5 Ways VoIP Can Help Hospitals Minimize Communication Costs
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is taking communications to new heights, and hospitals all across the country are jumping on board.
From full-fledged hospitals to small clinics and health care offices, VoIP is changing the way the medical world stays connected.
With healthy communications in mind, here are just a few reasons why hospitals are dialing-in to VoIP.
There are many costs involved with running a hospital, which is why large medical institutions and local clinics alike are always looking for ways to lower their budgets.
VoIP phone service is a cost-effective way for hospitals to communicate with patients as well as their medical counterparts.
From in-house calls to long distance communications, using the Internet to make and receive calls is much more affordable than traditional landlines.
Instead of being charged for local and long distance calls on a minute-to-minute basis, hospitals simply use their network, which is a fraction of the cost.
Long Distance Efficiency
Cloud-based VoIP systems are beginning to change the long distance landscape for the better, and hospitals are taking notice.
Instead of having to deal with long distance charges from the phone company, hospitals and clinics can place calls and even video conference over the cloud.
This not only reduces costs, but also creates a more dependable and efficient long distance calling platform.
Instead of depending on long distance landline calls, physicians and doctors can connect with other specialists across the country via the cloud. The cloud and VoIP create an optimized, crystal clear calling and video conferencing environment that is less prone to interference.
Patient Registration and Billing
Hospitals field hundreds of calls each day, which makes the patient registration process pretty challenging.
With VoIP phone service, hospitals can collect multiple patient calls at one time and sort them based on priority. In addition, hospitals can track call statuses and ensure every call is answered promptly.
VoIP is also great for collecting payments. With VoIP, patients are quickly identified based on their name and account information. This allows patients to pay balances quickly and easily over the phone.
Likewise, because VoIP systems can access patient accounts, patients can be sent billing and appointment reminders via their home phone or mobile device.
As mentioned before, with VoIP, hospitals can handle calls based on priority.
This means whether a patient has a medical emergency or a question about an upcoming payment, the VoIP service can decide the importance of the call based on automated questions. This creates a more efficient call receiving process.
When it comes to the installation of new technology, hospitals don't have a lot of down time. VoIP systems install over existing computer networks, which means the installation process is fast and seamless.
Because VoIP is cloud and Internet-based, most of the equipment a hospital or clinic would need is already in place. This translates to virtually no installation down time and no disruptive installation procedures like running wires or installing bulky, space-eating hardware.
Thanks to Voice over Internet Protocol, hospitals are dialing-up better call efficiency.
About the author: Adam Groff is a freelance writer and creator of content. He writes on a variety of topics including technology and health care.
How healthcare can safeguard itself against cyberthreats
One of the most fundamental lessons from the COVID crisis is that health should always be a priority. In a similar fashion to the human body that frequently fights off viruses and foreign invaders that intend to cause it harm, the sector itself is now a prime target for another type of external threat: cyberattacks.
The figures speak for themselves: between December and January this year, hospitals in the UK were at 89% capacity, with 7,000 fewer available beds than there usually are. As the pandemic increased pressure on hospitals, clinics, and research facilities to create a treatment for patients globally, it has left the sector exposed to hackers who, like a virus, have been targeting it relentlessly and evolving their tactics.
From patient records being held ransom, to fake emails claiming to originate from the UN WHO, the NHS, or vaccine centres, through to attacks on the cold supply chain to find out the secret formula of the COVID vaccine, the healthcare industry is facing constant cyberattacks and struggling to cope. This threat is unlikely to go away anytime soon – and as such, the industry needs to take a proactive, preventative stance to stay safe in a dynamic digital world.
The responsive nature of healthcare – particularly of hospitals – means that efficiency is crucial to the industry’s standard operations. To support this, the sector has been embracing technological advancements that can improve the quality of work, enabling staff to meet pressing deadlines, and enhancing patient care. For example, the industry has been digitising records and improving its ways of working through digital means over the past few years.
This shift is critical to offer high quality patient care; yet, it also means the sector has become more dependent on IT, which can come with a risk if cybersecurity processes employed are deemed as inadequate.
