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Northeastern Hospital Delegates Telephone Cost Control to Department Heads with CDR.

One of the functions of a communcations manager is to approve the monthly telephone bill. The job is simple enough . . . scan the pages, affix a signature and send the bill to accounting. The only thing lacking with this process is control. A significant portion of the bill is merely "rubber-stamped" for payment approval.

Northeastern Hospital of Philadelphia had this problem. The Dimension PBX bill does not itemize long distance calls by extension and local calls are not itemized at all. Not knowing where the calls originated made it impossible to control cost.

The hospital estimates stated that abuse and misuse constituted some 20 percent to 30 percent of the phone bill. If a CDR could effect even a 10 percent reduction of the monthly usage, its acquisition could be cost justified. Other benefits could be derived from the information the CDR could provide, including the ability to assess the economic advantages of alternate carriers (OCCs) and alternate facility configurations. In addition, it would be able to properly assess departmental requests for additional station equipment. These fasctors, along with an anticipated increase in employee productivity due to reduced phone usage, led to a decision in favor of obtaining a CDR.

After lengthy investigation into the various types of call recorders on the market, the hospital selected the Excel 3000 from Barrington, Illinois-based Synquest Market Research. The Excel has solid-state memory, CMOS circuitry, 15 hours of battery back-up and weighs less than 10 pounds. It could generate a number of different reports: a detailed listing of all calls made by a particular extension; a summary report for each station; a total summary of each department; and a complete summary for all hospital usage. The system was configured to monitor approximately 400 administrative telephones and could easily be expanded in the future to monitor the 250 patient phones as well. Operational Methods a Priority

Upon installation of the equipment, the determination of operational methods for its effective use became a priority. The true point of telephone cost control rested not with the Communications Department, but rather with the department heads in whose section the calls originated. Without a CDR, they could not be provided with the information required to control their departmental telephone costs. However, with the CDR, various reports could be presented to them on a routine basis, thereby creating not only the ability, but also the responsibility, to monitor and justify the phone usage in their departments.

It was not made public that the hospital was installing the CDR. Yet, as word got around, some interesting developments occurred. The telephone bill started to decrease prior to the completion of cutover. Employees began calling with questions such as "are all calls really being taped?" Others called to "come clean" in advance of "getting caught" and asked how to reimburse the hospital for personal calls. Today, the pay phones are in constant use and employees have requested that more be installed.

After the first series of reports were printed (by station and with departmental summary) the department heads were found to be highly cooperative in reviewing them. Not only did abuse decrease but misuse did as well. The reports were helpful in identifying calls of excessively long duration and calls made repeatedly to the same number. The employees became aware that the telephone is a major expense. Departments which had previously requested additional telephones could now measure the true need based upon traffic volumes. Most importantly, the institutional trend to fully departmentalize the budgeting process could now include telephone costs.

The monthly telephone bill for local usage has decreased more than 10 percent over the seven-month period since the CDR has been installed. If this trend continues, the CDR will not only pay for itself but also produce significant cost savings. This cost savings would be an additional bonus, since the hospital now views the CDR as a necessary management tool.

In the near future, the option to monitor the patient telephones will be evaluated. Although everyone is aware of the opportunity to resell telephone service, a community hospital would not want to profit from this aspect. Nonetheless, there is an awareness of anticipated cost increases for local service. If, as industry sources estimate, local service does indeed double or triple, it amy become necessary to charge patients who make large numbers of local calls.

In summary, the combination of advanced technology and affordable costs have made the CDR an indispensible tool of the effective communications manager. It promises and delivers relief from the frustrating inability to control telephone costs during this era of rampant increase.
COPYRIGHT 1984 Nelson Publishing
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Copyright 1984 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:Girifalco, M.
Publication:Communications News
Date:Jan 1, 1984
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