discharge patient services more efficiently.

Airlie Women’s Clinic, a successful medical practice in Victoria, Australia, treats more than 300 patients a day. “Front-of-practice efficiency is critical in the delivery of high-quality patient care and how you engage with people via the telephone is particularly important when a patient’s well-being is at stake,” said Robert Szwarcberg, director of Airlie Women’s Clinic.

When Airlie opened a second office, it switched to a ShoreTel phone system. With the resulting communication efficiencies, the clinic no longer needed three receptionists to handle the incoming calls and it was able to reassign a receptionist to work directly with the doctors. A ShoreTel phone system enabled the practice to spend more time on direct patient care and less on administration. “Thanks to call management alone, ShoreTel is saving Airlie Women’s Clinic a minimum of 26 work hours per week; 75 percent of calls are answered within 30 seconds, and 90 percent of calls are answered within one minute,” said Szwarcberg.

Access Homehealth, which provides home healthcare for more than 14,000 people in New Zealand, also depends on ShoreTel to deliver a caring and responsive patient experience. “The telephone is the most important link to the world for people living at home and in care. Responsive, flexible telephony becomes critical for patients and nursing staff, particularly when people’s health if not their lives are at stake,” said Phillip Hendry, CIO of Access Homehealth. “For most businesses, the first contact that a potential customer has with your organization is by telephone. You are measured by the experience. When you are a large nationwide provider, particularly in the healthcare area, the intent is for all callers no matter where they are located, to have a consistent, positive experience with your telephone assets.” In addition, Access Homehealth has seen an annual savings of $450,000 and reassigned its call-center agents to more meaningful work and counted up 30% savings in telephony costs.

Improve Coordination of Care

With ShoreTel, care teams can quickly assess staff availability and determine the optimal contact method—phone, instant message, email, or another method. When workflows require repetitive tasks, users appreciate ShoreTel’s one-number reach, one-button dialing and single join key for conferencing. Improved staff collaboration can lead to better staffing levels.

DeHaven Eye Clinic in East Texas has been able to improve care while reaping efficiencies. “Our patients like it much better now with the ShoreTel system and workgroups,” said Christopher Morris, IT manager at DeHaven Eye Clinic. “Patients and referring sources like having a live person answer the phone. They actually tell us how happy they are about it. We’re one of the only medical practices in the area to have someone available even after hours, so if a patient calls and actually does reach the after-hours auto-attendant, they can still dial out to get a person. We pride ourselves on offering this level of commitment to our patients, and ShoreTel helps us achieve our communication goals.”

Enable Staff Mobility and BYOD

Caregivers are always on the go and need to communicate instantly and easily. Healthcare providers are now using laptops and tablets to access patients’ electronic medical records and for medical orders and instructions. Yet despite the popularity of the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend in other industry sectors, many healthcare providers have been leery about allowing the use of personally owned mobile devices to access sensitive patient information.

ShoreTel Mobility allows healthcare providers to integrate their smartphones and tablets securely, simply and cost-effectively, so they can embrace the benefits of BYOD. With ShoreTel, caregivers can access their mobile unified communication tools from any location (office, home or hotspots) and on any network (Wi-Fi or cellular). ShoreTel Mobility also supports ShoreTel Conferencing on Apple iOS devices, making ShoreTel’s rich collaboration capabilities available on iPad and iPhone. ShoreTel Mobility works with the ShoreTel business phone system as well as other PBX and UC systems, including Cisco and Avaya.

Highly Reliable, Simplified Management

Healthcare providers need more than an affordable phone system. They also need a highly reliable system that is easy and low maintenance.

ShoreTel’s on-premises and cloud solutions help simplify managing communications for healthcare providers. ShoreTel Sky is ideal for distributed clinics, and the hosted service offers the highest quality redundant network operations center in a HIPAA-compliant data center.

RehabCare, a leading provider of physical rehabilitation program management services and facilities in the U.S., uses ShoreTel for its communications. “Patients need the comfort and reassurance of being able to reach a live person right away. For patient safety and satisfaction, missed or dropped calls are not an option,” said Jim O’Brien, technical services at RehabCare. “The upfront costs of the ShoreTel UC system were less than the other vendors, and we’re saving both time and money on support because the system is so easy to manage. I’ve been able to move support of the phone system from a senior telecommunications analyst to the help desk, a much better use of everybody’s time. Now my senior staff has more time to focus on core business projects, and I’m better able to forecast future budgetary needs.”

Learn more about ShoreTel’s expanded focus on the healthcare vertical.

Turn to Collaboration to Increase Productivity

American productivity went down in the first quarter of 2014, and economists cited the unseasonably cold winter as well as businesses’ lack of capital investment for the stagnation. Wintry weather aside, market watchers are starting to see capital investments thaw as the prospects of stronger business growth ahead. A growing number of organizations are turning to unified communications (UC) and collaboration tools to turn up the heat on productivity.

In fact, according to the 2014 Information Week State of Unified Communications, 44% of organizations it surveyed were already using UC systems and an additional 13% planned to be up and running with UC within 12 months. And, 62% of companies cited improved employee collaboration as the top business driver for UC.

UC and collaboration tools enable people to work together efficiently and effectively, and that drives productivity. Mobile devices have given people the power to work from anywhere, and these days, most people work outside of a company’s head office, whether in a branch location, in the field or from home. Whether your workers are old enough to remember the days when team meetings in the conference room were the norm—or they’re just entering the workforce and take mobile and collaboration tools for granted — they need ways to work together simply and easily. Either way, they’ll benefit from having instant messaging, audio conferencing, desktop sharing and other collaboration tools at their fingertips.

ShoreTel offers a full complement of collaboration tools for organizations that deploy UC on-premises or in the cloud as well as for mobile workers. ShoreTel Collaboration is a simple add-on to ShoreTel’s on-premises business phone system. With ShoreTel Collaboration, teams can engage and share documents and spreadsheets with a single click, using the devices of their choice, whether they’re PCs, Macs or Apple iOS devices. ShoreTel Collaboration is simple to use. Setting up meetings and web conferences is hassle-free and lets people focus on creative sharing, not tinkering with technology.

With ShoreTel Communicator, users of ShoreTel’s on-premises phone systems have easy access to full conferencing and collaboration services. Desktop sharing is available in one click. Tight integration with Microsoft Outlook makes scheduling conferences easy, and meeting participants can view the shared desktop over the web without having to download additional applications or installing pesky plug-ins. For organizations that prefer cloud deployments, ShoreTel Sky Communicator makes collaboration easy, with enterprise instant messaging, voice chat and video chat, screen sharing and file transfer.

For workers on the go, ShoreTel Mobility integrates with Apple iOS and Google calendar applications. Users simply download the ShoreTel Conferencing for iOS app from the Apple App Store. Tablet users can follow presentations and view spreadsheets and other documents on the shared desktop.

ShoreTel Dock, when paired with the ShoreTel Mobility client, makes it even easier to collaborate. The ShoreTel Dock merges the benefits of a deskphone (audio quality, always-on power and ergonomic comfort) with the unified communications power of ShoreTel Mobility. Just pop an iPhone, iPad or iPad mini into the ShoreTel Dock, and workers can easily participate in a web conference, as well as instant messaging, web conferencing, directories, buddy presence and more.