Phone & Computer
Busy signals and unanswered phone calls can result in lost revenue and unhappy patients, which means your telephone system is an important investment in your practice. Your computers, email and Internet access are equally important.
You may only have one choice for your local telephone service provider, but there are service features you will want to consider, including:
- Call waiting
- Multiple phone lines
- Conference and hands-free (speaker) calling
- Cell, paging and Internet services
- Speed dialing and automatic redialing
- Caller ID and number blocking
As with any business expense, don't spend money for any of these features if you don't need them. Take into account how you want to serve your patients and how they will want to be served as you choose which features to include.
Ideally, your office should have a minimum of three phone lines and preferably four. You can purchase one main line, then pay for two additional lines and a rollover fee so that no caller ever receives a busy signal.
If callers receive a busy signal, they will likely call another office, and you could miss the opportunity to serve a patient. Having multiple lines is an inexpensive way to guard against missed phone calls.
Getting by with cheap phones won't save you money in the long run. It will actually cost more, when you have to replace them because your practice has outgrown them.
Start with a phone system that can grow with your practice with features such as:
- Console base for the front office
- Cordless handsets – start with at least one
- Expandable – allowing you to add additional handsets in the future
- Multiple line capability (at least 3 or 4),
- Voice mail – with private voice mailboxes
- Conference call mode
TIP: Consider providing headsets for office staff members. The headsets will help set good examples of posture and work habits to your patients. Plus, your staff can efficiently multi-task in an ergonomically correct manner.
Even if you have an answering machine or voicemail service, you may want to consider a telephone answering service to pick up calls after your normal business hours. These services provide a live person to answer your calls in the way you specify, then either take messages or forward calls to you.
An answering service can be especially helpful for dentists who want to be available to patients 24 hours a day – screening after-hours calls to verify the nature of the emergency situation before the call is forwarded to your home. This type of service will also protect your personal privacy – not putting your home telephone number into patients' hands, but still providing a level of service that your patients will value.
Another option is to have a business cell phone so that you can provide that number on your answering machine when patients call after hours.
An Internet connection may be available through your telephone company as part of a bundled package. This may be a way to consolidate services at a savings.
Setting up your Internet connection and an email account will be important for submitting insurance claims. It will also facilitate a more efficient billing process and improve your cash flow with quicker claim payments.
Many Internet service providers will furnish an email account as part of your connection fee. Or, if you’re creating a website, you may have the option to set up an email account through that provider. Ideally, your email account uses your web address (practice name). If you don’t have a website, you can consider a free email account available through Google, Hotmail, Yahoo, etc.
Also consider whether you want each staff member to have separate email accounts to use while at work. If so, it may be best to establish a practice-related email account for consistency.
Many providers today offer bundled service for Internet, phone and email service. Evaluate whether it’s more efficient (and less expensive) to bundle services.