How VoIP is a Game Changer in Senior Housing

Posted: March 19, 2012 in Uncategorized
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2004 was the beginning of the mass marketing of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). This was the ability to provide telephone service to your home or business over a broadband internet connection. Prognosticators saw this as the end of the copper land line to the home and a revolution in business services. For once they were right. VoIP lowered costs and increased functionality immediately and that trend still continues today. What the soothsayers didn’t foresee is how it would revolutionize the senior housing market.

From a telephony standpoint, senior housing is unique in these ways:

  • There are many users (residences) but not much telephone traffic
  • Residents like simple telephone instruments whether they have the big buttons for easy dialing or a cordless phone that they can keep in their pocket.
  • Keeping the same telephone number they’ve had for years is a big plus for the friends and family who call them.
  • It would be a convenient if they had a simple way of communicating with the administrative side of the senior housing facility. This could be as important as an emergency notification to as mundane as confirming an appointment in the beauty salon.

In the past, facilities would install a large PBX with fancy phones for the business side and simple single line sets to the residents. Set up like a hotel, each resident would have their own DID (Direct in Dial) number and share the facility’s bank of outside lines. Cost of this equipment was high and extensive wiring to the resident’s rooms was sometimes needed. Even after this daunting expense, the residents couldn’t keep their old phone numbers. If you wanted to add wired internet access, it meant installing Cat5e cable and outlets to rooms equipped only with the typical twisted pair used for telephones.

With VoIP, things are much simpler and much more cost effective. Voice is nothing more than an application running on an internet connection. SIP trunking applications can provide telephone service to all residents over existing wiring while using their existing handsets. Portability of telephone numbers is a hallmark of SIP. If grandma moves from Manhattan to rural Vermont, she can keep her 212 area code. By providing a hosted SIP solution, the administration has no need for its existing telephone system, only SIP compliant voice terminals. They and the residences are now on the same network with 3 digit dialing between telephone sets. Other applications of hosted SIP such as a common voice mail system are included. Having internet access to each room over the same existing telephone wiring can be accomplished easily. This allows those who need internet access to have it now while the facility has the ability to add it later ala carte as the baby boomers retire and demand for internet rises.

From the administrative side of the business, the hosted IP profit model is the same as if telephone service were provided to the residents via a facility owned PBX. The facility pays the hosted SIP provider for the services and bills the residents directly. Unlike the PBX model, resident moves and new installations can be done via a web browser. Existing telephone numbers can be ported to your hosted SIP network within 24 hours. You’ll never have to wait weeks for the telephone truck to show up only to charge your residents $150 to hook up their telephone line or internet connection.

Some providers are bundling this with satellite TV services, wireless emergency notification systems and audio and video surveillance equipment. Savings on the SIP trunking side and satellite TV side can offset the capital equipment costs of the other equipment allowing the provider to propose a long term, cost effective solution which includes the emergency notification and surveillance equipment a greatly reduced costs.


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