Unify Blog
Young man with notebook enjoying success

We all hear about the disruption and financial burden of snow days on businesses and individuals, but with summer (finally) arriving in the UK it would appear that we are just as exposed when it comes to the heat!  This article in The Telegraph talks about sending people home if the workplace is hotter than 30°.  Fabulous! Let’s all flock to our gardens  and relax on an impromptu day off enjoying the sunshine, having a long cold drink and raising the glass to the Sun God for us not having to work today J

However, this ( as pleasant as it is for us employees) is enough to create financial burden on our businesses. The phones stop being answered, orders stop being processed, customers stop being ‘serviced’ and the business suffers.  The organisation suffers from loss of customer satisfaction and of course financially.

If only there were a balance to be reached – where employee and employer could have the best of both worlds…

Something like business continuity measures where employees can take their work home and sit in their basement or garden – away from a sweltering office maybe? Now you could invest in air conditioning throughout your office building – but that isn’t going to help on the other end of the scale on the more frequent snow days.  Hmmm… what else….?

How about cloud based communications and collaboration? Where you can work from anywhere that has an internet connection and it would be seamless. No-one need know that you are under a parasol in your flip flops because they are still receiving the same service levels as if you were in the Office.  It is cost effective, it is scaleable, it efficiently copes with seasonal demands /peaks and troughs in your business, it maintains business continuity and it could mean that difference between being in the red or black that month for some small businesses.

It’s a win win situation. Find out more at https://www.circuit.com/

Now.. would somebody pass the sun cream please?

 

Posted in Circuit, Collaboration, Mobile Working, New Way To Work, Virtual Teams
hospitable hospital

Patients are increasingly becoming consumers of healthcare, expecting high standards of service from all organisations, public or private.

Hospitals in the US are buying into this, and compete by providing amenities associated with hotels, such as nail salons. This isn’t just confined to the US, though. Shopping facilities, further than just a coffee shop and sandwich place, are becoming common in newer NHS hospitals.

Some US doctors even take patient experience into account when referring. Clearly, there are differences – hospitals aren’t a fun place for a holiday, and the infection prevention and control people would be horrified if ornaments and tasselled cushions were introduced.

Much has been written about personal behaviour that can make patients feel welcome. Technology can also help.

Check in

A customer calling a hotel who gets no reply and is repeatedly told “Your call is important to us” would soon book elsewhere. Callers can become frustrated if they have to wait on hold while an operator tries various extensions to get hold of someone.

First contact resolution improves satisfaction and cost efficiency – before a patient has even stepped through a hospital door.

An integrated centralised appointment system allows telephone operators to book appointments in different departments in one call. An alert can be raised when calls are building up, so a colleague can be deployed. Callers can request a callback if the line is busy, and be contacted by email and text messages.

A system that gives operators an overview of staff information also helps; they can tell callers if someone is not in or if they are unable to take calls, instead of putting callers on hold while trying to get hold of someone.

Data collected about calls delivers an evidence base on which to base staffing, and has shown that such systems make efficient use of staff and improve patient satisfaction.

A pleasant stay

A hospital room is rarely as welcoming as a hotel’s. They are often shared with strangers, and infection prevention and control measures mean they lack homely touches.

However, a bedside console offering multimedia entertainment, internet access and internal and external calls can greatly improve a stay. Patients do not have to share a TV, and can watch without disturbing others. They can also block calls to their dedicated number if they do not want to be disturbed. A call bell system is included.

Providing nurses with wireless handsets means they do not need to attend each call in person immediately. They can also call in colleagues from different areas using the same system.

Terminals in each room allow staff to access and update records, so they can answer patients’ clinical questions. Login by smart card allows practitioners (including agency staff) to move between patients without having to log in and out for each application. If a nurse is administering medication to 10 or 15 patients, it frees up significant time for care.

Enhancing the physical environment can foster healing and influence perceptions of service quality.

