South Australia's Health department (SA Health) armed its more than 40,000 staff with Microsoft Teams in a single week to ensure communication, particularly between clinical teams, could continue during the coronavirus crisis.
The unified communication platform was rapidly deployed to staff when the agency first declared a health emergency in response to COVID-19 in mid-March.
Like most other workplaces, SA Health employees had been encouraged to work from home where possible to limit the spread of the virus, making day-to-day contact between teams difficult.
But the platform was also particularly important for clinical staff who had to abide by social distancing measures while continuing to work in hospitals and health services.
Chief digital health officer Bret Morris, who was appointed last year to oversee the state’s new electronic medical record project, said Teams had allowed staff to continue communicating during the crisis.
“At a time when many of our staff were required to work from home, the ease of use of Teams meant we needed to provide minimal training,” he said.
“Clinicians and staff recognised [this and] quickly adopted the technology, resulting in exponential growth in uptake; to 13,000 users in just two weeks.”
He said SA Health worked in partnership with the Office for ICT and Digital Government within the Department of the Premier and Cabinet and Microsoft to complete the rollout.
The state government’s Office 365 central tenancy was leveraged for the rollout.
Staff are able to use Teams on their own devices, as well as on desktops and laptops as part of the standard operating environment for SA Health.
More than 400,000 messages and over 25,000 calls have taken place using the platform since it was introduced, with these numbers growing daily.
SA Health intends to continue using Teams as its central communications and collaboration platform in the future.
It is planning to explore how Teams could be further used in clinical scenarios and integrated with the Sunrise EMR.
Microsoft Australia national technology officer Lee Hickin said the “impact” of SA Health’s “rapid deployment of Teams is impressive”.
“Clinical teams have been able to communicate quickly and clearly from any device and any time, optimising patient outcomes without compromising their own safety and security,” he said.