NorthWest Clinics building
Read Time, 6 min.

“I am generally quite modest – I don’t like to brag about my achievements too much. But in this case, I want to make an exception. I want to tell the world what we have done.”

For Ed de Myttenaere, CIO at Northwest Clinics hospital (Noordwest Ziekenhuisgroep) in the Netherlands, breaking with tradition is becoming increasingly normal. In responding to the COVID-19 outbreak, his team have implemented a virtual consultation solution that has the potential to redefine healthcare across Europe and beyond.

“People were scared when the crisis started,” recalls de Myttenaere. “Patients were scared to come to the hospital, and doctors desperately wanted to treat their patients. We needed to find a solution.”

Working with Dutch Microsoft partner ChipSoft, Northwest Clinics developed and implemented a secure, simple and intuitive solution to bridge the gap between doctors and their patients – all in a matter of weeks.

Built around Microsoft Teams and embedded into the hospital’s electronic medical record (EMR) system, not only is the solution one of the first of its kind in the world – it is also delivering fantastic results, despite the trying circumstances.

“I am extremely proud of what we have done,” says de Myttenaere.

Responding to an overnight transformation

Northwest Clinics is a hospital based in the north of the Netherlands. With over 5,000 staff and a potential 600,000 local drop-in patients, the hospital runs a huge operation – even before taking into consideration the many chronic patients that are referred from further afield.

So when the hospital was forced to transform its operations overnight during the COVID-19 outbreak, it required quick and decisive action from everyone at Northwest Clinics to keep that operation going.

“When the crisis started, it transformed the hospital,” recalls de Myttenaere. “We had to change the function of many of our wards to accommodate patients who required either testing or treatment for COVID-19. That meant increasing the hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU) capacity by something like 300% overnight. It was a huge pressure on Northwest Clinics,” he says.

“We closed the hospital for normal use. Of course, our emergency room was still open for severe health issues like haemorrhages or heart failure. But there were no longer consultations for patients who weren’t either suspected of having, or had been diagnosed with COVID-19.”

With normal in-person consultations stopped, the IT team at Northwest Clinics needed to move fast to ensure a continuity of care for its many patients. Suddenly, a solution that allowed for virtual consultations became an overnight necessity.

“The solution we implemented uses Microsoft Teams to allow patients and doctors to continue to meet in a secure and familiar digital environment,” he says.

Northwest Clinics is a hospital based in the north of the Netherlands.

Secure virtual consultations through the EMR

At the heart of every hospital’s operations is its EMR system. It is the key source of information for medical professionals, containing every patient’s results, diagnoses and medical history.

“The most important thing is that the new solution integrates with our EMR,” says de Myttenaere. “That makes everything very safe and secure because you don’t send a Teams meeting request link to the patient via email. It’s all done from our EMR and patient portal.”

The solution was developed by EMR solutions provider and Microsoft Gold partner, ChipSoft, which specialises in digital solutions for healthcare professionals. “We wanted to develop a product that was very intuitive and very simple, so anyone can use it,” says George van Dijk, Senior Developer at ChipSoft.

“That’s what we have done with the solution for Northwest Clinics. As a patient, when you make an appointment you don’t have to interact with Teams. You just make an appointment through the EMR portal, using the login details you already have. The system then communicates with Microsoft Teams to set up the video meeting.

“That makes the whole solution very simple, and very secure.”

An intuitive system for patients and doctors

“The system is very intuitive, so you don’t need any training to use it,” says de Myttenaere, comparing the online consultations to their in-person alternatives. “When patients have an appointment through the online portal, they then wait in a virtual waiting room, and when the doctor is ready, they admit the patient into a virtual doctor’s room.

“The doctor then sees the patient on the left of the screen and the patient’s records, medical history, results and everything else on the right. So they can read through all the notes and add more notes, all while maintaining eye-contact with the patient. That’s huge for the patient and the doctor.

“And feedback has been tremendous,” he adds. “All the patients we have spoken to say it is easy to use and that it makes a big difference to see the doctor face-to-face.”

The success of the solution has resulted in approximately 30% of the hospital’s normal patients being seen by doctors during the COVID-19 lockdown period. “We are hoping to increase that to 45% very soon,” he says. “Although there are limitations due to the 1.5-meter distancing measures currently in place.”

This is good for patients, but also for a private hospital like Northwest Clinics it is crucial from a business point of view. And it is a huge opportunity for the hospital going forward.

A solution for the ‘new normal’

“The future started twelve weeks ago,” says de Myttenaere, reflecting on the lasting impact of COVID-19. “And I believe that the way we are working now is the new normal.

“Medical staff will continue to use Teams with video consulting going forward. And as the number of medical staff using it increases, so the success of the solution will increase. It will be one of the defining communication solutions of healthcare in the future.”

It is the solution that de Myttenaere sees shaping the fundamental workings of hospitals in the future. “I believe more and more virtual hospitals will be built to provide services that currently patients physically visit the hospital for,” he says. “So we have to continue to develop the means and methods to treat patients remotely.”

It is a forward thinking and ambitious vision, but one that fits well with Northwest Clinics approach to healthcare. The solution they have developed is adding to the hospital’s already-stellar reputation, and is attracting the attention of other hospitals eager to emulate its pioneering EMR system.

“In the Netherlands, our hospital is already well-known for its innovative programs and modernized technology,” says de Myttenaere proudly. “But since we have launched this system, I get about four or five phone calls a week from colleagues at other hospitals who want to know how we did it.

