Phone plan for a solo medical practice

This is a continuation of the discussion of a phone service for your medical office.

I had my phone service activated last week.  As I have mentioned in a previous post, I went live with my phone lines early so that I won’t miss any calls from insurance credentialing people or patients who find my office number on insurance company directories.

Up to this point, I have been using my cell phone number for everything, including my Medicare, CAQH, hospital privileges, etc. I didn’t want to continue to use my cell phone number because it’s in a Chicago area code, and I didn’t want to go through the hassle of updating all insurance plans with my new office number later on.

Having just looked at my phone bill 2 minutes ago, I can tell you that phone plans are expensive!

If you’re going to use only one phone line, you could probably make do for $75 a month.  However, I signed up for 5 analog phone lines, a T1 internet connection, and 2 cell phone lines (1 unlimited mobile and data, and 1 with 1,000 mobile minutes) for $550 per month, including taxes and fees, with CBeyond.  One line will be a dedicated fax line and another will be for electronic claims submissions.  I will use the remaining 3 lines for phone calls.  I wanted more than one line because I didn’t want patients to run into a busy signal.  I probably need only 2 lines for this purpose, but CBeyond didn’t offer a 4-line plan.   In addition, I will get 5,000 outbound long distance minutes, 3 toll-free numbers, a fax to e-mail number, web hosting, 5 gb of  backup, and a white pages directory listing.

For the cell phones, I plan to transfer my personal plan to one of them, and use the other for after hours  patient calls, instead of an answering service.

In terms of call features, each line will have remote call-forwarding, voicemail, caller ID, call transfer, etc.  A lot of these features are redundant with my phone system, so they may be superfluous.

I had to pay $200 for installation and activation, but received $300 in rebates.  I signed a 2 year contract.

I looked at Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T, and probably could’ve gotten a similar plan for $100 less per month, but decided to go with CBeyond because they had a local sales representative that I could contact for quicker service.  At least that’s what I’m hoping.  Vonage also had cheaper plans, but I just didn’t trust VoIP plans as much.  Since VoIP runs on an internet connection, I thought that the calls would be only as reliable as the internet connection.

Just like my phone system, I may have overspent on my phone plan, and I doubt I will use all the included features to the fullest.  Do I really need 5 lines?   Probably not.  However, for all that’s included in my phone plan, I think I got a decent deal.

Howie’s tips: Cox was nice enough to let me start off with one line (which I activated and forwarded to my cell phone) about two months before I opened. They didn’t make me pay the bill for the other two lines and fax until I moved in.

As I previously mentioned I pay about $225 per month for three lines plus a fax line with internet. I compared costs with colleagues and don’t think that’s significantly higher than VoIP companies such as Nextiva or Ring Central.

You can always add in more lines later if you decide to hire more people. Better to start off smaller.

What I did was get a prepaid ATT phone and ported the number to my one of my three landlines. The phone company will give you a choice of numbers, pick the easiest number to remember as your public number (mine is 533-4666) and the more random digits as your private or emergency lines.

Some folks don’t have a dedicated fax line but rather use the doximity app or receive faxes through their EHR. We’ve heard of some folks getting charged exorbitant fees like 10 cents per page for every fax over a certain number of pages, so if you do this negotiate up front and don’t underestimate how many faxes you’ll get.

Personally I prefer paper faxes and initial/ sign off on all patient correspondence before it’s scanned in. I like to see who is referring to me, and to read the notes regarding patients I referred out.

My EHR does take incoming faxes and can link it to the patient record saving scanning, but I like it printed out when I’m seeing the patient so I don’t have to constantly turn to the computer and click on it and scroll to find the records. My staff and I also find it easier to input data such as meds or PMH/ ROS if we have the papers right in front of us rather than scanned, but I guess I’m old school!!!

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