Archive for month: June, 2017

How Unified Communications is Addressing the Needs of Small Businesses

Categories: Articles

UnifiedCommunications

We’ve come a long way from the original telephone switchboards of the early 1900s. Business PBX systems have given way to small business phone systems based on VoIP cloud technology. Instead of buying PBX equipment, businesses can subscribe to unified communications as a service (UCaaS), and have their business communications delivered via the internet rather than dusty old hardware with roots going back well over 100 years.

Unified communications offer small businesses an economical way to access critical communications features, many of which businesses are already paying for separately. Instead of buying business phone service in addition to team collaboration software, an audio conferencing bridge, and a full-featured video conferencing solution, a unified communications product saves your small businesses money by eliminating the costs of multiple services. By unifying communications into a single platform, companies are also able to be more responsive to new technologies as communication needs continue to evolve.

WorkFromHome

“Enabling employees to work from home either occasionally or on a regular schedule can have big upsides for small businesses.”

To succeed in the current business climate, SMBs needs to be able to provide modern workers with options for telecommuting, as well as implementing effective bring your own device (BYOD) policies. Enabling employees to work from home either occasionally or on a regular schedule can have big upsides for small businesses. Workers who telecommute are less likely to quit and report higher job satisfaction, lower stress levels, and higher morale. Of course, mobile workers also like to work with the devices they already own, making company BYOD policies a must-have for the modern employee. The number of employees using personal devices at work has been growing, and this year 50 percent of employers are expected to require workers to use their own devices, according to predictions from Gartner. Both employees and employers are demanding more flexibility, and cloud-based business phone systems are poised to offer it.

Many Unified Communications tools offer desktop and mobile apps put your entire business phone system on your laptop or mobile device. Most are cloud-based, making a VoIP phone system ideal for remote working and integrating personal mobile devices. Users can seamlessly make and receive calls from business lines, use voicemail, and even administer their accounts using the apps. Integrating personal devices is as simple as downloading the  app and logging in. There’s no complicated setup, and the entire process can be handled from our web interface or a mobile device. Everything is stored in the cloud, and removing devices is as simple as adding them.

Some products offer even more than duplicate a business phone, integrating faxes, Business SMS, and video conferencing for a truly unified communications experience. From our desktop and mobile apps, all of your messages including voicemails, faxes, and texts are available in a single unified interface. Streamlining business communications boosts productivity for employees and reduces the need for IT support for multiple platforms, both of which have a positive effect on your bottom line.

When an employee leaves the company, or a device gets lost, rest assured your proprietary information is safe. Cloud based U.C. systems store data on off site servers so your company’s data isn’t at risk when devices are lost, stolen, or replaced. Calling, texting, and faxing from a business telephone number keeps your corporate data inside the app.

 

Changing Your Logo

Categories: Articles

The risks and rewards of changing your practice brand

It happens many times. You take a look at your used-to-be trendy logo and it doesn’t have the same oomph that it did a few years ago. Maybe it was a great logo idea at the time, but now it’s looking a little tired. Or maybe it was created under a time (or budget) crunch that precluded a complete or thorough work up. Bottom line – you’re sick and tired of your logo and want to change it. Can this be done? Certainly. Are there risks involved? Absolutely.

RiskReward

The rebrand
In this example found online, halfway through the project this client decided that they wanted to scrap their current logo entirely – a decision that one shouldn’t take too lightly. One has to think about patient recognition (especially if the logo has been around for a while,) the expense of changing branded collateral – letterheads, business cards, signage, etc. You may find yourself throwing out a great deal of previously created material (timing a logo makeover for release when previously printed supplies are low can help ease some of the pain.)

Tread lightly. The decision you make will impact for years.
Changing an established logo should be approached with caution and forethought. As in many business (and life) decisions, you have to weigh the pros and cons, and decide what is the best solution for your particular situation? A total logo makeover (executed correctly) can infuse your practice with new excitement (even major corporations change their identity once in a while).

You may have changed the services you provided to your patient base and need a logo that is more in line with, and appealing to, your current demographics. A makeover can certainly do that. A logo that was cool at the time may have become dated – you may need to dial-back some elements and bring to market a logo that is more ‘solid’ and conservative. More in line with your current business goals. Maybe you opted for an overdone and overused icon and that’s started to look like a whole bunch of other people’s logos. Bottom line, your custom logo design doesn’t look so custom after all.

TreadLightly

Have you seen logos using these types of features? Are there any rules to for updating your logo (other than expenses? Nope, not really.

