When Kindred Healthcare acquired RehabCare and its therapists who used mobile devices to access their Gmail accounts, it faced a dilemma. Kindred needed a mobility solution to support employees who worked in hospitals and clinics, but didn’t
want to support multiple email systems. Kindred began to evaluate alternative cloud-based email solutions and chose Microsoft Office 365 for its security and compliance capabilities and for its potential to boost employee collaboration. The company worked
with Microsoft Cloud Vantage Services to help it deploy Office 365 for 22,000 therapists, providing them with email, instant messaging, and collaboration capabilities. It also improved communications, which helps the company strengthen its corporate culture
and deliver better patient care.
Kindred Healthcare is one of the largest diversified providers of post-acute care services in the United States. Post-acute care is the follow-up care required after hospitalizations to help patients recover to their fullest potential. Kindred Healthcare
provides post-acute care in a variety of formats, such as transitional care hospitals, rehabilitation hospitals, nursing and rehabilitation centers, and home health care.
With 76,000 employees in a variety of job functions, Kindred constantly looks for ways to take advantage of technology to improve communications. The company strives to facilitate employee interaction to spread best practices and improve corporate communications
to help shape the company culture and ensure employees are informed about changes in the business.
Mergers and acquisitions are also common at Kindred. The company feels that growth is the best way to drive down costs. The acquisition of RehabCare, a company providing rehabilitation services in hospitals and clinics, brought a number of challenges for
Kindred. RehabCare had about 13,000 therapists working at more than 1,300 nursing facilities and 300 hospitals. Communication with these employees was a challenge because they did not work from the RehabCare office. RehabCare had deployed tablets at the facilities
for its employees and provided them with Google Mail (Gmail) accounts, which enabled direct communications with all employees for the first time. “Previously, only the managers at each location had email accounts, so we relied on them to communicate all of
our corporate messages and sometimes messages were not delivered clearly,” says Roger Byrne, Vice President of Finance and Chief Information Officer for the RehabCare division of Kindred Healthcare.
||With Office 365, Microsoft could meet all of our security requirements in addition to our needs for regulatory and legal compliance.
| Charles Wardrip
Vice President of Information Technology and Infrastructure Services, Kindred Healthcare
When Kindred acquired RehabCare, it had been struggling with the same issues with its clinical staff. It had about 9,000 therapists at 600 facilities. Kindred merged its rehabilitation business into RehabCare and provided its 9,000 therapists with the same
tablets and clinical systems that RehabCare was using, but when it came time to provide them with email, Kindred wanted to evaluate its options. “We did not have a cloud-based email solution, and we felt this was an opportunity to evaluate cloud solutions
and see whether they could help us improve communications and collaboration,” says Charles Wardrip, Vice President of Information Technology and Infrastructure Services at Kindred Healthcare. “We saw cloud solutions as a great way to enable content sharing
and promote informal communications between all of our stakeholders, whether they are in an office or accessing the solution from a mobile device.”
Kindred began evaluating its options for a cloud solution. It already had Gmail in place at RehabCare, but it also had a large Microsoft Exchange Server 2013 on-premises deployment for its remaining 54,000 employees. After researching solutions from
Google and Microsoft, it became clear that Microsoft Office 365 was the best fit. Office 365 delivers Microsoft Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, and Lync Online as a connected solution, along with the familiar Office applications in Microsoft Office 365
ProPlus. “With Office 365, Microsoft could meet all of our security requirements in addition to our needs for regulatory and legal compliance. We have a specific agreement from Microsoft regarding HIPAA compliance,” says Wardrip.
The potential for litigation is a risk for all companies in the healthcare industry and Kindred felt that Exchange Online offered better legal compliance. “We need capabilities such as retention, legal holds, eDiscovery, and encryption, and we get all of
these things out-of the-box from Microsoft Exchange,” says Byrne. “Since Exchange Online is designed to work with Exchange Server in a hybrid environment, these solutions can work across our entire company.”
With the hybrid environment, Kindred manages all of its email accounts through the Exchange Administration Center, a web-based management console for both on-premises and Exchange Online accounts. “Now every employee has an email account and they are all
on one global address list,” says Blake Ragsdell, Director of Customer Support at Kindred Healthcare.
Kindred also saw the potential to use Office 365 for much more than email. “With Office 365, we can provide social communications for employees so that they can share best practices and exchange information either directly or within user communities,” says
Byrne. “Now we can send push notifications to get urgent information to employees who may not always check their email regularly.”
