Even without the unique challenges of 2020’s global pandemic, call volumes to GP surgeries inevitably ramp during the winter months with the onset of a large number of seasonal illnesses.
Of course, this year that volume is reaching unprecedented levels with heightened sickness in the community as well as increased staff absence due to Covid infection, self-isolation or shielding. So how can your surgery cope with the greater pressure on staff and systems whilst delivering the same great care and attention to your communities?
If there’s one thing you need right now, it’s flexibility; to be able to roll with the punches, to adapt quickly and change at very short notice. If you haven’t already made the switch to a VoIP system, it is worth considering the significant benefits to your surgery.
Give up to date and accurate information on Covid-19
The reality of any person answering the phone in a surgery, is that they will often spend a lot of time answering very similar questions; what time does the surgery open? When will I be able to get a vaccine? Is it safe to attend the surgery at the moment? In order to answer some of your most common queries, automated messages can be easily and quickly created that convey the answers, saving you time to focus on other areas of patient care.
Cover your bases with Auto-Attendant
There are many reasons someone may want to make contact with a surgery beyond feeling unwell – ordering repeat prescriptions, arranging specialist services or to collect test results to name just a few. The auto-attendant function on your VoIP system can help to filter these calls to the right destinations quickly and efficiently, freeing up over-burdened staff as well as leaving patients satisfied and reassured. Identifying the most popular reasons for incoming calls at this time of year and setting up your menu system to divert calls to the most appropriate destination will reduce wait times and frustration for patients.
Use hunt groups to reduce the burden of staff absence
This year more than ever you may well be dealing with increased staff absence, so how do you ensure phone lines are monitored and calls answered quickly? Use hunt groups to segment your phones into effective working groups. In essence, once phones are grouped, one incoming call will cause every receiver to ring which allows anyone in that group to answer. Hunt groups will help your teams absorb staff absences with ease, and also ensure calls are answered quicker for your patients.
Keep your wider network closer
The NHS is made up of many moving parts. A modern VoIP system can bring you closer to contacts and departments, allowing you to forward calls at the touch of a button. Should your team need to contact specialist services, hospital bookings or admissions, community-based health care practitioners or local pharmacies, this is easier than ever before saving the team time, energy and frustration.
Easily keep in touch with those working off site
The beauty of VoIP is that a handset (a physical phone) can be taken anywhere, plugged into a your broadband and will function just as a phone in the surgery would. For added flexibility, mobile phones can be added to the network too in order to provide additional options for keeping contact. What does this mean in practice for your surgery? It is easier and easier to communicate with doctors working off site, those on call or those making house calls in the community. Having these open lines of communication will give patients due care and attention and help reduce the burden on surgery-based staff.
These are just some of the ways an up to date communications system can help surgeries manage winter pressures both this year and in years to come. Contact the team on 01237 420010 to discuss the needs of your surgery.