In these times of diminishing reimbursement, we must look at ways of decreasing the costs of our practices. Obviously, we cannot cut much from patient care costs and we have a limited ability to increase fees and income from our practices. In any business, there are ways to improve the net profit. One could implement extended hours to see more patients, minimize payroll costs by reducing staff or try to lower the cost of materials.
However, I recommend taking a closer look at technology and changing the standard workflow to improve efficiency and decrease hidden costs. Indeed, there are several technologies that reduce or eliminate a large number of repetitive tasks and bolster your bottom line.
Why It Is Time To Rethink Your Phone Service
Most practices pay for phone service with a traditional phone company and pay a separate company for Internet service but one provider can give a practice the benefit of both. If you are already paying for a cable or DSL Internet connection, you can eliminate the traditional phone company service and just use VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) to provide phone service over the Internet.
With VoIP, podiatrists can use a high-speed Internet connection to make and receive phone calls at a fraction of the cost one pays for typical phone service. The reliability is improving and fairly large corporations are embracing the technology.
VoIP has been in use over the past few years by DialPad (www.dialpad.com), Net2Phone (www.net2phone.com) and Yahoo Messenger (www.yahoo.com). These services used to have two major drawbacks: needing a headset tethered to the home computer and having no local number for incoming calls.
With today’s VoIP service, one can use a standard household phone to receive incoming calls, have unlimited long distance, have voice mails sent to e-mail and more. A small adapter connects the Internet router and a standard telephone handset. With a VoIP system, users may save anywhere from $20 to hundreds a month. On top of the savings, a practice gets even more features than the standard telephone service offers.
What does a practice need to reap the benefits of VoIP service?
• A high-speed Internet connection (whether it is cable or DSL).
• A standard household cord/cordless phone plugged into the broadband telephone adapter. If the office telephone system is fairly new, one can adapt it to use VoIP in most cases.
• A router that facilitates simultaneous Web usage and phone conversations. This router is usually supplied by the company which provides the VoIP service.
One can choose from provider services such as Dialpad, Go2Call (www.go2call.com), Net2Phone, Vonage (www.vonage.com) and iConnectHere (www.iconnecthere.com) just to name a few. Telephone number portability allows a practice to keep its phone numbers, port them to one of these companies and then discontinue using the traditional phone company.
Other Phone Modifications That Can Enhance Efficiency
An answering service is a significant cost each month for many practices. A combination of call forwarding, voice mail and cell phone technologies can eliminate the cost of an answering service.
One can add voice mail to the office lines. The message can direct patients with emergencies to call a secondary number, which is call forwarded to the DPM’s cell phone. The cell phone can identify such calls with a special ring. This lets the doctor know a patient is calling and he or she can either answer immediately or let the call go to voice mail.