Grand River Hospital sets a high bar for virtual care with Webex
15 clinical programs, over 680 beds, more than 26,000 annual admissions, and over 265,000 ambulatory visits every single year. With numbers like that, it’s safe to say that Grand River Hospital stays busy.
In fact, Grand River is located in southern Ontario’s Waterloo region—one of Canada’s fastest-growing urban areas. By the hospital’s own estimate, at least two million Ontarians will access care from its facilities over the next two decades.
This begs the question: How on Earth do they make it all work? The answer is that with a team of more than 4,100 staff members, 700 providers, 600 volunteers, and 1,600 researchers, Grand River has plenty of help.
But keeping everyone on the same page? That’s a challenge all unto itself.
Enabling an innovative approach to healthcare
Outstanding healthcare experiences shouldn’t be few and far between. Simply put, everyone deserves a world-class healthcare system. But, as times change and technologies evolve, making good on that promise is easier said than done. Luckily for Ontarians, Shival Seth is on a mission to change that.
As Grand River’s Chief Technology Officer, Seth knows the value that technology brings to the table. In fact, he’s laser-focused on realizing the benefits of a truly tech-driven ecosystem. In his own words:
“Our goal is to deliver exceptional healthcare with compassion, driven by inspired people, and an unwavering focus on quality, strong partnerships, and innovative solutions.”
Grand River has four guiding principles it follows to do just that:
- Care: Grand River doesn’t just engage with patients, but actually ensures everyone is invested in each other’s well-being.
- Trust and be trustworthy: As Seth explained, “We keep our word and believe others will, too.”
- Courage to start and heart to finish: “This one especially resonates with me,” he added. “We have the courage to innovate and constantly raise the bar.” In other words, Seth and his team never settle for “good enough,” always aiming high and taking things to the next level.
- Welcome one to welcome all: Grand River values everyone’s differences and commonalities, integrating them into all aspects of hospital operations.
Upholding these values through to the finish requires all hands on deck, which means Grand River needs a way to keep everyone communicating as seamlessly as possible. Enter Webex: a comprehensive, end-to-end platform that sets a new standard for healthcare collaboration.
According to Seth, he’s made sure to use Webex to its “utmost potential,” focusing on how it can enable the hospital’s patient-centric approach to healthcare. “Not only have we used it as a collaboration and meeting system, but we’ve also gone above and beyond using Webex as a virtual care platform.”
That said, Grand River wasn’t always at the forefront of innovation.
“Before Webex, we used to be a Zoom shop,” Seth said. “Our meetings were disjointed, and we used different solutions for different purposes. We often heard people ask, ‘Why do I use Teams for chat, but Zoom for meetings?’ Our vision was to bring all our workflows together under one roof, where we can utilize the power of a single system to service all facets of our hospital.”
So, Seth began his search. His goal? To find “one platform for everyone, a system that can be used for physicians, patient care, and administrative work all in one.”
Securing the future of virtual care
Fortunately, it wasn’t long before Grand River landed on a new solution. After all, very few other providers could fit the bill.
As Seth explained, the government goes through a rigorous testing exercise to ensure a hospital’s chosen platform is compliant with security and privacy requirements.
“When we looked at the solution, Webex was the only platform approved by Ontario Health that could support virtual care across the province,” he said. “There was simply no other vendor we could have used. Webex has been a pioneer in reaching that goal, having actually become certified by Ontario Health.”
Security was especially crucial for Grand River, given that the hospital would be providing virtual care to people not only across the province but around the world.
“Webex’s encryption helps us ensure conversations are secure,” Seth added. “We no longer stay up at night worrying that [they] could somehow be breached or [that] patient care [might be put] at risk.”
Obviously, overhauling your tech stack is never easy. It requires ample planning, training, and coordination. However, that’s where the Webex Customer Success team came into play.
