Even before healthcare professionals began grappling with the COVID-19 virus, hospital systems had started to evaluate how best to modernize their communications. In the UK, for instance, the government's Health Secretary set a goal of eliminating all pagers used by the National Health Service (NHS) by 2021.

With all the challenges healthcare workers face today, communicating with colleagues and patients shouldn't be one of them. Yet, hospital staff still rely on outdated equipment that doesn't meet the unique challenges of today's healthcare environment. With strict privacy laws in place, doctors who need to share patient information must also have tools that ensure data is kept private. Medical teams need the ability to send group messages to expedite care.

However, the reality is that many medical staff walk around with multiple devices. For instance, staff physicians could be carrying two mobile phones—one for work and one for personal use. They're also likely to tote multiple pagers so that colleagues in different units and offices can quickly contact them.

How AI and Unified Communications Will Transform Healthcare >

A unified communications solution can reduce the need for healthcare professionals to carry multiple devices. Steven Lawrence, Mitel's Head of Healthcare in the UK, shared a few of the ways that cloud communications enables medical teams to collaborate faster and with greater efficiency in a secure environment.

One device, multiple channels, easy collaboration

A distinct advantage of a secure, cloud communications system is that collaboration via multiple channels is possible from a single device. Whether healthcare professionals are sitting at a desktop, working on a laptop or tablet, or checking their mobile, they have access to a secure, personal dashboard via the web.

Within this environment, they're able to discuss cases securely with staff or patients using voice, email, chat, SMS and video conferencing. They can share files with colleagues and access patient records. Information once stored in separate areas of the organization is now accessible from one central location.

Communication is much more streamlined with capabilities such as presence. MiCollab, Mitel's collaboration software platform, for example, allows medical staff to see at a glance which colleagues are available at the moment and contact them using multiple methods.

Further, physicians and staff can create hunt and ring groups to ensure no call goes unanswered and colleagues can reach each other easily. For example, in a ring group, all phone numbers, extensions or physical telephones ring simultaneously when a call comes in. Any medical staff member who is part of that ring group can answer, making this an efficient way to reach specific areas or locations. By contrast, hunt groups route incoming calls to a group of users until someone answers. This feature is especially useful for on-call physicians, who are able to change their status directly from their personal dashboard.

How does it work? Let's say a doctor who has been gone for the day returns. On her personal dashboard, she switches her status from "Absent" to "Present". Her mobile then becomes her primary calling device. The doctor also retains her unique phone number that enables external callers to contact her directly.

Single Point of Access Means Better Collaboration

There's another benefit to a single point of access for communications: Less to carry. "You can access multiple ring groups and hunt groups from one device, which replaces all of your devices and pagers," said Lawrence.

COVID-19 has put extra pressure on healthcare workers. >

Healthcare organizations are under incredible pressure to serve patients during this pandemic. MiCollab helps healthcare professionals easily, efficiently and quickly communicate with each other.

"We often think that the technology we provide has no bearing on the outcomes of staff and patients, but it does," said Lawrence. One hospital once told him"using Mitel's softphone has saved lives."

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