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Why Medical Practices Should Embrace Unified Communications

400x300_35opacity_HealthcareTechnological advances have shined new light on the critical role of effective communication in medical practices. Better communication can dramatically improve the quality and frequency of patient engagement, which can lead to better outcomes. By simplifying collaboration and making data more accessible, medical practices can save time and reduce errors, resulting in greater operational efficiency.

The quality and speed of communication have a direct impact on initiatives to reduce administrative costs and deliver a higher quality of care. Unfortunately, many healthcare professionals are still using outdated communications tools. In a study conducted by the Ponemon Institute, approximately two-thirds of healthcare providers said that doctors and nurses are still using one-way pagers. Because of this old technology, clinicians waste more than 45 minutes per day at a cost of $5.1 billion per year to the healthcare industry.

Unified communications (UC) in healthcare has the potential to save money and save lives. UC integrates a variety of communications tools and applications — such as voice, email, fax, video conferencing, instant messaging and presence — into a single platform. All messages and data can be accessed through one inbox on any desktop or mobile device.

Instead of wasting valuable minutes and possibly putting a patient at risk while trying to track down a doctor, medical practices can use UC to have calls or messages automatically routed to home or mobile numbers. The system can be configured to only allow communication from certain sources. For example, doctor-to-doctor interactions can occur in real time, regardless of either doctor’s location or preferred mode of communication. Patient information can be securely and automatically shared and updated so all healthcare professionals are working from data that is accurate, complete and up-to-date. Data encryption and strict user authentication procedures ensure patient privacy and regulatory compliance.

Unlike a traditional phone system, a UC platform can be centrally managed and easily scaled. This makes it simpler and less expensive to maintain and expand the communications infrastructure as medical practices add locations, clinicians and support staff. A UC system can also be integrated with electronic health records (EHR), electronic medical records (EMR), and practice management software so data is easier to manage, access and share. Manual processes are replaced by automation, which reduces errors and redundancy and allows staff to focus their time on coordinating and delivering care. Because patient data is centralized, patient support services such as billing, appointment scheduling and test result delivery can also be centralized.

Nearly 1,000 hospitals, physician practices and extended care providers are using ShoreTel unified communications to enhance patient engagement and care. ShoreTel facilitates real-time collaboration and reduces patient response times with advanced mobile and messaging functionality. Medical practices can even add ShoreTel’s “call me now” feature to help patients who need assistance. All of the benefits of ShoreTel’s UC solution can lead to better performance on patient engagement surveys, which is directly tied to revenues according to the Affordable Care Act.

Faster, more reliable communication and easier access to data translate to better patient care and greater operational efficiency. Let us show you how ShoreTel delivers precision tools for clinical transformation.