Pandemic fast-tracks the use of Teams
June 30, 2020
As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded earlier this year, healthcare facilities across the country found themselves – like so many other organizations – having to urgently reinvent ways to operate, provide patient care, manage supply chains and deploy resources, with many of the usual ways of doing things suddenly off the table.
Personnel found themselves having to work from remote locations, yet still needing to closely collaborate with colleagues, sharing ideas and updated information in real-time. Quick response, immediate implementation and nimble redeployment of precious resources became imperative, with every second counting.
Numerous hospitals and other healthcare centres quickly moved to or significantly expanded their use of virtual meeting platforms, enabling teams to collaborate “face to face” no matter where they were located. But this was just the tip of the iceberg in terms of accelerating digital transformation across Canada’s healthcare sector.
On the east coast, numerous healthcare organizations found themselves under strain and looking for new ways to provide care, while also ensuring the safety of their employees and patients. The eHealth shared services organization, The Newfoundland and Labrador Centre for Health Information (NLCHI), saw an opportunity to bridge this gap by leveraging technology to support resources and assets while minimizing the use of PPE.
NLCHI partnered with Microsoft, and within five days moved nearly 4,000 healthcare workers to an Azure Virtual Desktop Environment and Microsoft Teams. This shift to a digital environment enabled them to rapidly expand their unified communication platforms providing their teams with a secure centralized repository for all COVID-19-related guidance, data and information.
This means their staff can screen patients for COVID-19 virtually, their supply chain department can order supplies remotely ensuring frontline workers have the resources they need to stay safe. Each Regional Health Authorities Emergency Operations Centre continues to collaborate over Microsoft Teams to address responses to the pandemic. This digital shift ultimately enabled NLCHI to reduce its overall technology management costs, enhance workforce productivity and transform patient care using technology, all while maintaining safe and secure practices to reduce the spread of the virus.
Robert Drover, Regional Director & CIO Central Health says that their success really stemmed from the dedication of their senior leadership team, specialists, and the strong direction of management who quickly pivoted and pulled together a team of dedicated high-quality employees who worked diligently with Microsoft to make this transformation happen.
Drover says this shift to digital has been “remarkable, and, possibly even an everlasting story” that continues to play out as these technologies change how care is being delivered during the pandemic. “Being able to connect to the health system using any device to retrieve information and virtually meet with colleagues to treat patients has been truly transformational for NLCHI.”
Then there is the story of CBI Health, one of the largest community healthcare providers in Canada. The company normally provides in-person care and treatment to clients through its network of Rehabilitation Services clinics, but COVID-19 changed everything.
The pandemic impacts made them move quickly to put all staff on a single communications platform, Teams – which saw an incredible 3,000 clinicians and administrative users set up in less than ten days.
Teams was chosen for its security, data residency, privacy, and its alignment in the Microsoft stack. CBI Health was able to quickly begin video calls and virtual client treatment sessions, continuing to manage its business seamlessly despite the pandemic disruptions.
“The pandemic required us to quickly shift to a primarily virtual care/telehealth model for remote assessment and treatment to protect the health and safety of both our staff and our clients, while also ensuring our clients receive the care they needed in the safety of their own homes,” said Jon Hantho, president and CEO of CBI Health.
Now, CBI Health is averaging approximately 100,000 virtual sessions per month. The company says as its virtual care/telehealth program matures, Teams will allow it to potentially expand its reach and access to clients in underserved areas.
Hantho says the COVID-19 outbreak expedited the rapid deployment of Teams and other Microsoft services, and the resulting impact means a permanent shift to virtual care in CBI Health’s business model.
“This is not a ‘pandemic fix,’ this is a fundamental shift in how we are doing business, at all levels, and it’s here to stay.”
The virtual care/telehealth model is proving very popular with patients as well. CBI Health says it has surveyed more than 1,000 clients since the new model was put into place, and satisfaction rates are higher than 90 per cent positive.
These are just two examples of the truly dramatic digital transformation Canada’s healthcare providers have become immersed in since the pandemic took hold. Longer term plans for new digital infrastructure have become urgent deliverables. Unification of previously diverse patchworks of technology is happening at breakneck speed, while staff and management alike have been singing the praises of the benefits being delivered by these solutions for their own organizations and, most importantly, to the patients who are relying on them.
Ironically, the disruption which the pandemic has caused across our healthcare system will, in many cases, prove to be a beneficial catalyst going forward. The digital transformation it has initiated will only strengthen the operations of these crucial care providers long into the future. So, perhaps there is a silver lining in this part of the COVID-19 cloud.
See how Microsoft is empowering healthcare professional to continue to provide even better experiences, insights, and care: Visit aka.ms/healthcareincanada
Lisa Carroll is the Canadian Public Sector Lead at Microsoft Canada.