You’ve probably heard about VoIP – voice communication that transmits over the Internet. VoIP can save 30% to 50% compared to traditional phone bills, and is flexible and scalable to accommodate your company’s growth. While VoIP is definitely the future of business telephone systems, there are some specific considerations that every Dentist should pay close attention to. I like to break it down into three categories. They all have their advantages but each might not be right for every situation.
The Cable Company
Over the last few years the cable companies have grown to be the largest provider of hybrid VoIP in the industry. The biggest single advantage of using the cable company is price. They tend to have the lowest cost, although White Label and Integrated VoIP can be less expensive in some cases. Let’s face it, most Dentists don’t need the fanciest phone system in the world! A basic setup with paging, caller ID, voicemail, transferring and the appropriate amount of incoming lines is more than enough. This is where the cable companies do a decent job.
The cable companies are missing some important features. Options like remote workers or satellite offices are much more difficult to set up and are often not an option. There is no interaction between your phone and the Practice Management software with these systems. Cable company VoIP also is dependent on the quality of your internet connection. This can vary but rarely do they guarantee any type of uptime.
Recently there have been several companies that have introduced phone systems that actually integrate with your practice management system. These systems display pertinent information about the patient’s account, birthdays, family appointments, etc. as the phone call comes in.
The most common of these integrated systems is Weave. It does a wonderful job of seamlessly pulling data and presenting it to the user. These systems are marginally more expensive than the Cable providers but I think in most cases they deliver superior value. These companies are also in the dental vertical and are constantly developing new features as the technology and patient's communication habits evolve.
There are a few drawbacks. They don't integrate well (at this point) with some larger multi-office practices. There have also been a few small reliability issues as these young companies grow and evolve.
White Label VoIP
Many Dental IT integrators partner with large VoIP providers to offer a more customized system. These systems are much less of a “one size fits all” solution and can be customized for the practice’s specific needs. These systems don’t directly integrate into the Practice Management software but they typically are more scalable, reliable, and flexible. When the practice needs remote offices, remote users, advanced call routing, and mailbox features, white label systems tend to make more sense. They also tend to have the highest level of reliability, especially when paired with Business Class internet connectivity.
As with all cloud technologies, emphasis is switched from local servers/equipment to local connectivity. Spotty internet service is going to lead to a bad experience, when internet is down, your phones are down. We recommend business class connectivity with a Service Level Agreement (SLA) for uptime. Unfortunately, most Cable companies don’t provide this. For larger offices and offices where small interruptions in service are not acceptable, we recommend redundant connectivity and business class service, like fiber. Typically, this costs a few hundred dollars extra per month depending on your location. As more technology heads to the cloud this investment in connectivity makes more sense.
Your local Dental IT integrator is the best place to start when researching your next phone system. They will be best able to help make the comparisons and design the appropriate system for your practice and your future growth needs. An amazing resource to find dental specific IT in your area is the Dental Integrators Association.
Clay Archer, CEO DentalPC