There are many benefits to patient-centred care, according to research compiled by the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Healthcare. “Broadly categorised as care experience, clinical and operational benefits. Studies show that when healthcare administrators, providers, patients and families work in partnership, the quality and safety of health care rises, costs decrease, and provider and patient satisfaction increase.”

Other benefits compiled by the ACSQHC associated with patient-centred care include decreased mortality, decreased emergency department return visits, fewer medication errors, lower infection rates, higher functional status, and  improved clinical care.

Checking out

A recruitment advert in the 1970s said healthcare was the only field where you were glad to see the back of your customers.

You won’t necessarily see the back of your customers today.

Support after discharge is key to reducing readmission, so a “hospital without walls” culture, with support for carers and condition management, should be developed. Putting right causes of dissatisfaction may improve concordance with treatment.

Social media has been found to minimise length of hospital stay, reduce complications and improve patient satisfaction in paediatric diabetes care.

Your patients can tell everyone about their stay on social media. Like canny hotel operators on TripAdvisor, hospitals need to respond to both good and bad reviews – and many providers are oblivious to the social perception of their organisation.

Although 72% of adults who use the internet engage in social media, little is known about its prevalence among hospitals and the ways in which hospitals use it. Patients have choices over their care, and in larger urban areas where choice isn’t so inconvenient, more patients are having their referrals changed from one provider to another. The word needs to be out that they should choose you.

Takeaways:

  • As patients increasingly exercise choice, their experiences are becoming more important.
  • A better physical environment can foster healing and influence perceptions of service quality.
  • Resolving patients’ phone enquiries the first time they call improves satisfaction and cost efficiency.
  • While wards lack homely touches, a bedside console offering entertainment, internet access and telephone calls can greatly improve a stay.
  • Assume patients will report their experiences online – respond to both good and bad reviews.

Call to action

Discover why the hospitable hospital is booming with happier patients and how you could transform your approach. Download your free report The Modern Patient Experience: Where Care Matters now.    

Posted in New Way To Work, Public Sector
SMBs TWWW

When looking at potential customer segments for communication technology it’s tempting as vendor to just focus on creating solutions for the enterprise market.  After all, those “big” contracts bring credibility, influential references and a predictable revenue source.

So where’s the downside?

The sales cycle to these big corporate organizations is (usually!) long and intensive. Some also come with the baggage of years of previous technology investments (and dare I say it mistakes) to contend with.  The enterprise is also not a place that you would typically find the deployment of the very latest technology. Of course, there are exceptions, but generally speaking with any technology purchase there is a change management programme and adoption plan.  There may be pockets of use but company-wide adoption could take a lot of time.

Let’s compare this to a smaller, growing organization – typically with fewer than 500 employees. Our recent “Way We Work Study” shows that growing businesses (60%) use on-demand tools (technology that is internet or cloud based) in their professional work. This is higher than companies of over 500 employees where just over half are using newer tools at their work.

We therefore can’t simply focus on the enterprise for our communications technology – if we did, we’d quickly fall behind the curve. The SMBs, are in a lot of ways, testing and using the best modern technology can offer ahead of enterprises.

We can also say that SMBs are embracing the freelancing and on-demand economy more than their larger counterparts with over a quarter of respondents stating they were currently contracting and a further 56% considering moving to this type of work.

Perhaps one of the biggest differences is that 61% of SMB knowledge workers use their own devices compared to just under half 47% of larger, enterprise organizations.  This statistic should not surprise us, as devices are a big cost consideration for any business, but it is quite telling and is a key consideration when proposing solutions to SMBs.

We know that not all SMBs are the same. Individually small, but collectively they are the largest customer segment. Their diversity and willingness to take risks means they are perfect testing grounds for new technology and they do have strong networks with other organizations so there is big opportunity for word of mouth marketing – you can go viral with SMBs in a way you just can’t with the enterprise.

So what kind of communications solution would benefit and be right for a progressive SMB?