“They’ve been extremely helpful,” Seth claimed. “It was a big change moving away from Zoom, but it wasn’t like we were left in the dark, having to pick a solution and implement it ourselves. Webex was closely involved from the get-go, not only in terms of providing training to the users but also ensuring that our senior leadership meetings were always in lockstep with patient success.”
Simplifying and streamlining the healthcare experience
Seth says the difference has been “night and day” after introducing Webex. Firstly, Grand River relies less on email than ever before, offering users many other ways to stay connected.
Take Webex Calling, for example. Grand River integrated this cloud-calling solution with the hospital’s on-premise phone system. Rather than having to completely overhaul the on-premise technology overnight, Webex’s flexibility allowed Grand River to gradually migrate to the cloud at its own pace. This solution empowered staff members to work remotely, as they can now take work calls on their mobile devices, cell phone, or computer. According to Seth, it’s been a smashing success.
“Webex has greatly improved our overall communication process,” he said. “We can interact with people digitally, more frequently, and more efficiently.”
Grand River employees also frequently use Webex Messaging and the Webex App. These solutions have greatly changed the way staff collaborates with one another. Instead of emailing, they can send direct messages to individual colleagues or create workgroups of people involved on a certain project or initiative.
Even the way Grand River employees attend meetings has shifted. No longer do staff need to carry laptops into the meeting room: Instead, all rooms are equipped with Webex Room Kits—a solution that not only integrates everything you need for high-quality video conferencing into a single device, but also seamlessly pairs with flat-panel displays. Best of all, all users can wirelessly connect as soon as they enter the room.
“You can just walk in, click to join, and start your virtual meeting or collaboration session,” Seth explained. “The point was to somehow enable employees and patients to interact beyond the four walls of the hospital. The idea is that if you’re interacting with the virtual world by attending virtual meetings, you want that experience to be easy, collaborative, and secure.
Of course, Grand River understands that not all patients may be technologically savvy. Many are using other conferencing platforms, which is why it’s important that Webex Meetings are compatible with the entire ecosystem.
“I can have a Webex meeting at 9:00 a.m. and a Zoom meeting at 10:00, but I don’t have to switch platforms to make it work,” Seth said “Webex does that by itself. You can just add a meeting to your calendar and join them all through the same user interface.”
Even more importantly, Webex integrates with Grand River’s Cerner information system. As Seth puts it, this enables the hospital to adopt virtual care much more efficiently than they could before. All virtual patient interactions are documented within the system. Rather than having to search for another platform, Webex works in conjunction with Cerner technology.
Automating processes to improve patient care
Seth also noted that Webex Connect—a Communication Platform as a Service (CPaaS) solution—has helped the organization improve patient care.
“We have an office of about 40 individuals [who work in what’s] known as the central scheduling office. They manually take calls for nurses and practitioners who decide to take a day off or can’t make it to their shift,” he explained. “We make close to 20,000 calls a week to manually schedule those shifts. With the power of Webex’s CPaaS solution, we’ve basically automated that whole process.”
Now, someone can call into the hospital, authenticate themselves as a care provider, then securely reschedule shifts without interacting with a human on the other end of the line. Those hours that were previously spent fielding calls are now used to provide critical care to patients.
Seth added that he’s also looking into using Webex Connect to automate both internal HR processes and external interactions between the hospital and its incoming patients. For example, he sees CPaaS benefiting the patient experience by allowing people to call into the contact center and automatically be redirected to the correct department.
“It’s hard to work in healthcare,” he said. “We’re trying to provide solutions to people that make their lives easier.”
Looking back at how one comprehensive collaboration suite has benefitted Grand River Hospital, Shival Seth particularly values the breadth of Webex’s many value-added integrations.
“Whether you’re in healthcare, a large enterprise, or a small business, there are so many out-of-the-box integrations available for Webex, making it the leader in the collaboration world.”
Get in touch with our team today to learn more about how Webex can improve collaboration and customer experience at your organization.
Jun 1, 2023 — Geoffrey Huang