By Don Baham

Healthcare providers of all sizes are realizing the benefits of the Office 365 platform for their productivity and efficiency and how those benefits translate into better patient care.


Improved Care Solution

Imagine this scenario in a private integrative care physicians group just a few years ago: A new patient comes onboard with multiple systems, which will require multiple appointments with physicians and specialists within the group. While the EMR system may be able to hold the notes entered for each visit from the physicians and staff, the system does not provide the ability for all the employees to easily discuss the varied treatments the patient will be prescribed. Beyond simple collaboration, since this physicians group is spread out in more than one building throughout the region, it would potentially require travel to have face-to-face discussions as the plan for care is designed. The result of care in this scenario likely has gaps, or less-than-desired outcomes, given the lack of collaboration between the physicians and staff as they treat this patient.

Using the same scenario but now leveraging the Microsoft Office 365 platform, we will find the tools necessary for real-time collaboration and secure information-sharing that allow the physicians group to close those gaps in care and deliver a more effective and holistic treatment plan for the patient. Within Office 365, the group has created a huddle within Microsoft Teams (MS Teams) to house ongoing conversations, relevant data files, issue tracking, brainstorming boards, and a team calendar.

Behind the frontend of MS Teams, technologies such as OneNote, SharePoint, Power BI, Microsoft Graph, and Planner are feeding the information within the digital huddle space. With the ability Office 365 provides, the physicians and staff can securely collaborate on the patient care plan wherever they are. Everyone on the care team can contribute and see every part of the treatment plan and status by being a part of the huddle. In addition, Skype can host audio and video calls for the group when more interactive discussions need to take place.


Microsoft Teams Overview

With MS Teams, users have a digital hub for their most important workplace applications. The service comes with all Enterprise Office 365 plans, and the new chat element allows for easy collaboration for team projects. Teams was created as a competitor to the very popular service Slack. With Teams, real-time messaging with application integration makes the service a must-have on any compatible device. Unlike Slack, Teams uses threaded conversations to avoid the confusion of searching through too many messages on your screen.

Using MS Teams can be overwhelming at first. The interface is fairly simple to figure out, but Microsoft offers plenty of tools to help navigate the interface. Within Teams is a new assistive feature referred to as “bots.” These bots are ready to answer any questions you pose to them. An example of a third-party bot that integrates into Teams is the service from Zoom.ai, whose “mission is to give everyone in the company their own automated assistant so that they can focus on their higher-value job duties,” according to the Zoom website. By allowing the Zoom.ai bot permission to your Teams account, you can ask the bot questions such as, “What is on my calendar for tomorrow?” or “Schedule a meeting with John Doe for next Wednesday at 4 p.m.”


Office 365 by the Numbers

From The Total Economic Impact Of Microsoft Office 365 For Healthcare Organizations, a commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Microsoft in December 2015 (results are for a composite organization based on interviewed customers):

  • 212 percent return on Investment (ROI) from transition to Office 365 in the cloud,
  • 46 percent said mobile access has created greater end-user productivity due to improved communications and knowledge sharing,
  • 37 percent said it has led to a decrease in the time it takes to conduct daily business,
  • 26 percent said that due to better access, the “time-to-decision” has decreased, and
  • 66 percent of survey respondents said that employee performance has improved because of anytime, anywhere access to information.


Office 365 Compliance & Security

Healthcare organizations naturally are concerned about maintaining compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and keeping the ePHI of their patients protected. Currently there is no official certification for HIPAA or Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act compliance. However, those Microsoft services covered under the Business Associate Agreement (BAA), such as Office 365, have undergone audits conducted by accredited independent auditors for the ISO/IEC 27001 certification standard.

At the time of this article, the latest BAA available from Microsoft is dated February 2018. Microsoft provides access to the BAA and all relevant third-party audit reports through the Microsoft Trust Center.

Beyond satisfying baseline compliance standards, Office 365 provides methods to implement security best practices leveraging Conditional Access Policies, Azure Rights Management, Email Encryption, Data Loss Prevention, and Messaging Records Management and Retention Policies. Microsoft subscriptions such as Enterprise Mobility + Security layer on top of Enterprise O365 plans to provide multiple layers of security so your healthcare organization stays out of the headlines for the wrong reasons.


Implementation & Adoption

As you consider adopting Office 365 for your company or practice, the implementation process requires careful planning to ensure employees are not negatively affected, winding up with a sour taste for the new technology from the start. As with any new technology adoption, it is important to gain the support of the influencers in each department or area of the business. To help in that effort, it can be advantageous to adopt a learning platform for Office 365 prior to bringing all employees onboard. By doing so, you provide your influencers or champions a method to see what the future will be and therefore create the buy-in you need for better adoption once all employees are on Office 365.

One such learning platform is QuickHelp by Brainstorm. The BrainStorm QuickHelp program is a Microsoft-sponsored initiative that helps users of all skill levels use their technology more effectively. If you don’t have the resources in-house, you may find it beneficial to engage a Certified Microsoft Partner to ensure a smooth implementation and successful employee adaptation.

Microsoft Office 365 is a very good example of not only what a cloud service can be, but what more businesses are turning to for their cloud and productivity needs. From cost efficiency and scalability to the peace of mind that comes from working with Microsoft, Office 365 has plenty to offer healthcare enterprises of all sizes.


Don BahamDon Baham, CISSP, CISA, MCSE, is president of Kraft Technology Group, an affiliate of KraftCPAs. For more information on how KTG protects organizations against BEC attacks and other cyber threats, click here, and for information on KTG’s full line of services, go online to kraftgrp.com.