Microsoft Solutions Help Fix an Ailing Healthcare System

REDMOND, Wash. – March 4, 2013 – There’s no one cure for all that ails healthcare, whether in the U.S. or abroad.

However, Microsoft today showcased its comprehensive plan to help healthcare providers of all sizes meet increasing productivity and security demands; improve mobility, collaboration and communication; control ever-burgeoning costs; and focus on patient-centered care.

Dennis Schmuland, M.D.
Dennis Schmuland, M.D., chief health strategy officer of Microsoft U.S. Health & Life Sciences.

At the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society’s 2013 conference (HIMSS13) in New Orleans today, the company also announced new customers and partners who are using these solutions with success.

Though revolutionizing health information technology (HIT) will be key to delivering quality, cost-effective healthcare in the future, the solution is not merely to digitize and move health information, says Dennis Schmuland, M.D., chief health strategy officer of Microsoft U.S. Health & Life Sciences.

The healthcare crisis is a tangled web of ever-increasing medical costs, an increasing demand for documentation (and a corresponding decrease in care provider productivity), a shortage of qualified care providers, and increasing systemic waste, Schmuland says.

Improving health IT isn’t the lone solution, but could be a major factor in solving the crisis. That is why Microsoft is working with health organizations, communities and partners worldwide to address healthcare’s toughest challenges and rebuild the industry.

“If we can’t increase productivity in healthcare using technology, and we can’t leverage technology to enable virtual multi-disciplinary teams to work together and coordinate hundreds of processes in a way that improves the quality, safety, speed and outcome of care, we will not be able to solve our medical cost growth problems,” Schmuland says. “On the other hand, if we use HIT to improve productivity and to enable clinicians to do new things, securely, in less time and at a lower cost, we have a chance of solving our medical cost growth crisis.”

Cost is one of the major benefits of adopting Microsoft solutions.

On a large scale, healthcare spending is now 18 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP), up from 14 percent in 2000 and 5 percent in 1960. The United States spends twice as much on healthcare per capita as other industrialized nations, yet access to care and health outcomes are worse. In addition, people’s out-of-pocket costs have doubled in the last decade.

“We’ve all heard about the runaway growth in medical costs. This is now everybody’s problem,” Schmuland says. “Every additional dollar we spend on healthcare now comes at the cost of something else we value, such as higher education and global competitiveness.”

In order to reduce cost and inefficiencies, the practice of medicine must be transformed from provider-centric piecework to patient-centric teamwork, with providers working across organizational barriers to improve health and outcomes for patients quickly and efficiently, Schmuland says.

That’s where the power of HIT comes in.

Imagine a healthcare system full of highly mobile doctors and nurses working with their Windows 8 devices in hand, and with access to a full spectrum of health information, patient information, and communication and collaboration tools. Instead of having to log on to a different computer in each room or clinic, instead of leaving voicemails for colleagues to request information on a case, instead of having to locate a patient’s physical file or test results, care providers can carry at their fingertips the keys to all of that.

On a Windows 8 tablet equipped with an electronic health record and Office 365, they can securely access a patient’s records from multiple and even non-network care providers; form virtual teams with experts next door or across the world to provide the best care possible; examine test results; instant message with colleagues; take notes using touch, a stylus, a keyboard or voice dictation; and run a variety of healthcare apps including the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the Mayo Clinic on Pregnancy or an electronic health records (EHR) app from Greenway Medical Technologies.

“Right now, healthcare providers’ ability to be productive and collaborative is limited by fixed devices and physical phones,” Schmuland says. “There are more than 1,500 new devices to choose from in the Windows 8 ecosystem, and the beauty of that is that in healthcare, one device never fits all. Some may prefer a clamshell, some a convertible laptop, and others a tablet as they move from room to room, patient to patient, and clinic to clinic.”

In addition to the capabilities of a mobile office in Windows 8, the cloud-powered Office 365 comes embedded with the security and IT controls required by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which sets national standards for the security and privacy of electronic health care data.

“What’s particularly exciting is that Microsoft is uniquely the only major cloud productivity provider to offer a business associate agreement to enable customers to comply with HIPAA and to offer productivity, collaboration, relationship management, application hosting, and storage, backup and disaster recovery services that cover the complete range of public, hybrid and private cloud solutions,” Schmuland says.

This means that by using Windows 8 and Office 365 together, an organization of healthcare providers can do things like securely store and access private patient information, create an internal directory of physician areas of expertise, and even communicate securely with other health organizations using Office 365 to work and collaborate as if they were on the same team, even though they’re in separate organizations.

Microsoft has teamed up with healthcare providers large and small to provide the latest IT solutions, and the results have been positive, from massive healthcare systems to small-town clinics where physicians manage their own IT.

For instance, Advocate Health Care, the largest healthcare provider in Illinois, has 30,000 employees, 10 acute care hospitals, and two integrated children’s hospitals. The company adopted Office 365, and has used it in some innovative ways.

“They are using SharePoint to create a single network out of 250 care sites, so that each can connect to the other, but it all rolls up to the larger network,” Schmuland says.

Advocate Health Care is also using Office 365 tools to help track patients when they’re discharged and to make sure they’re following up with discharge instructions so they don’t relapse and end up back in the hospital. They’ve also created a database of provider skills, capabilities and interests that their staff can use to find expertise, topics or solve problems.

Mihills Webb Medical, a small family practice in Texas, has five care providers. By using Office 365, they realized they could improve workflow, reduce delays and reduce costs overall. With just one receptionist manning the front desk, relaying important patient information to doctors and nurses used to require placing calls that didn’t always get answered right away. Now, the receptionist can instant message nurses and doctors as soon as a patient walks in the door to begin the triage process, a practice that improves speed and enables employees to provide a better patient experience. Not only did Mihills Webb Medical improve its ability to collaborate, communicate and work as a team to deliver exceptional customer service; at the same time they drove down cost while meeting security and privacy regulatory requirements.

“Compliance in particular was critical for us, and it’s a non-negotiable requirement that we demand from our technology solution providers,” says Dr. Cody Mihills. “Because Microsoft cloud services are HIPAA-compliant and came with a HIPAA business associate agreement, we’ve used Office 365 to unify communications across the office with confidence. Tasks like coordinating schedules between employees and collaborating with peers outside the office who support patients now can be executed in an efficient, HIPAA-compliant manner. Office 365, from a business standpoint, has been a winning proposition.”

Schmuland says health IT is at a tipping point, and when organizations combine the power of Windows 8 and Office 365, along with exciting breakthroughs in electronic healthcare records and medical apps, all kinds of new things become possible.

“Usually the assumption has been that you have to have a complex solution to solve this complex problem of healthcare collaboration and service,” Schmuland says. “When a provider chooses Windows 8 and Office 365, they’re surprised not only at the ease of implementation, but at the cost being so much more favorable than traditional solutions.”

As this week’s HIMSS show demonstrates and as the industry continues to evolve, HIT holds new promise for clinicians and hospital administration, with Microsoft solutions serving as a critical component to making intelligent and mobile health a reality.

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