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Telemedicine, TeleMed, & TeleHealth

The current state of business is morphing into something we haven’t seen before. New ideas and procedures are being created every day to keep businesses running and to address these new challenges.

A recent modern convenience is telemedicine. While it’s been around in a limited form for a while, current circumstances have given it a major boost in both interest and development. In this blog, we’ll take a look at how telemedicine works as well as the challenges it can bring to medical practices hoping to take advantage of this new frontier in medicine.

As a Managed Service Provider, we have seen that the current pandemic and quarantine have not only forced a lot of employees to work remotely, it has caused many businesses to meet with people remotely. We have been assisting all types of businesses turn this emergency situation into a better way of doing business.

A House Call Anywhere in the World

While it’s almost always best to see a physician in person, there are a large number of common conditions that generally can be diagnosed remotely. No, we’re not talking about an online symptom checker, but an actual living, breathing doctor who will see the patient via a video call.

These sorts of services would allow the physician to talk directly to the patient, and would then explain how they feel. If the symptoms don’t appear to be anything needing additional testing, the doctor could then make a diagnosis and begin a treatment plan, which might include sending prescriptions to a local pharmacy to be picked up by the patient. If the patient requires additional testing, a referral can be made.

Examples of conditions that are easily diagnosed via telemedicine include:

 

Benefits of Telemedicine

One of the biggest benefits of remote doctor visits is that the patient can get better without getting worse. Hospitals and doctors’ offices are, by their very nature, full of sick people. The more often we go to these places, the more likely we are to catch something, compared to staying at home, that is. Telemedicine is the definition of social distancing.

This particular benefit has become huge this year since many people hope to stay far away from groups of sick people due to fears of COVID-19 — and for a good reason! Not only is this true for patients, but for the people who work the offices, including the physicians. A recent article in The Guardian stated that around 20% of all COVID-19 patients got infected while in a hospital. With many people considering it unsafe to go into the office, it makes sense that they would much rather telecommute to talk to a doctor for the sniffles.

Additionally, everyone involved saves money. For the patient, they don’t have to worry about transportation or taking time off work. The physician doesn’t have to worry about having a large medical space with a large staff, which may result in them charging less for their services to the patient or insurance company. If the insurance company is charged less, they can (hopefully) keep their premiums at reasonable levels. It works out best in everyone’s favor.

 

Challenges of Telemedicine

Even though telemedicine tends to work out so well for everyone involved, it doesn’t mean the technology and processes needed to set up and maintain this service are automatic. For instance, not everyone owns a computer, especially for older or lower-income patients. Even for those who do have access to a computer, internet access can still be a challenge since telemedicine requires a highspeed internet connection in order to have stable communication.

Beyond the patient’s end, physician’s needs quite a bit of technology to make sure everything runs smoothly. Some might think this would just involve a doctor hopping on Skype or Zoom and having a chat with their patients. However, there are many factors to take into consideration. For example, will this be taking place in a medical office or home office? Will multiple physicians be working together at the same time or just one? Will this be something done for a few hours every week or will you be routinely communicating with your patients remotely? Do you need to share your screen to show test results or x-rays? How are you ensuring that HIPPA standards are being met?

Depending on how you answer these and other important questions, your hardware and software needs will be drastically different.

 

The Way to Success

Thankfully, if you’re planning on starting or improving a telemedicine operation, you won’t be the first. What most physicians have found is that it’s best to leave the technical aspect to the experts so they can focus on what’s most important: their patients.

One of the best ways to do this is to contact us right from the beginning. By doing this, there’s no guesswork as to what hardware and software are needed, plus any maintenance and upgrades are routinely cared for. Even the scary parts, like HIPPA compliance, are taken care of so your patients’ privacy is secure and you can sleep well at night.

If you currently have a telemedicine operation or are considering starting one, be sure to contact us sooner rather than later. We will go over your needs as well as give you multiple options to make sure the solution you choose is best for you. By bringing us in to do our job, we’ll give you lots of time for you to focus on your job. And right now, the world really needs you.

In our last two blogs, we’ve discussed the pros, cons, and popularity of using VoIP Phone Systems for small businesses. And we have concluded that VoIP technology is only going to become more popular moving into the future. If you’re tired of high phone bills, particularly from long-distance or international calls, then you need to look into getting a VoIP phone system.

