There are few industries where business continuity is as critical as it is in healthcare.

And throughout the global COVID-19 pandemic, public and private hospitals, medical centres and family GPs have been thrown the impossible curve ball of having to manage massively increased workloads – and pressure – while deploying new technologies and procedures for remote working at unprecedented scale.

Huge numbers of doctors, nurses and support staff were all migrated across to Zoom and Microsoft Teams – often within days – with migration to cloud platforms like Office 365 undertaken with similar urgency to maintain operations.

The South Australian Department of Health had over 40,000 staff ready to connect via Microsoft Teams in just one week after declaring a “health emergency” in March.

Large numbers of general employees had already been urged to work from home early on to help curb transmission of the virus, so being able to have them reconnect and address the expanding workload was a key priority.

The move to Teams has also played a critical role in supporting the important work of doctors, nurses and other clinical staff.

“Clinicians and staff recognised this quickly and adopted the technology, resulting in exponential growth in uptake; to 13,000 users in just two weeks,” SA Health chief digital officer, Bret Morris said last month.

Melbourne’s Austin Health mobilised to enable some 8,500 doctors, nurses and support staff to connect remotely within a week, while Brisbane’s Mater Health had to migrate almost as many.

Quarantined patients are now able to be treated by multiple specialists consulting remotely.

Doctors, nurses and support staff are now using iPads on purpose-made mobile units, and are able to dial-in colleagues, including case specialists, via video for remote consultations that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise

In one example, a physio was needed to examine a deaf patient with the virus. An Auslan sign-language interpreter was able to join a Microsoft Teams meeting to aid the consultation.

The same technology is being used to connect patients with family members they would otherwise be quarantined from.

Beating Heart

COVID-19 has provided an opportunity for the industry’s best productivity and collaboration tools to flex and shine in ways never before seen.

But it’s our communications networks that are truly the beating heart – and veins – without which the health sector would not have been able to exploit them to their full effect.

Thanks to high-speed fibre, mobile and fixed wireless networks throughout metropolitan and regional Australia - including the NBN – Australia’s vital healthcare organisations have been able to fully exploit the power of platforms like Zoom and Teams, while migrating email and other communications to the cloud without major disruptions.

Rapid advances in network software have also allowed for more speed and flexibility in securely provisioning new connections and additional capacity to more locations as circumstances require.

While a vaccine for COVID-19 is yet to be developed, the technologies being deployed by the world’s leading researchers and drug developers are more powerful than anything human beings have previously had at their disposal, able to process and analyse data at breathtaking speed to develop treatments and cures.

In parallel, we’re seeing an explosion of ‘clinical’ data within the healthcare sector more broadly, as health becomes increasingly digital. Everything from MRI, CT and PET scans to x-rays and other data-intensive records are being digitally recorded and consolidated into electronic medical records (EMR) to enable more personal and effective treatment.

But it’s the ability to transmit these rich data sets, quickly and securely, between patients, doctors, nurses – and researchers – via high-speed fixed and wireless communications networks that will truly help usher in this new world of health and wellbeing, while better enabling healthcare professionals to combat this and future pandemics on an operational level.

Superloop is an independent provider of connectivity services designing, constructing and operating networks throughout the Asia Pacific metro region. Connect with us today to find out more about how we can help introduce your organisation to new possibilities for better communications and business continuity.