The August bank holiday marks the end summer. It will be September when we return to work next week and autumn will have begun. Schools will also shortly be re-open to all pupils for the first time since the end of March. For GP surgeries, it will be business as usual, except many will be preparing for the onslaught of the flu season.
The flu season is always busy with GP surgeries trying to administer vaccinations to their vulnerable patients. Some adopt flu clinics for multiple patients to be vaccinated in a short space of time, but this will not be possible this year as surgeries need to deter people from congregating on site. Some are considering drive-thru vaccination clinics in surgery car parks.
Meanwhile, the threat of COVID-19 continues to dominate all our lives and GP surgeries are still offering phone or video consultations before any face-to-face appointments take place.
These two viruses will put serious pressure on GP surgeries and their resources. Call capacity will be severely tested as GPs dial out to conduct phone appointments and patients call in to book flu vaccinations or an appointment when they are unwell.
Limited call capacity may mean patients are met by the engaged tone or GPs will be unable to call out. Neither are very palatable for a healthcare setting.
Restricted call capacity is seeing some surgeries using dedicated numbers - rather than the main number - for flu vaccination bookings to ensure these incoming calls do not prevent other patients calling in or from GPs initiating their phone appointments.
Increased call capacity is just one of the benefits of a cloud-hosted phone system. Older systems, running on ISDN voice lines, will be limited and inflexible and adding extra capacity will take time.
As a result, call capacity has been one of the main reasons for upgrading to a modern telephony solution recently, but there are plenty of other benefits that have served GP surgeries well during the pandemic crisis:
- Remote working options, e.g. twinned desk handsets and mobiles
- Free calls to UK landlines and mobiles
- Easy control of greeting messages and automated attendant options
- Recording of phone appointments
- Web-based access to statistics, including unanswered calls
- Call queuing and comfort messaging
- Integration with patient management systems, such as EMIS and SystmOne
- Zero capital required – just monthly payments that include support
If you have been putting off upgrading your phone system, then I would urge you to consider making the change now before the flu season really begins to take effect. General practice is under enough pressure; call capacity is one area where we can help. Please contact me and I will put you in contact with our healthcare communications consultant.