Re-design, makeover or a brand repair?
If you have a hunch that your logo needs changing, it probably does. Now to decide if you want a logo re-design or just a few tweaks here and there (what I lovingly refer to as a “facelift). Your logo may just need to be spruced up. A little font refresh here, a little color update there. This is the least traumatic and allows for slow integration into your printed branded business material. You can use up your stock of already printed goods (letterheads and business cards for example) as you incorporate the new look onto your advertising and marketing media or website. The deciding factor about a logo repair, as opposed to a complete overhaul should not be based on your personal ‘feeling’ about the design. It should be based on your market’s understanding and recognition of your logo.

A factor not written about much, but certainly does come into play in this age of social media is the actual shape of the logo. Facebook and Twitter have square or circular spaces alloted for what they expect will be a face. For those using these social outlets, and horizontally oriented logo is problematic. In the most recent past, most of our new or tweaked designs includes a version that will be social “friendly”.

The big guys do it. Why can’t you?
When first introduced in 1995, the Microsoft Windows logo was a graphic representation of a flying window.

TheBigGuys

When the (then) new Windows XP operating system was introduced, it also featured a logo makeover – the Windows icon had become much more refined, 3D and used a much more appropriate font. It still had enough of the old Windows logo to remain in the same design family, but was sleeker to (hopefully) reflect the vastly improved operating system. The latest version is much more minimalist, but still retains some of the original Windows design features.

AppleEvolution

Apple computers evolved their famous Apple icon from a wood-cut illustrative mess into one of the most widely celebrated icons of our age. With the advent of their OS X system, the Apple icon became a ‘gel’ version, in order to fit into the Apple marketing flavor – a flavor so successful that the Apple.com look and feel is still the most copied design on the Internet today. Apple has remained pretty stable over the years. All in all, if Apple, Microsoft and Nike aren’t opposed to tweaking their logo here and there, then your fears, while understandable, can be put aside. It’s worthy to note that they ‘modified’ their logos, rather than scrapping the look and recognition they had already achieved.

A recent example:

PulmonaryAssociates_logo_1 PulmonaryAssociates_logo_2 PulmonaryAssociates_logo_3

Note the one-legged man from the “over done, over used” group mentioned previously.

Changing our logo.

ShandyGraphics_logo ShandyCreativeSolutions_logo

On a much smaller scale we’ve changed our logo once. Our first logo was designed in 1993, when we opened our business. The squiggle was very “in” at the time, and the mauve/gray color scheme was well received. We found that our logo was recognizable based on the conferences we attended. Frequently we would hear something like “Oh, I know your company. I recognize your logo”. That was music to our ears.

13 years later, when we added a variety of services to our product base and were no longer just in the “graphics” world, we underwent a name change and a logo update. A version of the “squiggle” remained, since it was so associated with us. We kept the lower case letters too, but colors and font changed significantly.

At the moment, a new logo with an icon is being contemplated, but it’s still an idea that is just in my head. We’ll see.

Submitted by Sheila Fox-Lovell, Shandy Creative Solutions.
770.951.0305
sheila@shandycreative.com

 

 

 

171,000 Doctors to Face Meaningful Use Payments Adjustments in 2017

Categories: Articles

HealthcareFinance_logo_black

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will reduce Medicare payments for fewer physicians in 2017 than in years past, but the adjustment for those not meeting meaningful use will be bigger: potentially 3 percent, rather than the 2 percent penalty imposed in 2016.

While the number of providers facing lower reimbursement fell – 257,000 docs were penalized in 2015 and 209,000 in 2016 – the size of the downward adjustment is larger than in years past.

Also, the penalties come even as the government has made concerted efforts over the past year to enable more practices to apply for meaningful use hardship exemptions.

[Also: HHS formally replaces meaningful use]

CMS makes allowances for providers unable to prove meaningful use due to infrastructure challenges (they’re able to demonstrate that they’re in an area without sufficient internet access, for instance) or “extreme and uncontrollable circumstances” (ranging from natural disasters to ongoing challenges related to 2014 edition certified EHRs).

In addition, for eligible professionals practicing in multiple locations, lack of control over the availability of certified technology at certain of their practices. Specialists such as anesthesiologists, pathologists and radiologists are also eligible for exemptions.

Medicare payment adjustments began on Jan. 1, 2015 for eligible professionals and will sunset in 2018 as the provisions of MACRA replace meaningful use for physicians.

First published on Healthcare Finance News, December 22, 2016

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