Comment: The benefits of server-based communications

Gemma Maroney of Solution IP, explains how server-based communications can enhance services across multi-site healthcare facilities

Gemma Maroney of Solution IP

Large institutions, like hospitals, require a communications package that is flexible and can accommodate workers in many different areas. Hosted telephony allows for easy call handling and routing, as well as excellent intra-facility communications, and can also help to save money. In this article, Gemma Maroney of VoIP communications expert, Solution IP, discusses the advantages of using hosted systems versus onsite ones, and how this relates to large healthcare organisations

The core strategies for business continuity have evolved considerably in recent years; a matter which is in no small part due to the advancements in unified communications technology, and a shift towards a more-agile workforce.

Todayís medical professionals need to be able to make critical decisions at a momentís notice, while simultaneously overseeing the care of numerous individuals, keeping accurate records, and maintaining professional vigilance in order to preserve the safety and security of their patients

For many organisations, this has meant embracing cloud-based systems and hosted communications solutions, in order to facilitate seamless communication and collaboration across a workforce that may span several facilities, counties, or even continents.

Within the healthcare sector, the advantages of this are immediately apparent.

Todayís medical professionals need to be able to make critical decisions at a momentís notice, while simultaneously overseeing the care of numerous individuals, keeping accurate records, and maintaining professional vigilance in order to preserve the safety and security of their patients.

As such, the ability to streamline essential tasks, and minimise the potential for human error is invaluable.

Budget constraints and fluctuating staffing levels can mean staff struggle to provide the level of attentiveness they would like.

In terms of healthcare, one of the key advantages of a hosted server is that patient notes are all stored centrally, and can be accessed from any facility as required

In the traditional system, patients may have to wait for lengthy periods before being seen, while others may be transferred between facilities without comprehensive notes on their wellbeing, or the treatment they have received. All of this diminishes the quality of care received by these individuals, while putting significant pressure on already strained medical professionals.

Sharing data for co-ordinated patient care

The situation is further hampered by the use of traditional PBX phone systems. In contrast to a hosted network, the data on these older systems is stored on-premises, and may not be accessible to anyone off-site.

In contrast, using a hosted server means vital information can be stored in one location, which can be accessed as required at any of its connected facilities.

In terms of healthcare, one of the key advantages of a hosted server is that patient notes are all stored centrally, and can be accessed from any facility as required. This allows multiple experts to collaborate on an individualís care, without needing to meet in person, or inconvenience the patient by requiring them to attend appointments at multiple locations.

Applications tailored to the healthcare sector are becoming more and more available. Many of these are designed to automate essential tasks, and improve efficiency, accuracy, and quality of care

For critical conditions and complex care needs, this is particularly important as prolonged investigations and multiple relocations can be both distressing to the individual, and damaging to their health.

In addition, applications tailored to the healthcare sector are becoming more and more available. Many of these are designed to automate essential tasks, and improve efficiency, accuracy, and quality of care.

The pros and cons

The question is, if you already have a physical PBX, will transitioning to a hosted system be worth the effort?

An important factor to bear in mind is cost. While there is an initial outlay for VoIP handsets, plus setting up accounts and security measures, in the long-term, a hosted system can reduce your running costs.

The initial savings arise from the lack of physical hardware to update, maintain, and secure. In addition, improved intra-facility communication coupled with the ability to share data across multiple sites simultaneously allows many tasks to be streamlined, saving time and resources which can then be focused on patient care.

For larger organisations, the use of hosted telephony really comes into its own. By providing an integrated network which connects every site to every other, you unify your workforce. This means any staff member at any site can immediately access the files they require to assist an individual in their care.

For larger organisations, the use of hosted telephony really comes into its own. By providing an integrated network which connects every site to every other, you unify your workforce

Another advantage of a hosted system is the ease of handling and redirecting calls. As you can permit mobile devices and off-site computers to access the network, it is easy to transfer calls to whoever is best equipped to handle them. In addition, improved call reporting functionality will enable you to continuously monitor and improve interactions between your staff and their patients or clients.

Scalability and the future

The key point to bear in mind when considering an upgrade to the core infrastructure of your facilities is that, in addition to offering a significant benefit to your organisation, it must be able to stand the test of time.

With BTís planned ISDN switch-off now only eight years away, the benefits of adopting hosted telephony are increased by the eventual necessity to transition to a VoIP alternative. Fortunately, the inherent scalability of a hosted system means you do not need to invest in any more space than you immediately require.

In fact, should you need to scale your network up or down for any reason, additional licenses can be added to your plan in order to keep up with demand. This can be implemented extremely quickly, in contrast to the days or weeks it can take to install or upgrade a physical server.

A matter of security

Ultimately, when you consider the savings and flexibility afforded by hosted telephony, it is easy to see why so many businesses, across all industries, have opted for an off-site server solution. Even so, as in all areas of the healthcare sector, the safety and security of people in your care must come first.

By streamlining and unifying facilities, you enable healthcare professionals to collaborate more effectively, and pool knowledge across multiple sites

All networks can be threatened by malicious software, tampering, and theft, so it is vital to form a comprehensive security strategy in order to protect the sensitive information stored on your company systems. Most hosted telephony providers include essential maintenance and software updates in their price plans.

In addition they may have dedicated security experts who can help you devise a tailored strategy, and ensure that no devices or potential weaknesses have been overlooked. With that said, once your security measures are in place, you can begin to make the most of the resources freed up by the implementation of a more efficient system.

By streamlining and unifying facilities, you enable healthcare professionals to collaborate more effectively, and pool knowledge across multiple sites.

The end result, therefore, is a higher standard of care for patients and clients, combined with an improvement to the overall working conditions and professional experience of your staff.

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