Want to save money? Target telecommunications

You can save your program a substantial amount of money by examining your business contracts, such as phone service (long distance), and compare prices, suggests Jerry W. Henderson, RN, MBA, CNOR, CASC, executive director of the SurgiCenter of Baltimore in Owings Mills, MD.

Every few years, we end up switching because we can get a better deal," he says.

Brighton Surgery Center in Rochester, NY, pays 5 cents a minute for long distance, says John J. Goehle, MBA, CPA, chief operating officer.

One mistake that many people make is to buy a plan that has state-to-state coverage for 2 cents per minute, but the in-state calls, which staff make most often, can cost 15 cents per minute, says Stephen W. Earnhart, MS, president and CEO at Earnhart & Associates in Austin, TX.

Don’t sign three-year contracts, Goehle suggests. A deal that looks good now may not look good two years from now, he warns.

Goehle uses a telecommunication service (Paetec of Rochester, NY) that costs him $1,100 per month for phone service compared to $1,600 per month for his previous service. A T1 cable offers telephone provider dial service and an Internet connection, he says.

Goehle selected a secure connection that costs $275 a month that allows him to host his Internet site and an internal intranet site for his employees and physicians.

Consider these other ideas for saving money with telecommunications:

• Goehle cut his costs in half when he eliminated his pagers and switched to wireless services. His cell phone has the same range and capability, he points out.

Consider installing a wireless hub in your center, Earnhart advises, with a caveat: "They are not as good as the companies lead you to believe, so make sure you can have it removed at no cost if you buy it." When they work, they are great to have and save a lot wiring or rewiring costs, but make sure the wireless works in every part of your facility, he warns.

• Goehle’s previous facility switched from a dial-up Internet service to a high-speed service and saved $100 a month because he wasn’t paying the per-minute telephone charges, he says.

Dial-up service is outdated, Earnhart adds. High-speed service is worth the extra cost because of the time it saves, he says. "If you can get DSL [digital subscriber line] or cable, go for it," Earnhart says. "It is cheaper in the long run with higher productively from your staff."

• Obtain a residential DSL connection (you sign up as a business) that can be shared across computers. The cost is $40 a month. You’ll have the same speed all of the time, but it’s slower than other DSL connections, he says. You can hire someone to set up this system.

Most DSL plans will not allow you to hook up to multiple computers, Earnhart says. "It can easily be accomplished via a wireless router, however," he says.

Be concerned with your download speed, not your upload speed, Earnhart advises. Don’t pay for the highest speed, because you don’t need it, he says. "Go somewhere in the middle," he advises.

If an inexpensive residential DSL is not available, synchronous DSL (SDSL) might be available. SDSL functions at a steady bandwidth and is thus more expensive, but it is very reliable, Goehle says. The cost of a business class SDSL starts at about $100 a month, he adds.