Call Accounting Featured Article

Call Accounting for the Healthcare Industry

April 24, 2007

Healthcare providers face a unique challenge when it comes to call accounting (keeping track of phone usage and bills): telephone services are critical, so the efficiencies that can be realized through usage management may seem out of reach. Yet, because phone service is so critical, it tends to be over-provisioned, costing healthcare providers a lot of money that could be put to better use.
Further complicating the matter is that, even if some type of management is employed, simple call accounting is no longer enough. With the introduction of wireless devices and a more mobile workforce, healthcare companies need a usage management solution that can track all their communications assets—on-site and off, wireline and wireless.
At the core of usage management—the modern call accounting equivalent—is detailed call record-keeping. This data is crucial for the efficient management of security, patient bill-back, department bill-back, and allocation of funds to research studies.
More than ever, healthcare providers today need a usage management solution capable of both maintaining quality of service and controlling costs. One company that’s made meeting that needs its goal is Avotus, provider of the ICM Usage Management™ solution—a robust system for managing communications, from procurement to payment.
Avotus has relationships with Cisco, Nortel and Avaya (News - Alert), making it possible to provide a usage management system that integrates easily with the existing  communications switches as well as the newest IP based platforms used by healthcare providers. This also means that the solution can collect and report on such things as quality of service information for Voice over IP systems.  
Avotus Usage Management interfaces with HR systems which helps to reduce the administrative burden on healthcare providers by enabling them to keep current and updated directories using a Web-based interface. 
In a recent Webinar, Avotus highlighted how ICM Usage Management, by bringing call accounting into the 21st century, helped a leading healthcare provider in Michigan save considerably on its communications expenses. This provider employs more than 1,200 physicians and 9,500 employees, operating at four main hospital centers and 44 primary care and specialty care sites.
During the first stage of ICM Usage Management implementation alone, this healthcare provider eliminated $40,000 in over-provisioned communications services without compromising quality, and achieved $71,000 in annual cost avoidance.
One area that Avotus has placed special focus on recently is wireless communications costs. In fact, wireless is a key part of why call accounting is now better referred to as usage management. Tracking wireless assets and costs introduces a new level of complexity to call accounting.
Since wireless charges are generated external to the PBX, most traditional call accounting systems don’t have the capability to track them. Also, carriers provide multiple rate plans and other billing variations—think roaming charges, airtime, and monthly charges—which make keeping track of  these costs especially challenging at best.
Avotus examined these and other challenges carefully, and built into ICM Usage Management important best practices for reporting on and managing wireless assets. These practices apply to the entire communications lifecycle, forming a framework for efficiently managing wireless assets.
Additionally, Avotus’ solution addresses the need to distinguish personal and business usage of wireless devices, as well as adherence to corporate policies and government regulations.
All of this illustrates the fact that keeping track of communications assets is no longer a matter of mere call accounting—today, what’s needed is a usage management solution. To learn more about usage management, visit Avotus’ channel, Call Accounting.
Mae Kowalke previously wrote for Cleveland Magazine in Ohio and The Burlington Free Press in Vermont. To see more of her articles, please visit Mae Kowalke’s columnist page. Also check out her Wireless Mobility blog.