While most people have seen immediate benefits using Microsoft Teams in healthcare, some have encountered challenges. We share a few pitfalls and solutions we’ve learned from early adopters.
Microsoft Teams has great potential to help employees in virtually every field, but especially healthcare workers. Teams’ voice or video meeting capabilities, its power to enable real-time chat messaging between groups, and its tools that allow healthcare workers to share documents securely drive not only collaboration but also promote social distancing.
In response to COVID-19, many healthcare organizations have adopted Teams at an accelerated rate. While most have seen immediate benefits, some have encountered challenges. In this blog, I will discuss some valuable “lessons learned” that will help healthcare leaders identify obstacles and compress Teams’ time to value as they prepare to meet the challenges ahead.
Lesson 1: VPN
Problem: Existing VPN capabilities (licensing and bandwidth) are common constraints. For example, Teams’ video-chat capabilities are powerful in healthcare settings, but they can eat up a lot of bandwidth, especially in large organizations.
Solution: First, read my colleague Carmen Fontana’s advice for increasing your VPN speed. Then, explore cloud-based VPN services, or skip VPN altogether and access Teams directly from the cloud. In any case, fast, secure, reliable access is essential.
Security is another VPN concern. To address this problem, look into “split tunneling” your VPN. Split tunneling allows you to choose which traffic goes through your VPN server and which goes through your internet services provider.
Lesson 2: Access
Problem: Often, access lists and groups are out-of-date or not configured for Teams. That can leave some employees locked out of Teams and frustrated.
Solution: Consider using your existing configurations (Active Directory, Email Distributions or EHR access models) instead of building new lists from scratch.
Lesson 3: Governance
Problem: In a crisis like COVID-19, many leaders are too busy to focus on governance. Unfortunately, key governance decisions are difficult to undo once in place and have long-term impacts.
Solution: Use an existing leadership group already working as a productive team, educate them on Teams essentials, and keep it simple. Below are the major decisions to be made for every Teams deployment:
- Team levels and owners. Sample questions: Who determines levels and owners, and do I want to be able to add members, remove members, and promote or delete owners?
- Document retention policies and team naming conventions. Sample question: Do I need to increase or lower the time period for retaining files? Do I need to add a new team name or change an existing name?
- Guest access. Sample question: Do I need to limit or control access by anonymous or external users?
- Features and Functions (navigation, messaging, screen share, calls, meetings, co-authoring for some). Sample question: How much do I need to customize features rather than deploying them out-of-the-box?
- Approved third-party apps. Sample question: Will my organization need to surface third-party applications (e.g., Salesforce, SAS, and more) in Teams?
- Data security: Sample question: How do I keep my team’s data safe?
- Deployment specifics. Sample questions: Do I need to add or modify the security settings of my team to limit access to documents or resources shared within my team?
Lesson 4: Initial and On-Going Training
Problem: Teams is an intuitive product, but people within your organization will have varying levels of technical skill and comfort with new technologies.
Solution: Use Microsoft’s free materials to tailor training for each user group.
- For end-users, limit training to a quick video overview and a short, 15-minute demo, then ask them to start using Teams.
- For departmental SMEs, use Microsoft’s suite of training videos.
- For the IT Team, use an accelerated learning pathway and dedicate time to ensure the group’s success.
Lesson 5: Go-Live and On-Going Support
Problem: Not sticking the landing in your Teams deployment leads to poor adoption and exacerbates Help Desk challenges.
Solution: Take a tiered approach.
- Tier 1: Ensure end-users went through the training video (above).
- Tier 2: Department SMEs provide Tier 2 support if end users still need help.
- Tier 3: IT provides Tier 3 support, but only to the Department SMEs.
Lesson 6: Browser Wars
Problem: The organization’s “golden” browser configuration is inconsistent (or inconsiderate of) O365 and Teams requirements.
Solution: After assessing and defining the gap, develop a new “golden” copy of the browser. Then test to ensure your standard desktop configuration supports Teams without interfering with other enterprise applications, like your EHRs. Finally, deploy in alignment with your SOPs.
Lesson 7: Resourcing
Problem: The healthcare organizations we have worked with have most, if not all, of the skills needed because their IT shops already have a Teams tenant working. Challenges often arise that compel leaders to look outside of their organizations.
Solution: Take advantage of Microsoft’s online materials. If you do find you need dedicated support, contact your Microsoft Customer Success Manager or a certified Microsoft Partner.
Lesson 8: System Health
Problem: Security usually gets some love within organizations, but performance and adoption metrics routinely become less of a focus post-deployment.
Solution: Keep your Teams Tenant healthy.
- Educate yourself on Microsoft’s process for introducing new versions of Teams and adapt your change control and new version testing processes accordingly.
- Remember to consider any parts of the organization not using O365.
- Ensure your O365 team conducts routine assessments and reports to senior leadership on adoption statistics, system performance and security. The Microsoft Compliance Manager and Microsoft Compliance Score are great places to start.
- Explore Power BI— Microsoft’s business analytics service that provides interactive visualizations and business intelligence capabilities through a simple, customizable interface.
Microsoft Teams is a stable, secure and valuable platform that supports virtual operations and improves team performance across a broad spectrum of metrics — and chances are, you’re already paying for it through O365.
I hope this blog anticipates some of the problems healthcare leaders may experience as they deploy Teams amidst the COVID-19 crisis. And if you have already completed your deployment and would like to share your lessons learned, I am eager to hear about your experiences. Please reach out to share your own lessons learned to help your colleagues accelerate adoption.