Microsoft’s video chat technology is changing the way this hospital fights coronavirus


Video chat becomes an essential part of medicine during the coronavirus crisis.

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You cannot enter the intensive care units of the St. Luke’s University Health Network due to concerns regarding the dissemination of the novel coronavirus. But if you did, you would see something new among the beds, the medical equipment and the tubes. It is a device with Microsoft Teams software running.

In the past two months, the hospital network – like so many of us – has technology oriented to bridge the communication in person lost due to the threat of coronavirus. The virus, which has been labeled pandemic by the World Health Organization last month, has caused 2 million confirmed cases worldwide. Governments have imposed blockages, hoping to slow the spread of the virus and give hospitals time to care for the victims.

St. Luke’s, also known as SLUHN, did little telehealth before the crisis. His most notable initiative was a video chat device kept in the emergency room to help bring doctors from other parts of the hospital digitally to the bedside of suspected stroke patients. With the coronavirus, doctors had to find new ways to treat patients without constantly changing layers of protective gear.

“We scoured our network to find devices,” said Dr. James Balshi, SLUHN director of medical information and vascular surgeon. Now he has a hundred devices he can bring to the ICU and some other beds, using Microsoft’s Teams video chat software to provide patients with a way to communicate with doctors, that they are in the room or not. “A phone is better than nothing, but it doesn’t come close to looking at someone and seeing their facial expressions – it’s one of the most powerful parts of that.” “

Microsoft has made SLUHN available to chat with CNET in a series of blogs and videos it has produced on how companies use its software during this crisis. Among them, the cosmetic brand L’Oréal, which used video chat software to help the company adapt its factories around the world to produce a hand sanitizer.

Our sudden addiction to video chat made applications such as Zoom, Cisco WebEx, Apple FaceTime, Google Duo, Houseparty and Skype from Microsoft are part of people’s daily lives. For teams in particular, this translates into growth of more than 40% of the workforce using their product in the past two months.

This move to video chat has brought its own challenges. In some cases, strangers connect to public video chats for schools or governments and start disseminate racist pornography or images. In other cases, experts raise concerns on potential security issues.

Still, it looks like our wider use of video chat will likely continue after the crisis subsides. For SLUHN, a positive reception by reluctant doctors, even once, helped to justify this case, as well as Microsoft’s compliance with medical data privacy laws.

SLUHN, however, encountered bumps along the way. Doctors have learned that it is more difficult for some people, especially Parkinson’s patients and the elderly, to download the app and configure it for their virtual doctor visits, for example.

A doctor helps a patient to use his phone.

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“Not everyone has a son or daughter who can come, especially now, and settle in,” said Balshi. This is also another application that patients have to manage, in addition to managing their electronic medical records.

However, Balshi sees promises. The hospital network has also started using Teams video chat for doctor visits. He now eats around 3,000 a day. This is half of what hospitals normally provide, said Balshi, but still almost none before the crisis began.

“The reluctance and uncertainty about this has gone,” he said. “Almost every supplier in our network has had contact with this by now and said,” Hey, we could do this and it works. “”

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