We’ve been getting a lot of questions lately, mostly about what it takes to install the system. So, in today’s blog that’s what we’re going to address. We’ll give you a general overview of what it takes to get your VoIP phones ordered, installed, and operating correctly in your office. Then, we’ll offer you an even more efficient way to get them installed. Let’s take a look at the first way to install your VoIP phone system.

  1. Do it Yourself

The first step in the process should be doing a little research about what VoIP is, how it works, what types of phones are available, and how to set them up. When researching phones, keep a list of what you need for your office staff, then tally up the number of remote phones you’ll be using. You can start by simply replacing what you are currently using, but that may be overkill.

With VoIP technology, you have the ability to make and receive calls through your computer workstations. And you can also set-up cellphones with the installation of an app, to receive automatically-forwarded calls, so you can answer business calls no matter where you are. So, if you would like to take advantage of these options, you may not need to order as many phones as you thought.

You can order the phones with your current phone numbers, or any number you want, pre-installed. Since the phones use IP addresses as their location, they are configured with a link from your phone number to that specific IP address.

When you receive the phones, connect them to your LAN, (local area network), through the network connection at your workstations. With VoIP, there is no need to run a separate phone line. Once installed and turned on, access the IP Address of the phone and set it up using the manufacturer’s software. Under Account Settings, set up the username and password for each phone, then connect it to the server.

Now the account is registered and the user can begin making and receiving calls. But there are still more steps you’ll need to take. In the menu of the phones, set up all the user options you want. Things like; the number of call lines you want, speed dial, voice mail, direct pickup, group pickup, intercom, redial, record, and a whole lot more. After that, you can either record a custom message or use one of the prerecorded messages available.

Many VoIP Desk Phones have a Touch Screen, so you can dial using either the screen or the standard numbered buttons. You will probably want to hold a training session to teach your employees the new processes. Give yourself some time to do a decent amount of research so you can be sure you’re getting exactly what you need. Then you’ll need the time to install and configure the phones, set up the functions you’d like to use, and train your employees.

Easy, right? You got this!

Now let’s take a look at your second option:

  1. Bring us in to install it for you.

With us doing the install, you’ll be up and running in no time. We’ve already done the research and we even have our preferred vendors who we trust. Disruption during the install is minimal. We will just need a few minutes of access to the work area, phone, computer, and cabling. Phones will be installed, activated, and tested. Once the network connection is good, that’s it! You’re set to use your new VoIP phone!

We can even help show your staff how to use the new system.

The best news is that we can fold the new system into your existing monthly agreement. That means no more separate phone bill. No more overcharges for long-distance and international calls. No more data overages to worry about.

Let us know when you’re ready to start saving money.

In last week’s blog, Can VoIP Help Your Business, we took a look at the pros, cons, and the ease of VoIP installation, and concluded that, yes, most likely it can help your business. Today we’ll do a deeper dive into the benefits you will see by switching to a VoIP Phone System.

We can’t, however, talk about the current popularity VoIP is having without bringing up COVID-19 and the restrictions it has caused across the country. Due to the pandemic’s quarantine, many employees from all kinds of businesses were directed to work from home, if they were lucky enough to keep their jobs, that is. This sudden crisis caused businesses to scramble and create new ways for those employees to communicate with their managers and clients. At first business owners were skeptical about this arrangement. Up until now, it has always been easy to monitor the work of employees, but how can we know what they’re doing if they are working remotely?

Suddenly webcams flew off the shelves and many suppliers ran out completely. Laptops were also being scooped up, and new cellular contracts were signed so employees would have ways to stay in touch with their office. It’s the cell phones that bother us. As you know all too well, the average cost of a cellular contract is between $40 and $80 dollars per month. More usually, with hidden fees and penalties if you use too much data. And who hasn’t done that?

On top of those costs, you have to buy the phone! Sure, sometimes they’ll throw in the phone, but, if not, you’re looking at $600 to $1,000 for each phone. Possibly more if you’re investing in something suitable for work. This is where a lot of businesses were hit hard in the pocketbooks. And, unnecessarily so, if you ask us. There’s got to be a better way!

