Last year NHS Wales signed a landmark deal with Microsoft to give over 100,000 NHS Wales staff access to Office 365 and strengthen defences against cyber-attacks.
The much-needed move allowed GPs, consultants, nurses, therapists, paramedics and support staff to communicate and securely share information more easily within the NHS and the wider public sector.
The healthcare sector and politicians have long recognised the role technology can play in improving patientcare, tackling staff retention and relieving some of pressure on the system – which is why Office 365 is so important.
Office 365 supports mobile working across multiple devices, such as phones, tablets and laptops. It opens up opportunities for collaboration without the need to travel and consultations through integrated media and video conferencing. This in itself seems ready made to help support the development of Primary Care Networks (PCNs).
Most people associate Office 365 with business but most GP practices are businesses at the end of the day.
Office 365 is about collaboration and collaboration is something the NHS need and want to do more of.
The big focus from government is the development of Primary Care Networks (PCNs). These are clusters of GP practices that are supporting patient populations of between 50,000 – 75,000 people.
How else are you going to collaborate when you have multiple practices in that network unless you’ve got the tech tools to do it?
If you get a cluster of practices that want to work together really closely, share information, files, instant messaging etc, Office 365 is a game-changer.
We do most of our team meetings by video and that’s something which will be increasingly used within GP practices. They’ll be able to hook into team meetings with hospitals for example.
Office 365 will improve the quality of care for patients because at the minute the system works in silos and often that prevents you getting the best care you expect.
We’re looking at creating hubs whereby a practice might be able to support a neighbouring practice. For example there could be an area that is nervous about using video conferencing but you could have another practice nearby that is good at it. What’s to stop them collaborating to help each other? Office 365 is the platform that could make it happen.
The availability of apps within 365 can also be a huge game changer as will be the potential for integrating it into clinical systems, not to mention making use of AI technology that is offered by Microsoft.
I think it will be transformational. I was talking to a diabetes nurse recently who had been on a brilliant awareness course and she wanted to find a way to cascade that learning to a network of 16 nurses. That’s what Microsoft Teams does through Office 365. She can run a presentation to all the other nurses and make it interactive.
At the moment we have lots of WhatsApp popping up in healthcare but they have their limitations. Hopefully, in the not too distant future, Office 365 will be as widely used within the NHS as it is in business.
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