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Connected care: Northwell Health strengthens transparent communication for better collaboration

With hospitals and ambulatory care facilities spread across the New York metropolitan area, Northwell Health knows how critical it is for clinicians to partner effectively for patient care.

The healthcare system had to rethink previous strategies for clinical communication and collaboration, which included face-to-face meetings, phone calls and bedside pagers. The move to Microsoft Teams in 2019 provided a foundation for seamless, HIPAA-compliant, and buildable communication and collaboration.

“There were many leaders, especially our IT team, who had been advocating for years that we use the same platform for clinical collaboration across departments,” says Dr. Anncy Thomas, the site’s medical information manager. “Ultimately, I think it’s been the COVID-19 pandemic that has really pushed the commercial and clinical domains to adopt Microsoft Teams in a meaningful way.”

When pandemic restrictions necessitated widespread remote working, Northwell Health adapted accordingly, says Sophy Lu, senior vice president and CIO.

“Teams were able to meet with us not only on a corporate collaboration video front, but it also enabled text-based discussions between our team members and clinicians,” Lu said. ‘evolve and develop different capabilities and functions that we’ve built on the platform.’

For example, Northwell launched NORA, an intelligent virtual assistant that provides quick access to relevant patient data, to complement Teams.

“Nora makes real-time patient information accessible to clinicians on their mobile devices or on a desktop or laptop, directly through Teams and through its integration with the Northwell electronic medical record,” says Thomas. “Thanks to experience with the chatbot or the myNora app, I can get lab results, documents or images from a Northwell EMR in seconds. I can set up notifications for results or documents that will alert me on my mobile device, so I don’t have to constantly check the EMR for updates. This was all so valuable during the height of the pandemic, when clinicians were seeing record numbers of patients, and it really continues to be one of the most popular features.

Close collaboration between clinical and IT teams has contributed to the success of the widespread deployment of Teams and has spurred continued innovation, adds Lu: “I cannot stress enough the importance of interacting with all users and understanding what problem they’re trying to solve and what will help them do their job, and choose a platform that can grow with you.

LEARN MORE: Gain insight into the evolution of clinical communication and collaboration.

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