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Telephony challenges faced by general practice

Posted by James Hooker on 12/07 at 10:00 AM Cloud-hosted telephone systems, Gamma Horizon, Healthcare,
 Telephony challenges faced by general practice

The last few years have been a very trying time for GP surgeries. Lockdown may be a thing of the past, but the impact of the pandemic is still very much alive and pressure on surgeries and their staff remains high. But there are many surgeries still struggling with inadequate phone systems, amplifying the pressure on an undoubtedly stretched team of reception and clinical staff. We look at how some of that pressure can be resolved with a general practice cloud-hosted phone system.

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It’s an all-too-common story: a patient wakes up on a Monday morning feeling unwell, so they call their local GP surgery in the hope that they can book an appointment, only to find themselves joining the end of long queue of patients, all calling about the same thing. Wait times drag on and the urgent cases get stuck in line with the general enquiries, potentially putting vulnerable patients at risk. Meanwhile, reception staff are trying to handle multiple incoming calls and queries from in-person patients while trying to answer every call and keep call queues down.

What are the problems with older phone systems?

There are a number of reasons why an outdated phone system negatively impacts the efficiency of your GP surgery:

1. Limited number of lines

At their busiest times, surgeries are going to be juggling incoming calls from patients alongside outgoing calls from GPs and other health practitioners working their way through triage lists. The number of lines is limited on an older phone system. This inability to increase capacity means fewer incoming calls can be handled, and fewer outgoing calls made.

2. Problematic contracts with existing phone system suppliers

If your GP surgery has an older, traditional phone system, chances are it’s been around for a long time, and may even still be running on the same contract that was put in place when it was first installed. With all the pressures of the last few years, it is understandable that GP surgeries wouldn’t have seen telephony as a priority. When contract renewal dates come about, it is all too easy to continue with the same contract, the same costs and the same system.

But what happens once the dust settles and a review of the GP telephone systems available does become a priority? Surgeries are now finding themselves tied in to long or impractical contracts that often include large fees to terminate early.

3. Functionality of legacy phone systems

The way all businesses and organisations operate has changed as a result of the pandemic, and GP surgeries are no exception. As methods of working develop and improve, so too should an effective phone solution. Inadequate systems face several practical issues:

Limited or no integration with the clinical system

All surgeries use some variant of patient management software, such as SystmOne or EMIS. Older phone systems lack the ability to link up with these systems, meaning staff are taking longer to deal with calls as they search for patients on their system.

Limited or no ability to support remote working

In an age when staff may not necessarily always be working from a desk, remote working is vital. Surgeries may be part of a wider PCN, meaning staff may not always be based at a single location, so require the option to seamlessly log in when travelling between sites. Older GP phone systems simply cannot accommodate this.

Limited or no ability to record calls

The ability to record calls is essential, not only to protect your GP surgery but those calling too. If a phone system lacks an integrated call recording system, a surgery would need to implement one as a separate feature, incurring additional expense.

Limited or no visibility of how busy the phone lines are

Real-time monitoring of call volumes is vital to ensuring the smooth running of a GP surgery. Without it, it is near impossible to gauge patient demand, and in turn organise staffing levels to accommodate.

Limited or no audit or reporting features

Much like call recording, the ability to audit and report is essential to the operation of a GP surgery. Outdated phone systems lack access to auditing functions or the option to pull reports.

Telephony challenges faced by general practice

Lack of phone system resilience

Older phone systems lack resilience, especially if they are end of life and are no longer supported by the manufacturer. GP surgeries need to protect themselves from a potential lack of phone service should their system fail, which means replacing outdated solutions.

They also need assurance that any new solution they adopt will ensure patients can contact them whenever they need to during surgery hours, even if staff cannot be on site. A cloud solution has resiliency built in, so that calls can be answered from any location as long as there is a connection to the internet, while the infrastructure that supports general practice cloud-hosted phone systems is also designed to prevent any outages.


Poor patient experience caused by older phone systems

All these issues combined cause significant delays to dealing with patient enquiries, in turn threatening your surgery’s ability to uphold their duty of care.

With long queueing systems, patients experience frustration with long waits, delayed call-backs, and ultimately will either lodge complaints or abandon their wait completely, dropping the call and instead relying on emergency services or out-of-hours care.


GP surgery phone system providers

We have been delivering telephony solutions, such as Gamma’s Horizon phone system to the healthcare sector for nearly 40 years. We understand the demand GP surgeries face and how a modern and effective phone system can help ease the pressure and streamline a patient’s experience when calling for assistance.

With options for unlimited line capacity and flexible options for remote working, staff can easily handle higher volumes of calls both at the surgery and on the go.

Modern solutions link up seamlessly with patient management software, allowing staff instant access to a patient’s records when answering calls, and integrated call recording, auditing and reporting capabilities ensure oversight and protection for both staff and patients.

And with real-time monitoring functions, practice managers can monitor call volumes via wallboards to ensure staff are appropriately stationed for future demand.

If you would like to have a no obligations conversation about how we can help your GP surgery improve its efficiency with an upgraded phone solution, please do not hesitate to get in touch.


Related Content

>How can a modern phone system help GP surgeries lighten the load
>Questions to ask when considering a new phone system
>Healthcare brochure: Introducing cloud-hosted communications for general practice

Posted by
James Hooker's avatar
James Hooker on 12/07/2022

James has worked for the company longer than anyone else on the field sales team.

He has a strong customer-centred approach, particularly interested in improving and creating innovative change through communications technology and providing effective solutions that can help achieve and exceed business needs.

Away from work, James enjoys bringing up his three children. When he is not with his family, he enjoys competing in local squash leagues.

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Contact: james.hooker@swcomms.co.uk

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