And there is! Let’s take a look at some of the key reasons VoIP is such a hot topic right now:

Easy Installation

IP phones are virtually plug-and-play. There is no need to run separate phone lines – your VoIP phone connects to the same network cable your PC runs on. Or, for some applications, you can even use it through WIFI. The phones are easy to maintain and should last years with normal usage.

Telecommuting

VoIP technology is extremely portable, and it easily allows users to connect to your system from their office or at home. It’s even easy to connect if your employees travel abroad. Your employee’s dedicated phone number is linked to them wherever they choose to work.

Conferencing

With standard phone systems, you’ll often end up paying an additional service fee for hosting multiple callers when you set up a conference call. Those days are over when you switch to a VoIP system.

Scalability

VoIP systems allow you to add or delete lines as your pool of employees grows or shrinks. You only pay for what you use, and phones are easy to add, delete, or move. You can also use your desktop computer, your smartphone, or laptop to make and receive calls through your browser or a special app.

Additional Features

There are many features VoIP offers that can help small businesses, such as; customizable call forwarding options, customizable greetings, automatic call transfer, voicemail transcription to email, detailed usage reports to help control costs, and an updatable customer contact book. There are also instant messaging and video chat functions you can use, and you can even set-up an automatic phone recording that may help resolve customer issues in the future.

You’ll also get advanced call center functions. With state-of-the-art analytics, you can track the usage of your staff and calculate the amount of time they’re contacting your customers. Cloud-based phone systems are proven to be reliable and secure.

The Cost

The monthly and yearly cost of using a VoIP system is much less than using a conventional phone provider. Not only does daily use cost less, but long-distance calls are also cheaper when using VoIP phones. The typical savings over older phone systems is 40% or more. The reason for this is, with traditional phone systems, a call is made by switching the path through a series of physical exchanges until it reaches its destination. The more exchanges you need to complete the call the more it may cost. And those exchanges need a lot of upkeep.

With a VoIP system, your voice is turned into a data packet with an identifier, and sent through your existing network, through the cloud, and into the network of your destination.

To get set up you need to get your network checked, purchase the phones, and find the best monthly contract that fits your needs. And the good news is we can help you with all of that.

A very recent study just reported that, due to the COVID-19 quarantine, 15.2% of all small businesses that closed their doors will not re-open. We don’t need to tell you that the main reason most of them won’t re-open is because of a lack of funds. When it comes to running a business, you’re always looking for ways to cut costs. And, as you can see, VoIP phone systems are definitely cost savers. Watch your budget and don’t become a statistic.

Contact us today and find out if a VoIP phone system is the kind of technology you’ve been waiting for.

Can VoIP Help Your Business

We’ve been hearing a lot of buzz lately about VoIP, or Voice Over Internet Protocol, which is just fancy jargon for an internet phone system. People are hearing from friends or business acquaintances who are using VoIP that, not only are they saving money, but this “new” technology has added a lot of flexibility to their daily operations. While it is true that VoIP systems will save you money over landlines or cellphones, there are even more benefits to utilizing the right VoIP set-up for your business. Let’s take a look at how this technology works, and visit some of the strengths and weaknesses of Voice Over Internet Protocol systems.

VoIP phone systems allow you to make and receive calls through the internet rather than hardwired or cellular lines. VoIP systems offer much more flexibility over standard phone lines and even cellphones. By integrating cloud technology with business phone functions, VoIP systems can handle everything you need to run your business and more. Usually an easy set-up, the typical user can switch over to a VoIP system in less than a day. If done correctly, there should be little or no downtime.

VoIP has been around since the mid-90s, and, in its early stages, it didn’t work very well at all. Most of the early troublesome issues were due to slow network speed and the inability to package and read bundled data efficiently. With today’s high-speed networks, switches and routers, those issues have been addressed. In fact, VoIP is regularly used through WIFI with little or no quality issues. It is recommended that your internal network is tested before installation to ensure your network speed is capable of handling the new equipment. Generally, there will not be a heavy drain on your network speed, but you should know beforehand if you are equipped to handle the new phone system or not. We can help with that.

