In today’s world, small businesses are required do anything they can to be efficient and effective, or they risk getting left behind. And when that small business is a GP clinic, its ability to respond to anything – from coughs and colds to nationwide lockdown – can literally save lives. As an essential part of our communities, it’s especially important that our local healthcare practices are nimble and responsive to changing needs, making the most of modern technologies so they can be with us whenever we need them.
As a not-for-profit medical practice in Auckland’s Māngere and Manurewa, where getting to the doctors isn’t something everyone can readily afford, Baderdrive Doctors is on an ongoing mission to reach as many locals as possible. Before the COVID-19 lockdown hit in March 2020, Baderdrive Doctors was battling an aging phone system with regular outages, a manual rostering process that was causing headaches and no ability for staff to help patients who couldn’t come in to the clinic.
A strategic partnership with Spark provided the cure, harnessing the power of Microsoft Teams. With a reliable technology platform giving always-on connectivity, staff can now focus on what’s most important – creating healthy communities, wherever they happen to be.
Hanging up on aging handsets
When it comes to running a doctor’s practice, communication is key. At any one time there could be a flurry of patients calling to book appointments, being transferred to nurses and doctors. Throw in a constantly changing roster system and government pressure to ensure patient files are secure and it becomes apparent that a well-structured and well-functioning appointments system is essential. No one wants to be kept dangling on the line, although being cut off is worse.
At the start of 2020, that’s just what Baderdrive Doctors was experiencing. Aging phone handsets and superannuated servers meant calls often backed up, or dropped off entirely. Given the barriers already facing many patients when it came to seeing their doctor, another one wasn’t ideal. To make matters worse, both the practice and its related not-for-profit community centre sites used the same dodgy connection.
But that wasn’t all. A manual rostering system caused headaches for operations teams who had to organise constantly rotating rosters across both practice sites. Receptionists were faced with staff that constantly rotated shifts as well as consulting rooms – and with the phone issues, diverting calls became a nightmare.
“Our receptionists were missing calls day-to-day, our system struggled to divert calls and our overall call flow was disjointed. To put it simply, as we started growing as a practice our phones were just not up to the task anymore. We undertook a review, and it became clear we needed to be doing more,” said William Apa, Operations Manager at Baderdrive Doctors.
Adding to Baderdrive’s challenges, new tighter government guidelines and security protocols around patient files meant additional means of protecting patient data confidentiality were needed. That meant protecting staff too, so they wouldn’t fall prey to increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks such as phishing.
The Baderdrive team realised they needed to completely transform the practice’s technology to reflect a modern workplace environment that was more connected, collaborative, and secure. In short, it needed to move to the cloud.
Sparking better conversations with Teams
It was technology solutions provider Spark who saw straight to the heart of the issue: the absence of a central IT system Baderdrive could ‘drive’ by itself.
“We knew that in order to create real change, we needed to be looking at the bigger picture as once Baderdrive’s technology was integrated from the top, this would make all the other aspects fall into place,” says Shane Toal, Spark IT Partner.
“From the initial assessment of their communications infrastructure we knew we had a significant task at hand. Being an essential service, any migration of their services needed to be seamless, efficient and cost effective. The dated equipment and the very heavy reliance on a third-party IT contractor was one of the biggest obstacles that they were facing,” adds Paropkar Samra, Account Manager, Spark Business Hub Manukau.
“Once we had established the pain points, we focused on streamlining their telephony solution with a product that offered what this organisation needed, minimising risk and cost factors.”
The practice already had Microsoft 365 to run its back-office processes, so it made sense to implement a fully integrated technology system that used the same familiar apps and software but was totally stored in the cloud, with Microsoft Teams providing the central platform that tied everything together.
To stop calls bottle-necking as people hunted for the relevant staff member, a streamlined call-flow system came first. Goodbye aging handsets – hello Microsoft Teams-enabled phones. Spark deployed a number of Microsoft Teams-enabled phones across both sites, so connectivity was no longer an issue. Taking calling connectivity off-premise and into the cloud meant calls were no longer affected by the frequent connectivity outages or the pressures of two sites using the same connection, as there was no reliance on telecommunication wires.
The beauty of Microsoft Teams also meant the call flow was engineered to Baderdrive’s specific needs, including staff that weren’t “locked” to any one room.
