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Teams helping bridge the gap

Social distancing has radically changed the way we can work together during the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. Nikki Jeffery, Urology Fellow at University College London Hospitals, describes how using collaboration software has helped link people up.

Photo of Nikki Jeffery sitting in front of her computer

Like everywhere else in the country, our urology department has had to transform the way we work during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.  

We used to rely upon multiple face-to-face meetings each day to collaborate with colleagues and ensure high quality care for patients and the smooth operation of the hospital.  However, the COVID-19 situation blew all that apart. 

We were told to hold all meetings and conversations remotely and in a short space of time, our department converted our face-to-face work practices into a remote format using Microsoft Teams. 

Getting started with teams

Staff members had different levels of familiarity with Microsoft Teams, and yet everyone showed great enthusiasm in embracing a completely new format for their daily work routine. 

The Digital Healthcare team at UCLH rapidly set up a Remote Working support team and information mini-site on the intranet as they rolled out a variety of remote working tools to enable home working.  

There was constant troubleshooting required over the first few weeks.

The training for Microsoft Teams was tailored according to our pre-existing knowledge of the platform.   We needed to know how to download software, log-in and use Microsoft Teams chat and meetings functions.  Given the rapid speed with which we had to establish remote meetings, several staff members were provided with one-to-one assistance to help get started.

There was constant troubleshooting required over the first few weeks, such as people not muting on joining a call to avoid background noise (especially those on trains), learning not to join with two devices in the same room and people calling others by accident.

Another issue for us was ensuring staff logged in with their NHS email rather than their UCL email as we found chats didn’t work with the UCL email.

I devised some Teams etiquette to deal with these issues, plus I thought it was a good idea to remind anyone who was running the meeting to introduce those who were joining from the room (so that people joining remotely knew who was present). I incorporated the etiquette into a set of instructions for people in the department to easily refer to if they got stuck.

It wasn’t long before everyone was using the technology expertly.

Unexpected benefits

Not only has Microsoft Teams allowed us to adapt to the COVID-19 situation, it has expanded and improved our practice. For example, our daily 7:30am junior doctor handover meeting now enables multidisciplinary input from radiologists and sub speciality urology consultants. 

The transition to remote meetings on Microsoft Teams will be one good thing that has come out of this dark period.

There are in fact multiple urology sub specialities, over 20 registrars and over 30 consultants.  Microsoft teams has enabled increased interaction between all the staff and strengthened professional relationships.

Before, it would not have been possible to get relevant medical staff together for such a meeting due to their existing work commitments at different sites, so this ability to provide input from wherever they are, has been invaluable. Without a doubt, it has promoted exceptional teamwork and co-operation and provided fantastic teaching for junior doctors.

All this helps us provide better care for the patients and in addition the new meeting format has helped us to speed up discharge processes and limit patient time within the hospital. 

A lasting change

We are all looking forward to the end of the COVID-19 era.  However, the transition to remote meetings on Microsoft Teams will be one good thing that has come out of this dark period. Microsoft Teams has improved the flexibility and efficiency with which we conduct multidisciplinary meetings – and this is something we can continue to build upon on the long road to recovery.

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Nikki Jeffery

Nikki is a reconstructive urology fellow at the University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

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Last edited: 17 June 2020 10:19 am