A mini guide to tackling winter pressures with telephony

7 November 2022

We understand that during the winter pressure period, time for research and planning in surgeries is scarce, so we’ve put together a short guide to help practices maximise support from their phone system this winter.

                several people wearing face masks seated in widely spaced rows

Maximising patient access

Maximising patient access is one of the biggest challenges faced by practice managers today. A challenge that grows only bigger during winter pressures. Ensuring the practice's telephony system is set up to perform efficiently with your surgery’s ways of working can be critical in supporting staff and patients during this difficult period.

Follow these six steps to carry out a swift review of your surgery's phone system.

1. Maximise available line capacity

It's always worth a quick call to your provider to ensure you have access to the maximum available phone lines. This shouldn't be a problem if you have a cloud-based system – for example, babblevoice has virtually unlimited lines – but it may be worth checking to avoid a potential problem.

Utilising all your available lines means patients need never hear the engaged tone again. They will only hear the messages your practice and your patient participation group have chosen to use. Remember, many have multi-language options available to meet your community's needs.

2. Use automated functionality wherever possible

Your system may well have a range of functionality specially designed for peak incoming call volumes. Check to see what's possible and set up any automation that can help to free up your reception and admin staff to speak to the patients that really need them.

Consider the following:

  • Activate automated appointment booking, for example, babblevoice can enable patients to book for themselves using their handsets
  • Divert patients to automated bookings for specialist clinics such as vaccination clinics
  • Divert patients to automated repeat prescription services
  • Provide filter options for non-urgent callers to leave a message
  • If your practice is integrated with any social prescribing services such as citizens advice, set up automated diversion options

Remember to call your provider if you need help with setting up any of this functionality.

3. Connect hosted telephony for home workers

The winter season can also negatively impact staffing levels in practices. Your hosted system should enable connectivity for any staff who need to stay at home but can still work. Perhaps they are isolating with Covid-19 but don't have symptoms, or they need to stay with an ill relative, but have periods when they can work.

4. Use data and reporting to help with forecasting

Systems such as babblevoice provide instant access to real-time reporting on any aspect of call data. Identifying patterns throughout the day and week can be useful for forecasting staffing rotas to match demand where possible.

Remember that even if staff are working from home, their call data is still being collected and reported.

5. Maximise budget efficiency by only paying for what you use

If you can find time, it is always worth checking that your telephony contract is suitable for your size of practice. It's likely that you don't even need a contract – you will probably have more freedom without one (see below for more on this).

Ask your provider for volume-related discounts. You should pay less per call, the more calls you use overall.

Check you are not paying for functionality you don't need. One size does not fit all with telephony, particularly if it is not a primary care-specific system.

6. Schedule a contract review as part of next year's plans

If you find you are unable to make changes without paying penalties, you might want to consider scheduling in a contract change. It may be costly but it could hold you back if you're stuck with a system that's not fit for purpose.

Budgeting to get out of it as part of next year's budget setting should enable you to face next winter with more freedom and an improved system designed around your needs.

Finally, remember you are not alone. Babblevoice's support team are all UK-based and regularly assist surgeries with readying themselves for the winter pressure period. Reach out to your provider for support and let your telephony system take some of the strain this winter.

For more information about the babblevoice cloud-based phone system and how its primary care focused functionality can support seasonal pressures, please get in touch: info@babblevoice.com.

The perfect prescription?

If your practice staff is presenting with high phone costs, functionality that doesn't add value, and unhelpful onerous contracts, then get in touch. We can talk through your requirements and arrange a demonstration.

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