Internet Protocol, commonly known as IP, is a set of rules that define how data is delivered over the Internet. IP works in conjunction with the transmission control protocol (TCP), which divides network traffic into smaller packets for a means of more efficient transport through the Internet. Together they are referred to as TCP/IP.

The way VoIP works is, voice information is sent digitally over the internet through your existing network. These phone systems really took off when Cloud storage was introduced because the endless amount of storage is just what VoIP needed to transfer the growing amount of data. Basically, a series of packets of digital information carries your voice data from your IP address to the IP address of your destination. The system at your end converts your voice to data packets, those packets are routed through a cloud-based Private Branch Exchange, then, at the other end, they get converted back to your voice for the listener.

VoIP gives you the ability to work from anywhere and still have the ability to answer calls from the same phone number. You’re no longer tethered to your home or office. And you don’t have to give everyone a series of different phone numbers where they can reach you while you’re traveling. As far as your clients know, you’re always in your office right next to your phone. And that reliability means a lot to your reputation.

One complaint that used to be fairly common from VoIP users was poor audio quality. Issues such as jitter, echo, or static are still sometimes reported by VoIP users, although these issues are being addressed with upgrades regularly. The root cause of the majority of audio issues is usually related to your existing network not being up to current standards, or it may be too old to handle the speed required of the new technology. Contact us and we’ll check your wiring, network switches, Firewall, IP Addresses, Internet Circuits, and everything else that might impede the speed of your network. Then, if needed, we’ll let you know what it will take to get everything up to spec.

Some people ask what happens to the VoIP phones if the internet goes down. Since the phones rely on the internet, if the service goes down the phones go with it. But there are solutions in place. One safety net that is a Virtual Auto Attendant that, in an emergency situation, can forward calls to voicemail or designated cellphones. Calls can also be routed to another location, like a home or a second office. Another option, if you’re a larger company with a lot of daily business on the line, would be to invest in duel internet providers; one as a primary and one as a back-up. Generally, this is overkill, but if you’re afraid of power or internet outages affecting your business you may want to look into this option.

Old, analog phone lines are stable and reliable, but everyone knows they are way overpriced. And they lack the flexibility most businesses require. Plus, how many of us are still relying on hard-wired analog phones to run our business? Most of us rely on our cell phones for daily communication because of the remote capabilities. But, as we all know, cellular plans are also overpriced. It’s clear that VoIP is the wave of future communication. It’s inexpensive, flexible, adaptable, and will grow with the ever-changing technology.

If you are interested in finding out if a VoIP system can help you, please contact us anytime.

At a business lunch a few months ago. Someone told us about a technique he likes to use during his daily employee meetings. At the beginning of their meetings, he has all attendees take turns telling everyone something good that happened. It can be something personal, professional, a joke, anything that shines a positive light on something worth sharing. They started this tradition long before the woes of 2020. It has become even more important recently as it starts off every meeting on a positive tone. We don’t need to tell you that this year hasn’t been the best one yet. We also don’t want to focus on that. While brainstorming this week’s blog topic, we thought, why not expand the tradition and share a positive note for small businesses. So, here’s our “Something Good.”

Backbone of America

Statistically, more people work for small businesses than corporations in America. We are truly the lifeblood of the economy. While it may feel like we’ve been taking a beating between being closed/restricted for COVID-19 purposes, and now, in many places, to protect against riots and looting, small businesses will be needed to bring the nation’s economy back. The first half of 2020 likely didn’t live up to your optimistic strategic plan, but that doesn’t mean all hope is lost for the year. Now is the time to begin digging-in and preparing to make something of the second half of the year, no matter what comes down the pike next.

Treat this as an Opportunity

Recently, we blogged about the 9 things you should do while your business is down. Those are all still relevant, but we want to dive in a bit more on one of these: determine your next offering. There has never been a better time to reinvent yourself.

We’re Here to Help

Many of our clients rely on us to help with their business growth goals through technology and strategic planning. As you’re determining your next move in driving forward or re-inventing yourself to fit the new world order, we are ready to assist, whether you’re looking for hardware, software, business advice, or a listening ear. Together, let’s make this the best comeback year anyone dreamed possible.