Agfa HealthCare and Microsoft Teams have partnered up to provide new communication and collaboration solutions to help healthcare providers and clinicians in their response to COVID-19.
- Agfa HealthCare and Microsoft have joined forces to connect their XERO Universal Viewer and Microsoft Teams platforms.
- Paul Lipton, Manager of Product Development at Agfa, has developed a platform that would allow caregivers to coordinate on suspected COVID-19 cases.
- The Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust (PAHT) in the UK, which serves a population of 350,000 across its three sites, was the first healthcare network to jump on this opportunity and deploy the software.
- The platform has already been nominated and shortlisted for an IT technology award in the UK for its implementation at Princess Alexandra Hospital.
XERO Universal Viewer and Microsoft Teams Integration
Agfa HealthCare was an early adopter of Microsoft Teams, and the Agfa team has been working with the product for more than a year. During the COVID-19 pandemic, cases spiked and lockdowns were enforced in most regions of the world. The NHS was moving forward with an Office 365 implementation, and Paul Lipton and his team realised that this could be an opportunity to do something unique to facilitate clinicians with the COVID-19 situation. There was a need for intra-hospital and outer-hospital collaboration and image sharing. Hence, Agfa HealthCare and Microsoft joined forces to connect their XERO Universal Viewer and Microsoft Teams platforms.
However, this integration did not happen overnight. Lipton worked every night since the lockdown to create a platform that would allow caregivers to coordinate on suspected COVID-19 cases with radiologists, and also track and discuss suspected complications and share potential treatment options on a dedicated channel for the ever-changing COVID-19 response. In many cases, the caregiver was able to avoid delays in critical care as a result of having a dedicated virtual team of responders for managing the crisis able to triage. When staff are overwhelmed, discussion and triage of newly suspected cases could be broadcast on the shared channel securely, and conversations could be initiated immediately by those that were available versus looking for someone in the hospital physically or calling a list until someone answered. It allowed hospital staff in the UK to save time and may have saved many lives with improved coordination of care.
Lipton put together an internal wiki page for the internal staff at Agfa to look at different use cases that they could help with during the crisis. A lot of time was spent assisting radiologists to report findings and working together. Elaborating on this idea, Agfa decided to use the Microsoft Teams platform to build a crisis centre around COVID. The Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust (PAHT) in the UK, which serves a population of 350,000 across its three sites, was the first healthcare network to jump on this opportunity as they were dealing with a significant spike in cases at the time and could benefit from a centralised platform where they could discuss and share images.
Stephen Townrow, Imaging Systems Manager, Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust, says: “It’s an innovative tool that assists the clinicians with sharing patient imaging around the Trust. The solution works seamlessly with Microsoft Teams, using our original XERO Universal Viewer client. The deployment was rapid, with no downtime.”
Agfa is also partnering with other large health systems in the United States and is looking into expanding the use of this platform. In addition, multiple hospitals have shown interest in this application.
Since a lot of radiologists are working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, creating this virtual room was an excellent initiative and offered radiologists and clinicians the opportunity to share information over a safe and secure online image sharing platform. Lipton developed this image sharing solution while working remotely from his home office during lockdown. It allows healthcare professionals to send images across the channel and review and post comments on them. In this manner, conversations around the images and care coordination can be created efficiently, allowing clinicians to respond to the rapidly evolving pandemic. According to Lipton, this was an opportunity for him to sit down and apply all the knowledge that he’s had in healthcare for many years to solve a unique problem.
Based on his design, the prototype for the Microsoft-Teams and XERO Universal Viewer integration was created. It was tested and keeping essential clinical requirements in mind, a new platform was developed that was designed to bring value to clinicians.
Benefits of the XERO Universal Viewer and Microsoft Teams Integration
Some of the key benefits of this new platform include:
- Instant collaboration versus hunting for somebody to access those images. Physicians can now share those images with the appropriate channel for managing this crisis and being able to determine the medical status of the patient and ensuring faster diagnosis and initiation of treatment.
- Access to a virtual group of physicians, radiologists, and specialists that are spread across multiple geographic locations. During the COVID-19 lockdown, many radiologists are not working from the hospital. Through this software, they can still participate as if they were in a room in the hospital. Hence, this is an excellent tool for bridging the gap between staff that are working from home and those working at the hospital.
- The platform saves time that would be spent looking for somebody to review patient images and address the ones that are of concern. With this image-sharing facility, a large group of clinicians can respond to patient images and multiple people can respond via the channel. This is much more time-efficient compared to a situation where you would have to call someone or request a specialist to review the images. Through this integrated software, Agfa has created an ad hoc, multidisciplinary team that can look at these images quickly without having to bring them into a room and without having to find the right individuals. They’re all in the channel, which improves the effectiveness and efficiency of this collaboration.
- Even in a post-COVID-19 healthcare setting, this is a useful software as it allows clinicians to conduct multidisciplinary team meetings no matter where they are in the world. Even if a specialist is on vacation, they can choose to check-in and offer their feedback and expertise in a particular situation. Hence, the platform provides a unique opportunity for clinicians to collaborate in ways they haven’t before. The integration was initially designed for COVID-19, but the response from the healthcare community suggests that a virtual location to collaborate can be a useful tool for many different situations and scenarios.
Security of Patient Data
Microsoft Teams runs in a cloud-based environment. As part of this initiative, the security and privacy of patient data have been ensured. Only clinicians who are part of the network can access the software. Also, the software is audited, and the information is stored in an IT audit record repository. All images that are shared across the channels are secure and private, and physicians can access the information that’s there. Everything that goes into that channel is sent into the audit record for Teams. This allows you to track access to the information, and then also track access to the viewer that provides access to the images.
The XERO Universal Viewer and Microsoft Teams Integration from Agfa has the potential to become much more than a channel for sharing information. The platform has already been nominated and shortlisted for an IT technology award in the UK for the implementation of this initiative at Princess Alexandra Hospital. The future offers significant opportunities for creating efficient virtual collaboration across different departments and hospital networks.