Revolutionising patient care in western Sydney with Microsoft Teams: how thousands of patients are cared for virtually

woman having a video call
Photo by Edward Jenner on Pexels.com

As the Delta outbreak rapidly made its way through western Sydney in July 2021, the Western Sydney Local Health District inTouch COVID Care team was tasked with caring for thousands of COVID-19 positive patients in the community in home isolation.

The rapid rise in cases demonstrated the strength of WSLHD, expanding a team through the adaptability of staff virtually overnight from right across the District, and adopting new technologies and ways of working at the same time.

The inTouch COVID Care team is made up of various health professionals including doctors, nurses, allied health professionals and psychologists to assist patients at home. Care includes, but is not limited to, the management of clinical symptoms, providing emotional and psychological support to patients and helping with medicine and food deliveries.

The team, who were predominately working from home themselves, needed a system where clinical and medical staff could ensure patient confidentiality, continuity of care and transparency.

“At the peak of the Delta outbreak (5 September), 4,200 COVID-19 positive patients were being managed in the community and in our care,” said Western Sydney Local Health District inTouch Covid Care medical lead Golo Ahlenstiel.

“The way the staff across Western Sydney Local Health District mobilised via Microsoft Teams was one of the critical enablers to keep our mortality and hospital rates low.”

Golo praises Microsoft Teams and the way it allowed the inTouch team to communicate safely and in a confidential and reliable environment that couldn’t be breached.

Western Sydney Local Health District staff are the most active users of Microsoft Teams across NSW Health.

“The ‘aha’ moment for us was when we realised we could look after 2,000 inTouch patients a day with just eight doctors,” said Golo.

“On average we had one doctor for every 250 patients and we had 190 staff deployed from across the district to work in the inTouch team.

“The old way of working: phone, text messages, fax, emails are fine for one-to-one interactions, but not on this scale.

“We needed an immediate solution. We needed the clinical team to be able to rapidly escalate and deescalate to medical staff members quickly. We needed to ensure closed feedback loops regarding patients, and that everything was documented and tracked.

“Microsoft Teams streamlined communication and allowed us to cut through patient load and get answers and action quickly.”

WSLHD Director Integration, Partnerships, Enablers & inTouch Care, Joanne Medlin, says one of the most impressive features of Microsoft Teams for patient care is data sharing and enterprise voice calling which allows staff to call patients directly via Teams.

“Staff don’t have to use a telephone, remember phone numbers or have equipment as everything is integrated through the computer which greatly enhances records and communication,” said Jo.

“I don’t think we would have been able to give the quality of care we provided without it.

“In a pandemic, you have to adopt and adapt and that’s exactly what we did – innovate and be the change that needs to be made.”

The inTouch team still uses Microsoft Teams every day to enhance patient care in its chronic disease management patients and in central referral services.