“One of the things we liked most about working with the Spark team was they involved us right from the start. They took a very hands-on approach, and I was able to help with the Teams call flow design to ensure it was custom designed to our core needs. What’s better is I now have admin access to the back end of our call flow. Previously this was managed externally, and we had little say in how it performed, but I can now go in and manage it myself anytime,” says Apa.
Next came a refresh to the manual rosters. Spark set Baderdrive up with Microsoft Shifts, a Microsoft Teams extension that meant the workplace management team could create, update and manage shift schedules in one central place.
“Migrating Baderdrive from a manual roster process to Microsoft Shifts removed all headaches and confusion around staff rosters. Rather than spending time trying to locate staff, call takers can now easily navigate to one central place that tells them when people’s shifts are, and which room and location they are stationed in at that time, then direct calls where needed,” says Toal.
Then of course there were the security requirements to consider. To alleviate concerns around phishing scams and abide by the increasingly strict government protocols around patient data security, Spark helped Baderdrive install two-factor authentication. This was implemented with the new Passwordless sign-in feature to make it quick for doctors to hot desk into the consult room Teams desk phones without the need to enter complex passwords. It also enhanced security by not requiring the doctors to enter their passwords in front of anyone. Peace of mind in a single solution!
Dialling up connectivity during COVID
Little did Baderdrive know the tech transformation’s benefits would be proved so soon. Day one of the new deployment happened on a very momentous day – the first COVID-19 lockdown. Having all systems in place, literally from day one, Baderdrive’s team was instantly able to shift to remote working. With staff redeployed across a multitude of COVID-19 testing centres, the Teams calling system really came into its own.
Having Teams deployed meant the Baderdrive team could instantly connect while out and about, and temporary rosters could be set up with the click of a button. Managers could also easily ensure their people were safe, even when they couldn’t be there in person. What’s better was the ease at which staff adapted to the interface. On day one, under very unusual circumstances, you’d expect some teething issues. Not so, says Apa.
“The switch to Teams couldn’t have come soon enough, and we were so thankful Spark was able to deploy straight away. They were very responsive, moved quickly and fully understood our urgency so we were blessed to have them. Staff were easily able to navigate how to use Teams, meaning training was no issue, and it was able to be deployed seamlessly.”
“And now our call flow is simple, as doctors are able to log into their Teams account in the consult room they are working in for the day, and calls get directed to them instantly via reception. They can even get calls directed to their mobile, making connectivity and collaboration even more seamless. Implementing two-factor authentication has also given us a lot of confidence around assuring our system is robust and staff don’t fall prey to phishing.”
“We are extremely delighted that we have managed to migrate this customer to a point where they know that they have a superior product and are in full control of this very crucial service,” says Samra.
A future that is looking even more connected
Although Microsoft Teams is now fully embedded at Baderdrive, the team isn’t stopping there. Microsoft Shifts especially offers many more opportunities for further exploration. While Shifts currently plays a role in rostering, it also has a staff presence component to it, and Apa says they want to look into how they can ease administrative time by utilising Teams for actions like requesting annual leave, clocking in staff timesheets and adding notes to remind teams of important news or events.
Baderdrive is also interested in the additional security features Microsoft 365 solution can offer, such as the scanning of email attachments for phishing scams and security risks, or the encryption of files. In time they may even look to migrate patient consults over to Microsoft Teams so anyone with a mobile phone or an internet connection can access treatment from home.
“We actually switched providers to Spark during this process and are very pleased with our decision to do so. Our partnership with Spark has brought us just to where we need to be, but we’re not stopping here. We’re looking forward to working more with Spark on how we can revolutionise our small business in a modern way,” says Apa.
Robert Havranek, Modern Work and Security Business Group Lead at Microsoft New Zealand, is also thrilled at the way Spark has helped Baderdrive Doctors get the most out of Teams during an extremely challenging period.
“People used to think Teams was just a videoconferencing or collaboration tool, but COVID-19 has really accelerated its adoption and people are increasingly realising the huge range of things it’s capable of. What Spark has done alongside Baderdrive Doctors, demonstrates the clever applications of the technology for all kinds of businesses, bringing all sorts of uses from calling to security, HR and workflow management into one place. I want to congratulate them on helping keep such an essential service not just functioning but thriving during lockdown and therefore, helping keep us all safe.”