“So I am extremely glad to be able to share the story of how we did it, so other hospitals can start offering their patients this type of service going forward.”

It is proof that, despite the challenging circumstance hospitals like Northwest Clinics face during this difficult time, there may be some outcomes that offer hope of a brighter, more efficient, digitally-driven future for both patients and doctors alike.

Teams for Healthcare Adoption Guide

Learn more about how Teams is transforming the way hospitals can interact and communicate.

Discover more related articles per industry:

Education

Government

  • a large old building with many windows

    Raad van State: Creating a virtual courtroom through a remote-working solution

    “This situation has proven that with the right means, support and trust, you can remove half of the desks in your building – and in that sense, I don’t think we’ll ever see 700 people at the same time in the office again.” Ron Lamers, Project Manager at Raad van State, is talking about the […]

  • a group of people performing on stage in front of a crowd

    City of Liège: Facilitating decision making in difficult times

    For many organizations, social-distancing measures brought about by COVID-19 have drastically slowed day-to-day operations – and for some, even stopped them altogether. But for local governments across Europe, like the Belgian city of Liège, slowing down hasn’t been an option.  From supporting citizens and businesses to protecting frontline workers, Liège city had to quickly provide stability during this crisis and ensure important decisions could still be made in a democratic […]

Healthcare

  • Two female nurses having a virtual conversation through Microsoft Teams

    Belfast Trust: Reimagining patient care

    “There have been many heroic actions by our staff but we’re not heroes for what we’ve done – I’m just glad we could do our bit to help.” Paul Duffy, Co-Director of IT and Telecommunications at Belfast Trust, is talking about the monumental impact COVID-19 has had on the healthcare sector and how virtual consultations […]

  • Healthcare professionals operating on a patient

    Maasstad Hospital: Working as one medical team during a crisis

    In times of crisis, an organization looks to its leadership for guidance. As COVID-19 spread through Europe in early 2020, Maasstad Ziekenhuis Hospital CEO Peter Langenbach had planned to lead his hospital’s crisis response as he would any other – being present and visible, leadership traits instilled in him during his time in the Dutch […]

Manufacturing

  • a woman smiling for the camera

    Etex Group: Future-proofing employees to work anywhere across the world

    When COVID-19 spread across Europe in early 2020, businesses entered a new digitally-dependent age. Social distancing measures had asked offices of all shapes and sizes to close their doors, sparking organizations to quickly find other virtual ways for colleagues to meet and collaborate remotely. But for Belgium building material specialist Etex, this was a step they were ready for – having already implemented a cloud-based infrastructure and collaboration tools […]

  • Etex

    Etex uses modern tools to unite its business and better focus on customers

    When it comes to construction, all components must come together in a timely manner in order to produce the optimum product. While Etex, a Belgian building solution manufacturing company, helps make this a reality on a day-to-day basis, it wanted to find a way to enhance productivity and collaboration internally. With locations across more than […]

Retail

  • HeadBrands is ready for the future with Microsoft 365 Business

    HeadBrands is ready for the future with Microsoft 365 Business

    Since its creation in 2010, HeadBrands has continued to grow, rapidly becoming the leading retailer of hairdressing products in Scandinavia. HeadBrands needed a modern IT solution to increase its business productivity and improve collaboration, both within the company and externally. Its response to this challenge was to replace most of its previous services with Microsoft […]

  • GDPR and Retail: Four GDPR requirements and how Microsoft can help

    GDPR and Retail: Four GDPR requirements and how Microsoft can help

    Learn how we can help you meet GDPR requirements with solutions available today: Assessing your current risk profile “How do I understand where I am already compliant and where I need to focus next?” This is one of the most common questions from retailers in regard to the GDPR. It’s also one of the hardest to […]

Discover more related articles per dossier:

Customer Stories

  • a person sitting in front of a laptop computer

    SSVOZ: Making distance learning a personalized experience

    When this period of remote learning is evaluated – without a doubt, some of the techniques we’ve used will have a more permanent place in the classrooms of the near future. Antoon Fens, IT Coordinator at Stichting Stedelijk Voortgezet Onderwijs Zoetermeer (SSVOZ), explains the critical role technology has played for education in the Netherlands, during […]

Digital Transformation

  • Woman behind a laptop screen

    How Generative AI will give cybersecurity teams the ultimate advantage

    As all organizations digitize and become data-led, the promise of increased growth and prosperity is significant. According to PWC, the net gains from AI will total $2.5 trillion in Europe by 2030. At the same time, it’s important to recognize that the cyber-threat landscape is expanding at a rapid pace. For example, in Microsoft’s 2023 […]

Security & Privacy

  • Pencil

    Hybrid learning and GDPR: maintaining security and compliance in disruptive times

    Like most areas of society, over the past six months the education sector has had to face challenges unlike any before. Students thrive when they have access to personalized learning. As schools have moved quickly to adapt to remote learning, using technology to create new experiences that meet students’ needs has become more important than […]

Tips

  • Lady on a Teams call at her computer

    5 reasons why you should start using Microsoft Teams today

    Collaboration and teamwork are the defining characteristic of modern organisations. Since its launch, Microsoft Teams has become the fastest growing app in Microsoft’s history with more than 330,000 companies worldwide using it. If you’re working in one of those companies, then you’re probably finding new ways to use the app on a daily basis. But […]