Kindred worked with Microsoft Cloud Vantage Services to assist with the migration to Office 365. Cloud Vantage Services offers enterprise customers a smooth transition to the cloud and helps them realize full business value from their Office 365 investments
by providing deep cloud expertise, a single point of accountability, and ongoing collaboration across throughout the full IT lifecycle. The first step was to migrate users from Gmail to Exchange Online. “We had a very aggressive timeline to migrate our users
to Exchange Online. Microsoft came in with a great process and worked with us to customize a migration that met our needs exactly,” says Ragsdell.
Kindred and Cloud Vantage Services also worked together to expand the solution for social communications. “We put together a team to develop guidelines for social communications and then piloted solutions such as skill search, user groups, and newsfeeds
using Lync and SharePoint. It didn’t take long to deploy these solutions to our 22,000 mobile employees,” says Wardrip. “I was definitely nervous about the transition to Office 365, but the Cloud Vantage Services team was great. The migration really couldn’t
have gone any better. We were on budget, on schedule, and didn’t have any significant issues.”
Kindred retired its Gmail accounts and moved all 22,000 employees in the RehabCare division to Office 365. These employees are using mobile devices as their primary method to access these services. It expects to expand its social communications solutions
to all employees in the future.
To implement its hybrid solution, Kindred took advantage of the licensing flexibility provided by Office 365. “We wanted the ability to move people across platforms or provide them with new technologies without incurring any fees. With Office 365, we could
get all of the client access licenses we needed incorporated into one price, and we can move employees between our on-premises and online deployments as required,” says Wardrip.
||I was definitely nervous about the transition to Office 365, but the Cloud Vantage Services team was great. The migration really couldn’t have gone any better. We were on budget, on schedule, and didn’t have any significant issues.
| Charles Wardrip
Vice President of Information Technology and Infrastructure Services, Kindred Healthcare
The majority of the therapists receive the Office 365 E1 license for Exchange Online, Lync Online, SharePoint Online, and Office Web Apps. The managers receive the E3 license, which also licenses them for Office 365 ProPlus. “Office applications are critical
to our managers and they need to be able to access them anywhere,” says Byrne. “With Office 365 ProPlus, they can install Office on their mobile devices and their home computers. It’s a really cost-effective way to provide Office to our managers since we don’t
have to pay for a license for each device.”
The acquisition of RehabCare provided Kindred the opportunity to evaluate cloud solutions for its growing population of employees who rely on mobile devices to do their jobs. By adopting Office 365, Kindred provided an email service that meets company
requirements for security and compliance, and it gained access to improved communications and collaboration tools. “We like to use technology to address new regulatory and business requirements. With Office 365, we get information to our mobile workforce when
they need it and empower employees to work better together,” says Wardrip. “Using Office 365 to improve communications and collaboration is strengthening our corporate culture and will help us to ultimately deliver better patient care at a better price.”
The 22,000 therapists in the RehabCare division work at more than 2,000 locations, so on average they only work with about 10 other Kindred employees. “In the past, our employees could easily feel like they worked for a 10-person company,” says Ragsdell.
“Now they have 20,000 resources at their fingertips.” By using the Microsoft solution, therapists can easily reach out to their peers for support or to discuss new ideas.
In addition, therapists receive corporate communications directly instead of through their managers. “We are able to send messages more quickly, more accurately, and more consistently,” says Byrne. “The feedback from employees who did not have email in the
past has been great. They feel more engaged and better informed about decisions that affect them.”
Kindred feels strongly that it must grow to remain competitive in the healthcare industry. There is constant price pressure, and increased scale will enable Kindred to continue to improve the efficiency of its operations. Kindred has always felt that
it excelled at integrating newly acquired companies into its corporate culture, but with Office 365, Wardrip believes that Kindred can make this process even better. “We buy a lot of companies and the faster we can transition the new employees on to our system,
the quicker we realize synergies in operations,” says Wardrip. “By using Office 365, we can quickly move new employees to our communications platforms, which then makes it easier to integrate our back-office systems and the rest of our business processes.”
Kindred sees a lot of potential for Lync Online and SharePoint Online to change the way that the company delivers support services to employees. “We want to provide support in the way that works best for our employees. That could be a Lync chat and
desktop-sharing session or a self-service portal,” says Ragsdell. “Our therapists want to help patients, not talk to our support staff. With Office 365, we can deliver support services to them in new ways.”
Microsoft Office 365
By moving its employees off Google services and on to a hybrid Office 365 solution, Kindred simplified IT administration by keeping all its services on one platform. “Because all our employees are on Exchange, we’ve reduced management overhead and
we don’t have to duplicate training and support efforts,” says Wardrip. “Looking forward, we see the potential to move all of our employees to the cloud and further reduce our administration requirements.”
The new Office provides anywhere access to your familiar Office applications—plus email, calendar, videoconferencing, and your most current documents—on almost any device, from PCs to smartphones to tablets.
For more information about Microsoft Office 365, go to:
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