Hidden within the small print of the 2012 Budget announcement was the news that the Government had decided to claw back part of the £900m which was underspent by the NHS in 2011/12. Although £400m has been rolled over into the 2012/3 NHS budget, the remaining £500m is to be returned to the Treasury.
According to the BBC, the Department of Health put the total underspend down to greater than expected efficiency savings in capital projects, including an IT scheme, rather than from to day to day budget management. Whilst the clawback has prompted some to accuse the Government of conducting a raid on the NHS, the news that a government department has managed to realise IT savings is welcome.
Although the pace of internet technology development has been rapid, it is true to say that in general we have not always embraced the possibilities as swiftly as we might. However, it is also true to say that making the most of IT can bring us not only cost savings but time savings as well.
Let’s look at one simple area, that of diary management. Those working within the health sector understand and appreciate the value of time. Whether a physiotherapist or an osteopath or in fact a provider of health or beauty treatments of any kind, time spent on managing diaries is time away from patient or client treatment.
This is where a virtual receptionist service can really make a difference. Thanks to the development of technology, virtual receptionists can answer telephone calls as though they were from the health practice itself. They can make appointments, screen unwanted sales calls and take messages; all of which means that health professionals can concentrate on what they do best, treating their clients.
More importantly, a virtual diary system can be accessed at all times from any internet PC by multiple users, meaning that health professionals can schedule follow up appointments whilst leaving telephone calls to the virtual assistants. With added services such as appointment reminders, invoicing and management of patient records using a virtual receptionist opens up opportunities for cost and time savings as well as greater file management efficiencies.
After years of news about government IT overspends the news that the NHS has managed to make technology efficiency savings is a step in the right direction. Making the most of IT and telephone technology via a virtual receptionist service is one way in which health professionals can all benefit from the technology revolution.