Answer for today:  A cloud based communications application that could work on multiple devices/ browsers and would enable productive and effective interactions in with customers and in the growing freelance economy.

That answer will change over the years – but we’re here to learn and develop with SMBs, so business is done better across the world.

Posted in Mobile Working, New Way To Work, Unified Communications
10 requests image

You wouldn’t expect a doctor to write a prescription for shampoo and toilet paper, or a sick note to cover your holiday – yet, unbelievably, such requests are a problem.

Turning down requests puts doctors in a difficult position – it can cause stress, undermine the doctor-patient relationship and leave patients dissatisfied. With an increasing emphasis on the patient as consumer, initiatives such as the Friends and Family test and online reviews of NHS services, have obvious implications.

Wasting time, money, and precious resource

Some doctors in the US admit to providing unnecessary specialty referrals in response to patient requests. Reasons include wanting to avoid complaints, which are viewed as irritating and time consuming, and to maintain patient satisfaction and the doctor-patient relationship.

Either way, inappropriate requesting represents a waste of time and money, precious resources that could be better spent elsewhere, so refusal deserves consideration.

Many legitimate enquiries do not need a face-to-face appointment. A streamlined enquiry line can act as the first stage of triage, so patients can first talk to the most appropriate practitioner or be signposted to information; a system that integrates calls with staff information will allow operators to advise when a practitioner will be available.

Information reassurance

Often, anxious patients can be reassured with information. Patients and carers have said they need more information to improve their experience and help them to manage their care. Such information could be shown to a patient on a screen in the surgery, then emailed to them or printed out on the spot.

With an integrated system, an appointment can be made for a recently diagnosed patient to see a specialist nurse for further support, for example. Having information on staff whereabouts and working days to hand in such a system allows appointments to be made and negates the need for further calls, improving efficiency and the patient experience while minimising administration.

Such systems can be integrated across services, improving referral to different providers and allowing data to be shared between practitioners in real time.

Manage – and then filter

Streamlined systems can help practices manage and filter more of these enquiries. However, inappropriate requests will still be made during consultations. Requests for sick notes, antibiotics and benzodiazepines are the most common causes of doctor-patient tension.

A screen logged on to sources of official information, such as the British National Formulary or the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence, can be used to explain to patients why their request will not be fulfilled.

Being able to pull up internal policies on a screen can also defuse tension – a doctor is able to say, for example, “our guidelines say we don’t give out diazepam”. A system, kept and updated centrally, could also include a list of a practice’s non-commissioned procedures.

Patients often compare their current experience with previous ones, and may question why a doctor has refused to prescribe a drug that another physician gave them. In addition to policy, an explanation of the clinical aspects may be needed.

The UK’s most inappropriate patient requests

Recently, support group Resilient GP asked general practitioners about enquiries they considered to be an inappropriate use of their time and skills.

But look at request number seven – the caller described a marital dispute but the enquiry is not as silly as it may appear. A trained call handler could have referred him to where the differences are clearly explained on the NHS Choices website, freeing up the doctor’s time and streamlining the patient experience.

  1. “My sleepy baby keeps rubbing her eyes”
  2. “I seem to urinate for ages after drinking X pints of beer with mates.”
  3. “Can my child get red eyes from chlorine in the swimming pool?”
  4. “Doctor – my stomach makes this weird rumbling/gurgling noise whenever I haven’t eaten. Its starting to affect my work!”
  5. “I have grey hairs… I’m nearly 40… have I got a medical condition?”
  6. “I can’t stop eating sweets and chocolate – I think I must have diabetes.”
  7. “Can you settle a marital dispute? My wife thinks paracetamol is better, I think ibuprofen is. Who’s right?”
  8. “Can you fix my sprained ankle before I go out tonight as I want to wear heels?”
  9. “Can you give me a prescription for everything I need from the chemist: nappies, toothpaste, toilet roll and shampoo?”
  10. “Doctor, can you ‘make’ me diabetic on the record, so that I can qualify for free Viagra?”

