The IT in Teams

Head of Public Sector Sales Andy Riley applauds the NHS’s use of technology at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

There are moments in life when either something you’ve waited for or something you’ve predicted actually manifests without you realising. Distracted as we all are by the chaos a certain virus has left in its midst, it’s important to point out when those moments happen – especially when they are moments who provide us with some hope.

For the past couple of years, we’ve talked at length about the various ways in how technology in the future can and could help the our health services meet digital transformation objectives, such as becoming paperless or how improved WiFi connectivity could help create a more comfortable hospital stay for patients etc.. As humans, when we talk about “the future”, we tend to think of it as being something a long way off or something we will have to deal with later on, and so give very little thought as to what we have to do now in order to get there. This is especially true in business terms; “the future” in terms of transformation means paperwork; it means spending money; it means changing the way we’ve always worked.

Change to process is very often met with some resistance. Two years ago, when talking about how in “the future”, GPs will be working remotely; able to carry out appointments via video call and share documents instantly via secure networks, it’d likely have been met with disbelief. And yet…

For the NHS, 2020 has been the year for figures – indeed, some of it grim reading. But did you also know, for example, that by late May the average number of remote meeting carried out throughout the NHS using Microsoft Teams reached 90,250? That’s more than a six-fold increase since the week it was rolled out to 1.3 million users with NHSmail accounts as the UK went into lockdown. Additionally, more than 465,000 messages are sent between colleagues each day and more than 15,500,000 have been sent since rollout.

In a press release in early May, Chris Parsons who runs NHSmail said: “…The growth in usage over the past eight weeks has been staggering and shows the appetite for digital solutions to the problems the front line has been facing.”

Teams’ secure instant messaging, direct audio and video calls and virtual meeting capabilities has helped the NHS adapt and respond almost instantly to an unprecedented set of circumstances, helping to support remote and mobile working and enabling staff to deliver advice to each other at the height of the outbreak.

Even now, the official NHS advice for patients is to “only visit a GP surgery if you have to” with almost all appointments now being carried out via phone or video call. And whilst that is a sign that things are not yet returned to how they were, it’s also a sign that the NHS can adopt and deploy transformational technology extremely quickly without any disruption to service, thus ticking off one of those “far-off” objectives without realising.

Now that does deserve a clap.


This article was originally featured in Public Sector Focus Magazine July/August 2020

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