The coronavirus pandemic is putting immense strain on healthcare, and not just to treat patients with Covid-19. Patients with long-term conditions still need to be treated, but it may not be safe for them to attend hospitals and other facilities in person.
“When healthcare staff and patients can’t meet face-to-face, there’s still a huge number of routine appointments that need to happen, especially for those with a pre-existing medical condition,” Samuel Wilson, chief customer officer and managing director of EMEA at 8×8, tells Verdict.
However, 8×8 is helping to tackle the issue, via its cloud communications platform. This offers both voice-over internet protocol (VoIP) and video conferencing solutions, and was already being supplied to the NHS via healthcare specialist Bionical Solutions, but is now proving essential amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“Bionical Solutions is using the 8×8 cloud communications platform to enable NHS nurses to continue providing highly personalised care across multiple disease areas, virtually,” explains Wilson.
“Through our cloud technology, nurses and patients can now safely communicate through text, voice and video meetings from the safety of their home. Our technology platform has helped support the transition of patients from hospital to home and reduced potential readmissions, minimising hospital bed occupancy to support the current influx of Covid-19 patients.”
It is also helping some healthcare workers remain safe from the virus by enabling them to continue to help patients while self-isolating.
“It’s not just the appointments themselves that need to continue; Bionical also uses 8×8 Contact Centre technology to enable all clinical staff to work remotely from their homes.”
Cloud communications amid the coronavirus: The benefits for patient care
While for some appointments nothing truly replaces a face-to-face meeting, during the coronavirus pandemic this is not always possible, making the next best thing – cloud-based video conferencing – a valuable tool for patient care.
“When healthcare staff and patients can’t meet face to face, there’s still a huge number of routine appointments that need to happen, especially for those with a pre-existing medical condition,” says Wilson.
“This is where video conferencing has a vital role to play – nurses and doctors can speak to a patient as they would if they were meeting face-to-face.
“When it comes to medical appointments, video and sound quality is particularly important to ensure nothing is missed which could be a vital clue to a diagnosis – this is where HD voice and video is a real advantage.”
In other parts of healthcare, additional phoneline capacity is immensely valuable to support patient care, which is where 8×8’s VoIP services have proved beneficial.
“With hospitals stretched to maximum capacity, the same will be true for the phone lines,” explains Wilson.
“VoIP means healthcare workers can rely on incredibly high definition phone calls, even when phone traffic increases.”
VoIP also enables new support sites to be rapidly deployed, without physical infrastructure such as phone lines needing to be installed.
“It allows for communication systems to be rapidly set up and scaled according to changing demand as there’s no need for expensive hardware. This is crucial for emergency clinics that have to get up and running in a matter of days,” he says.
“Finally, a VoIP system enables healthcare workers to communicate across multiple devices, no matter where they are – this is hugely important for healthcare staff working remotely.”
8×8 cloud communications: Helping non-profit healthcare further afield
The NHS isn’t the only healthcare organisation turning to cloud communications during the coronavirus crisis, with other 8×8 users including Every Child Pediatrics, a non-profit based in Denver, the US.
Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, Every Child saw almost every patient in-person, requiring it to radically adjust how it was treating patients during Covid-19. And given the organisation serves over 24,000 children across a host of clinics, in both urban and rural areas, this was a challenge.
“With almost 99% of patient visits conducted in-person and on-site, the organisation recognised the need for enhanced care via video conferencing, especially amid the Covid-19 outbreak,” says Wilson.
“The current public health crisis is challenging us to think differently about how we can most effectively deliver medical and behavioural health care and counselling to as many children as possible during this difficult time,” added Jessica Dunbar, executive director at Every Child Pediatrics.
“With 8×8 Virtual Office desktop and mobile applications and 8×8 Video Meetings, we are able to enhance our care to help even more of those in need, regardless of location.”
Coronavirus upheaval: The impact on 8×8
Naturally, the demand for cloud communications has seen significant growth since the coronavirus outbreak began, and particularly since lockdowns were introduced. And for 8×8, this has meant scaling up its support to meet record user numbers.
“As you might imagine, we’ve seen huge demand for cloud-based communications solutions over the past few weeks, as businesses across the globe transition their operations to enable staff to work from home,” says Wilson.
“Just this week our global video meetings solution hit 14.3 million monthly active users, and this number is still growing.”
For 8×8, this growth hasn’t uniquely been due to healthcare, although it has been a key contributor.
“There’s been enormous demand for secure communications software across a wide range of sectors with an upsurge amongst education and healthcare providers, as well as government organisations,” he explains.
“While we’ve always worked with these sectors, we’ve experienced an uptick in demand during the pandemic, with the increased need for secure virtual face-to-face meetings.”
Given this sudden surge in demand, how has the company hoped while it also grapples with lockdowns? Perhaps unsurprisingly, it hasn’t presented many issues.
“As a cloud communications provider, we practice what we preach. The safety of our employees always comes first. Our teams are already well equipped to work from home, and many were already working remotely a few days a week, so the change has been minimal,” explains Wilson.
“We’ve always championed remote working and our technology enables the entire businesses to do just that. The same goes for a number of our customers that were able to transition their workers to a home-working environment. For us, it’s very much business as usual.”