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VISITS works with EACH to overcome COVID pandemic challenges

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EACH is a not for profit community health service that provides an integrated range of health, disability, counselling and mental health services across Australia’s eastern seaboard.

With over 1,300 staff, servicing in excess of 45,000 clients, it has evolved over almost five decades to deliver essential services from over 50 sites.

The problem:

When the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in early 2020, EACH had a major role to play in Australia’s crucial health response. It needed to be able to receive client calls even though staff were no longer physically working from EACH’s offices. EACH needed to rapidly deploy COVID-19 testing sites and operate vaccination centres.

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“COVID drove a rapid change in our operating model. Teams were remotely dispersed and we had to quickly deploy new COVID testing sites. We needed to adapt our communications systems to meet this rapidly shifting need”.

Alex Campbell, the Head of IT Infrastructure and Applications at EACH explains.

The challenge:

In the past, bringing a new site online with telephony was very challenging and could take many weeks. But the pandemic made those timelines unrealistic. Alex and his team were under pressure to rapidly activate new sites with the ability for clients to phone in as well as allowing team members to communicate easily with clients and peers.

Alex examined potential solutions and trialled an online unified communications platform but the test was unsuccessful. “The solution we tried didn’t meet our functional needs and we also found it was very expensive to operate. That drove us looking for a different solution. As we were already using Microsoft Teams for instant messaging and collaboration we wanted to leverage that platform,” explains Alex.

The solution:

Following an investigation, EACH approached several vendors to deploy Microsoft Teams Calling. VISITS was the quickest to respond and ready to work with us to quickly setup the new system.

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“ Not only was VISITS the fastest to respond, it was also the only service provider that offered a solution that could be ready in days. This was critical as we were at the forefront of the COVID testing program and needed to deploy new testing sites quickly”

Alex Campbell,  Head of IT Infrastructure and Applications, EACH

The Microsoft Teams Calling solution provided EACH with the ability to deliver a new site that could make and receive phone calls over the traditional telephone network and leveraged its existing investment in Microsoft Teams. VISITS was able to allocate new numbers and port old numbers quickly into its system, minimising disruption for clients and workers while allowing the organisation to undertake this critical function in the early days of the pandemic.

VISITS’ extensive experience in deploying Microsoft Teams Calling meant it was able to jump straight into action. Other potential providers, Alex says, were going to take significantly longer as they wanted to stick with rigid methodologies and processes.

The benefits:

“From the moment we chose VISITS in the middle of March 2020, we were up and running within two days with Microsoft Teams Calling. VISITS was able to scale its service and meet our needs without any disruption to our business”

Alex Campbell,  Head of IT Infrastructure and Applications, EACH

Alex says the cost of deploying telecommunications to a new site has been reduced by about 60% with some sites seeing an 80% cost reduction. And with Microsoft Teams Calling offered as a service, he no longer needs to access capital funds when adding telecommunications to a new site.

New sites can also be deployed in hours, dramatically slashing the long lead times required by traditional providers who require weeks or months.

With the initial rollout of Microsoft Teams Calling focussed on essential staff, Alex then faced a new challenge - user acceptance. The transition was managed smoothly thanks to training videos developed by VISITS. The ease of use meant more staff are now clamouring to get access to the software. He says, “The success is causing problems - everyone wants it”.

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cost reduction deploying telecommunications to a new site

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cost reduction across some sites

The future:

EACH will continue to deploy Microsoft Teams Calling across all its 1300 staff across three states and territories. However, as the company looks ahead, it will need to revise its network architecture to accommodate an increasingly distributed workforce. That means looking at technologies such as SD-WAN. With EACH now setting up COVID vaccination centres, Alex and his team will continue expanding the deployment of Microsoft Teams Calling in partnership with VISITS.