While reading this list may make you laugh or despair, it shows people have confidence in doctors – perhaps too much – and, crucially, now expect a positive patient experience.

Takeaways:

  • Patients sometimes request tests or drugs that are unnecessary or even harmful.
  • Doctors acquiesce to these requests to avoid complaints, and to maintain patient satisfaction and the doctor-patient relationship.
  • Patient autonomy can conflict with doctors’ responsibility to provide evidence-based practice and allocate resources properly.
  • Streamlined telephony systems can filter out inappropriate enquiries and refer the caller to the most relevant professional or source of information.
  • Surgery-based systems that display the latest local and national policy can show patients why certain requests will not be fulfilled.

Call to action

Discover why enabling an enhanced patient experience is critical in modern healthcare. Download your free report The Modern Patient Experience: Where Care Matters now.      


 

Posted in Unified Communications

In early June,  we released a family of new desk phones.  Yes, that’s right; phones that sit on desks.  But isn’t that madness when everyone has a smart-phone and hot desks?

Well, not in our opinion…..

The forthcoming “Death of the Desk Phone” has been written about for the last 15 years and reports have of its demise has been wildly exaggerated.  Customer feedback definitely points to the contrary and leading industry analyst Stephanie Watson agrees with this tweet:

Steph Watson tweet

In our recent “The Way We Work” study, we found that 93% of the 9000 knowledge workers surveyed believed that there was still a need for an office – but it does need to be flexible and optimised for a more mobile workforce and a more collaborative workplace.

While I would agree that the life of the personal desk phone is numbered, we believe that there is definitely a place for a desk phone in the new digital workplace – but it does have to meet certain criteria…….

  • It needs to be cost conscious. This goes for both the actual list price of the phone and also the overheads of management, including stock.  If you look at the overall cost of a new communications environment, devices will be a significant portion and sometimes will be the lion’s share of the overall budget.
  • It needs to be easy to use. This actually goes hand in hand in hand with recent articles about millennials being “afraid” of the desk phone here.  This is why we worked with leading agency Frog Design to ensure a device that is simple, clear and not at all intimidating to use.  An over-engineered phone may look cool, but how many of its functions would you actually use?
  • It needs to work with your smart phone and applications – not be an either or situation. I think it is pretty fair to say the majority of workers will have a smart phone, so the ability of a desk phone to interact and extract critical information from your mobile phone will be key.
  • It needs to continue to provide always on, quality voice but it also needs to do more than just make phone calls. This is key and a point very well made in Zeus K’s article here

It is actually not all about the office.  Over the coming weeks, we will be exploring different use cases, especially from a vertical perspective.  In healthcare for example, the phone is and will remain for some time, the communications hub of a busy ward – where real estate is at a premium.

Technology hardware is now scrutinised more than ever, driven by the rise of BYOX and the desire for organizations to minimize deployment cost) and assessed for its usefulness.  The desk phone is very rightly under the spotlight but by sticking to the principles outlined above – I think it will be here for many years to come.

So that’s our view of the Game of Phones – where do you stand?

 

Posted in Unified Communications

BAA-0071

The Unify Shared Services Center in Sofia (SSC), Bulgaria has this week been honored with the Shared Service Centre of the Year award at the Outsourcing Excellence Awards 2016 – beating fierce competition from companies including Coca-Cola, Cargill, AIG and Ingram Micro to the trophy.

The award was won through the Bulgarian team’s rapid and successful expansion. The SSC was originally intended as a 150 person service center providing finance support to 4 countries. It has grown now to a 325 person facility that provides multi-functional (finance, supply chain and IT) services to 18 countries, 52 legal entities covering nine languages and multiple time zones.

We’d like to offer a huge congratulations to the team for their amazing hard work in the region, and wish them continued success (and awards!) in the years to come

Posted in Unified Communications