Microsoft Teams and the digital healthcare revolution

There's not one industry that hasn’t been affected by Covid-19, but healthcare in the US has seen perhaps the most radical change as a result of the pandemic. In a short amount of time, US healthcare went from being an industry that was gradually warming to telehealth but was solidly anchored in traditional, in-person care, to one that fully embraces digital healthcare. 

According to data from McKinsey, consumer adoption of telehealth has “skyrocketed,” from 11 percent of US consumers using digital healthcare services in 2019 to 46 percent of consumers now using telehealth to replace cancelled healthcare visits. In addition, McKinsey reports that telehealth providers have rapidly expanded their services and are seeing 50 to 175 times the number of patients via telehealth than they did before the pandemic reached the US. 

The progress made in recent months is exceptional, but US health organizations still have more work to do. With increased consumer adoption, expanded services, and a surge in the number of staff working remotely, organizations need to direct considerable attention to communication and collaboration. Patient visits are going smoothly, but hospitals and healthcare centers must search for a platform that can replace the hall-way meetups and escalation of urgency to medical support staff that used to take place within the corridors of their buildings.  

Many organizations in the healthcare sector and beyond found and have turned to Microsoft Teams. According to Microsoft data, in April, more than 200 million people participated in a Microsoft Teams meeting in a single day, generating more than 4.1 billion meeting minutes. In addition, Teams now has more than 75 million daily active users, two-thirds of which have shared, collaborated, or interacted with files on Teams. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella described the surge in usage as “two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months.” 

As with any change, a critical factor is how well employees can adapt to the new tech tools and new ways of working that are required. They need training and support for both basic and advanced issues—full email inboxes and inability to access updated guidance regarding Covid-19, inability to access secure networks and current patient data, and more.  

After all, if the goal is to provide better patient care, the entire system needs to operate smoothly—the technology, and the people using it.  

Northwell Health needed to improve collaboration...but how? 

Microsoft and their Teamwork Partner of the Year Vitalyst have worked together drive hundreds of enterprises to adopt and leverage the powerful capabilities of Teams. One such organization was Northwell Health, a New York City-area healthcare network with 23 hospitals, almost 800 outpatient centers and 72,000 employees, that needed a way to communicate that was secure and HIPAA-compliant. Before the organization deployed Teams in 2019, clinicians couldn’t include protected health information in texts, so they often used phone calls or paper. Dr. Kevin Bock, the Associate Chief Medical Information Officer at Northwell Health said, “Having technology alone is not enough. We require technology that supports our workflows at the bedside and ensures the entire care team is on the same page.” The organization needed a more secure and efficient tool and a platform to help them meet the demands of the environment created by the coronavirus. Northwell’s biggest challenge would be implementing an effective program to enable a successful implementation with no risk of down-time for mission critical staff.  

The Vitalyst solution  

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Northwell Health migrated to Teams and needed to rapidly onboard their staff to use the application. Employees suddenly found themselves in a work from home environment and needed to pivot to remote care without compromising the organization’s successful, collaborative work structure. But, as a health care institution, the way Northwell customized Teams to meet HIPAA and other healthcare standards made the need for a tailored training program even more critical to ensure that their employees get the most out of their new collaboration platform.  

Leveraging the top Teamwork solution provider within Microsoft’s rich partner network, Northwell boosted the adoption of Teams with training, support and other resources.  Specialized webinars were created and delivered over three months to prepare the workers at Northwell to work from home and keep them equipped to use in Teams for the months that followed.  

The tailored training program proved successful. Today, Northwell employees rely heavily on Teams: Clinicians use it on mobile devices to quickly and easily find patient information and test results so they can answer questions immediately. The streamlining of information in Teams “eliminates redundancy and empowers the clinicians to create and follow a joint care plan,” says Michael Oppenheim, Vice President and Chief Medical Information Officer for Northwell Health, “placing the focus back on the patient experience”. Finally, Dr. Deborah Mensch, a Pediatric Cardiologist and the Site Chief Medical Information Officer at Cohen Children’s Medical Center at Northwell noted , “communication through Teams has helped [both] teams to really understand what the issues are and create a more collaborative work environment.” 

If the Covid-19 pandemic has a silver lining, it’s that it is inspiring a digital healthcare revolution. It’s forcing policymakers, insurers and health systems to view telemedicine as an effective, modern solution, instead of a second-rate substitute for in-person care. By enabling healthcare organizations to increase adoption of critical communication apps like Teams, we are helping them create a culture that embraces digital technology—just the fuel this revolution needs.  

To learn more about Northwell's Digital Transformation journey with Microsoft Teams, read Microsoft's case study.  

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