Without the correct security measures in place, the desired efficiency gains realised, can be easily lost in a heartbeat. Simply put, an elementary glitch in the system can have a tremendous ripple effect on many areas, from accessing patient records and conducting scans, to maintaining physical security and protecting the intellectual property of experimental treatment development.
To prevent this, healthcare organisations need to ensure they’re considering cybersecurity as part of their overall digital transformation strategy – and setting the right foundations to create a culture where safety goes hand in hand with patient care.
Before implementing cybersecurity process, healthcare organisations need to assess the potential risks they face. Depending on how much confidential data the trust has, where it is stored, who has access to it and via which means, the cybersecurity strategy and associated solutions will change.
It’s fair to say that a medical device start-up where all employees have a corporate-sanctioned laptop and access data via a VPN will have radically different needs to a large hospital with hundreds of frontline workers connecting to the hospital’s Wi-Fi using their personal device.
These requirements will pale by comparison to a global pharmaceutical giant with offices in multiple locations, a large R&D department researching new treatments for complex diseases and a fully integrated supply chain. Considering the existing setup and what the organisations is looking to achieve with its digital transformation strategy will therefore have an immediate impact on the cybersecurity strategy.
Despite this, there are fundamentals that any organisation should implement:
Review and test your back-up policy to ensure it is thorough and sufficient – By checking that the organisation’s back-up is running smoothly, IT teams can limit any risks of disruption in the midst of an incident and of losing data permanently.
In our recent State of Email Security report, we found that six out of ten organisations have been victims of ransomware in 2020. As a result, afflicted organisations have lost an average of six days to downtime. One third of organisations even admitted that they failed to get their data back, despite paying the ransom. In the healthcare industry, this could mean losing valuable patient records or data related to new treatments – two areas the sector cannot afford to be cavalier about.
Conduct due diligence across the organisation’s supply chain – Healthcare organisations should review their ways of working with partners, providers and regulatory institutions they work with in order to prevent any weak link in their cybersecurity chain. Without this due diligence, organisations leave themselves exposed to the risks of third party-led incidents.
Roll out mandatory cybersecurity awareness training - Healthcare organisations shouldn’t neglect the training and awareness of their entire staff – including frontline workers who may not access the corporate network on a regular basis. According to our State of Email Security report, only one fifth of organisations carry out ongoing cyber awareness training.
This suggests it is not widely considered as a fundamental part of most organisations cyber-resilience strategy, despite the fact many employees rely on their organisation’s corporate network to work. By providing systematic training, healthcare organisations can help workers at all levels better understand the current cyberthreats they face, how they could impact their organisation, the role they play in defending the networks, and develop consistent, good cybersecurity hygiene habits to limit the risks of incidents.
Consider a degree of separation – Information and Operational Technology (IT and OT) networks should be separated.
Although mutually supported and reliance on each other, employees shouldn’t be accessing one via the other. This should be complemented by a considered tried and tested contingency and resiliency plan that allows crucial services to function unabated should there be a compromise. Similarly, admin terminals should not have internet access to afford a degree of hardening and protection for these critical accounts.
As the sector becomes a common target for fraudulent and malicious activity, putting cybersecurity at the core of the organisation’s operations is critical. It will help limit the risks of disruption due to cyberattacks, reduce time spent by the cybersecurity team to resolve easily avoidable errors, and ensure that institutions can deliver patient care, safe in the knowledge that their networks are safe.
Fighting future threats
With technology continuing to change the face of healthcare, the surface area and vectors available for attacks by malicious actors is constantly increasing. With the introduction of apps, networked monitoring devices, and a need for communication, the attack vector is ever expanding, a trend that needs to be monitored and secured against.
To prevent any damage to patients, staff, or the organisation they are responsible for, healthcare leaders must put security front and centre of their digital transformation strategy. Only then can the sector harness the full benefits of technology. Doing this should include implementing cybersecurity awareness training to challenge misconceptions around security, encourage conversation, and to ensure employee knowledge of the security basics and threats faced.
This ultimately allows healthcare organisations to do what they do best: provide the highest standard of patient care, safe in the knowledge that their operations, patients, and data are safe.