COVID-era service makes it possible

Many employees at Melbourne’s Austin Health are now able to devote their full attention to caring for patients thanks to a unified messaging platform that has improved the efficiency of scientific communication and cut down on time spent on administrative tasks.


In 2019, Austin Health undertook a thorough assessment of the quality of patient interactions in order to meet standards for medical facility accreditation. It uncovered two major issues: difficulty in ascertaining who is doing a certain medical function at any one moment and having many interaction channels simultaneously, which can lead to a great deal of diversity in scientific communication practise.


“These aspects made it challenging for personnel to understand how to interact, lengthy to carry out medical interaction activities, and took frontline personnel far from direct client care. The variation in medical interaction practice, with there being as numerous as 9 various medical interaction approaches readily available, was likewise a client security issue.”

Nicole Hosking, Radiology and Medical Imaging Technology Operations Director, Austin Health


Austin Health responded swiftly to the outbreak of the pandemic by removing barriers to communication inside the organisation. Right from the bat, the company introduced a spur-of-the-moment, role-based engagement option that allowed doctors in the COVID-19 wards to communicate with doctors outside the hospital using Microsoft Teams accounts on dedicated phones that staff would hand down at shift changeover. Employees had trouble with this solution’s usability, and it might not have been scalable.

FiveP had been carefully guiding Austin Health through its own transition to Office365 at around the same time. Also on the agenda was the preliminary rollout of a role-based interaction service in the COVID-19 wards, which was the subject of their conversation. Because of this need, Baret was developed as a scalable, Microsoft Teams-based business service for the healthcare industry.

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“By leveraging the Microsoft 365 platform, we might satisfy security and governance requirements and check out brand-new options that would permit us to deal with the 2 essential recognized problems within our medical interaction structure and enhance our interaction practice.”

Alan Pritchard, CTO and Information Services Director, Austin Health


From planning to implementing a new role-based messaging solution across the company, about two years passed. In April of 2021, the team and I got started on this project for real. After 6 months of development, a 3-month trial with 7 medical groups was conducted. After a successful test, administrators at Austin Health approved the project in March 2022 for a company-wide deployment that occurred between June and December of that year.

Pritchard claims that for the entirety of Baret’s application process, two crucial factors were kept in mind. The initial concern was the correct order in which to tackle various scientific procedures. Adoption and interest might be sparked by targeting the right people with the right messages. Pilot data suggests that adoption will be low until constant Baret communication is required between shifts. Because of this, the platform wasn’t first introduced to medical staff without first including medical function groups. Given its widespread use across medical specialties, it came as no surprise that junior medical staff responded positively to its introduction.

“The strength of the network effect is crucial to effectively promoting scientific engagement through a single medium like Baret. It’s not enough to have a great technological solution, as Pritchard put it; you need a lot of people using it and making meaningful connections with one another in order to sustain its use.

The second area to think about is which communication methods within the medical communication framework will be phased out first and replaced with Baret messaging. Due to their high frequency across all medical specialties, routine paging, immediate paging, and simple, non-urgent internal telephone calls were the first to be updated at Austin Health.

Taking these two factors into account, the project yielded “considerable favourable results” for staff, including the gradual adoption of Baret throughout the staged rollout, evidenced by an increase in the volume of messages sent and received each day; rapid progress was especially noticeable after junior medical staff were added to the system.

There were no major issues with the introduction of Baret at Austin Health. Pritchard said that, because “the innovation is simple to use,” training employees on how to use the tool was straightforward.

It was a challenge, as it is for all large businesses, to disseminate information about Baret to the thousands of employees who work in shifts around the clock. Austin Health coordinated all of this by communicating with them via an intranet interaction project, emails, group conferences, education sessions, pop-up informs on the paging system, talks at staff orientation events, desk camping tents, posters, and their HMO Facebook page.


Around 5,948 registered customers and 165 medical groups have been using Baret in Austin Health’s 24/7 care environment since the end of April this year. There have been over 200,000 completed message conversations with a total of over 800,000 interactions (including explanations, recognitions, and responses).

The following results were obtained from the preliminary execution:

  • Facilitating quicker communication by making it more obvious who is providing on-site medical services

    Making it possible to phase out pagers in an orderly fashion

    Increasing the efficiency of medical communication by relieving staff from the constant interruption of phone calls meant for other patients. Instead, workers can give a rundown of a dashboard’s worth of signals pertinent to the scientific task at hand, sort them in order of medical urgency, and respond accordingly.

    Having the ability to identify which functions are available 24/7 and whether important functions are not covered improves functional supervision and scientific control of medical contact.

For instance, the Baret application in pharmacy and radiology groups has standardised communication between teams, decreased the amount of time spent on communication, lessened the number of interruptions to scientific tasks, and allowed workers to concentrate more fully on the delivery of high-quality care to patients. One radiographer’s position has been reorganised from providing imaging services to patients to providing leadership for patient care.

In addition, additional data may be collected and analysed to alert scientists to developing trends. Information previously unavailable to Austin Health has been compiled, including the amount and frequency of requests for rapid medical examination of inpatients, the busiest functions, the degree and kind of interactions across functions, the length of time it takes for each function to reply, and the busiest times of day.

It also has access to data from immediate scientific evaluation (UCR), which is currently being used to identify patterns that were previously difficult to analyse or were simply unknown. It is currently learning how many UCRs occur every hour, day, and healthcare system to better distribute medical treatment.

By using Baret, Austin Health has been able to increase the efficiency of medical communication, lessen the burden of communication on healthcare professionals, collect and analyse relevant information about communication, and boost patient safety. Hosking emphasised that these positive findings demonstrate the significant benefits that may be achieved by using a standardised role-based medical interaction platform in a healthcare context.

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