PhonessBy Greg and Wayne Polakoff

Phones aren’t just for phone calls any longer. Phone systems are really an extension of your computer systems. They hold sensitive data that requires the same type of treatment as your computer does. The technology behind cloud computing is also used in modern phone systems. This allows information to be passed from computer to phone and back again.

The advantage of Unified Communications in Dental Practices

In the Dental Office, we recommend a 100% cloud based Unified Communications phone system… and calling it a phone system might be a little limiting. It truly is an all-encompassing communications system. There are several advantages to using such a system. First, it gives you great flexibility to use whatever communications apparatus you prefer. If you want to use a Smartphone, a tablet, laptop or desktop computer, or your landline phone, unified communications accommodates and integrates all of these devices. Let’s say you are out of the office and need to consult with a patient, but you don’t want them to capture your mobile phone number. You can make the call via your Smartphone and the office number will display on the client’s caller ID. Unified systems use a Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP), which uses an internet signal to send and receive calls. You can also access records remotely. Information is integrated and accessible anywhere you have an internet connection.

Automatically updates at no extra cost

Another big advantage is the cost of operating a phone system. Unified communications systems are updated automatically for the lifetime of the contract. Have you been through an expensive upgrade in your phones only to face the same thing when your technology begins to age? Software updates are handled in the cloud, so you are never burdened with an old system. Most of these systems can be either purchased or leased, which offers financial flexibility. Any defective hardware is replaced at no charge to you (for leases only.)

Communications options

Unified systems give the dentist and staff communications options, such as:

  • Video, audio and web conferencing
  • Online fax capabilities
  • Chat line and texting
  • File sharing
  • Real time presence
  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • Personalized dashboards controlled by each employee

What about security and HIPAA Compliance?

In the Dental Office, medical records are regulated under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). Whenever electronic medical records are being created, stored, or transported, they fall under the HIPAA regulations for electronic personal health information (ePHI). To be in compliance with these HIPAA regulations, you have to encrypt and secure these files. Are you passing health information via your phone systems in your dental practice? Most definitely, especially if you are using a VOIP phone system. Unified communications systems encrypt all calls all the way to the handset. It also secures any information saved in the cloud. For instance, if you have stored a video conference where you have discussed a patient’s medical condition with a specialist, the unified system encrypts the conference so it cannot be read in transit or accessed without a clearance username and password. Any meetings, messages or data you have stored with the unified system is secure and in compliance with HIPAA.

Integrating with your dental software

All this is good for general business practice, but dental offices use software that creates medical records. Electronic x-rays, dental procedures, insurance info, scheduled visits, etc., are specific to a few dental practice vendors. There are some unified communications systems that can be integrated with dental software. For instance, we recommend OfficeSuite UC from Broadview Networks for customers using Dentrix software. OfficeSuite UC has been designed to integrate with Dentrix.

The reality for any dental office is your phone system is your lifeline to your clients. As technology continues to push out the older phone systems for VOIP connectivity, it makes sense to look at a system that mixes all electronic communications in one secure space. For more information on using or upgrading to a unified phone communications system, contact us.

Greg and Wayne Polakoff are IT Consultants with NFC IT. They specialize in Dental Practice computer system security and compliance. Contact them at gpolakoff@nfcit.com or wpolakoff@nfcit.com