The adoption of Microsoft Teams within the NHS has been a huge success story since the onset of Covid-19 with a reported 90,000 meetings taking place and half a million messages being sent a day. The need to quickly adapt to a more remote way of working whilst maintaining continuity of communication has been supported by a business model that made it easy to “try before you buy” and ultimately quickly understand the use cases and circumstances under which it could enhance connectivity. Teams has effectively replaced other Microsoft business messaging and collaboration platforms, bringing together their workspace chat, voice and videoconferencing capabilities with a product that fits comfortably into the well-established Microsoft product suite and is seen as the ‘go-to’ solution to support video conferencing.
It is most commonly being used to hold remote meetings via its video/audio conferencing and screen sharing facilities across mobile and desktop devices. It can also be used for text-based communications via “Teams” or “Channels”. Users can also send direct messages to each other. Teams also supports collaboration on shared projects using files.
Teams also has a healthcare toolkit that includes including shift management, delegation and templates for announcements. These are useful and well identified components that on the whole have not seen much adoption but could do in the future.
A number of influential senior leaders within the NHS have recognised the need to compliment the use of Teams as a collaboration product with technology that supports critical communication for front-line workers (in effect validating the need for the launch of the NHSX framework). Not all communications can be managed in a structured, book-it-in-your-calendar kind of way. Historically pagers served a purpose as that urgent, responsive, real-time device but it’s likely to be replaced by the mobile phone where all that functionality and much more is possible. Most critically beyond the basics of enabling a two-way exchange, the mobile phone will provide both continuity of communication – where alerts can be rolled over into chats, shared images and the full range of collaboration, and extension into the hospital by facilitating the sharing of information from other clinical systems. A full audit trail of communication exchanges we believe will also prove valuable as well as data providing visibility of how workers respond to urgent demands.
Right now we’re focussed on the first piece of the puzzle, helping Trusts phase out the use of pagers so that they can use their mobile phones as their device of choice for critical communications. But we’re excited about the prospects of building connections across other Trust systems; including Teams. With systems working in harmony, anyone should be able to trigger a critical alert and so we’d like users to be able to initiate this from within Teams (or potentially other collaboration applications) routed onto our mobile app, or to assign tasks that initiate a workflow with automated prompts to various staff members, using some of the technology we’re working on with our Hospital at Night feature – with feedback on progress in Teams. From our side we want users to easily be able to book meetings with dial-in details with one-click functionality or easily activate a Teams video call from within our App.
We firmly believe that seamless, effortless communication, covering everything from the urgent and reactive through to arranged discussions and detailed work, can save healthcare professionals huge amounts of time and as we continue on our journey we’ll be aiming to understand and unlock more of the benefits of modern technologies working together.