Allina Hospitals & Clinics needed new ways for staff and affiliated doctors to collaborate. When its IBM-based solution was discontinued, Allina turned to Microsoft Business Productivity Online Standard Suite. The hosted service cut deployment time by 80 percent and collaboration costs by 44 percent. Because the solution is more dependable, employees have the confidence to rely on it thoroughly for innovative collaboration.
The nonprofit Allina Hospitals & Clinics has a dominant presence in its market—Minnesota and western Wisconsin—with 11 hospitals, 47 clinics, 55 affiliated clinics and specialty care centers, 15 pharmacies, and 3 ambulatory care centers. But Allina leaders take little for granted.
“We’re the largest healthcare provider in the Twin Cities, for example, but number two isn’t far behind,” notes Clark Meyer, Information Services (IS) Manager, Allina. “We’re in a very competitive environment and are constantly looking at ways to expand affiliations and collaborations with outside doctors and healthcare systems. This is a key part of our growth strategy.”
For example, Allina has provided its automated medical records software to another healthcare system for that system’s own use. The organization is also finding new ways to collaborate with individual doctors, such as an online Physicians Network Leadership Group that Allina hosts.
But one thing that these initiatives have in common is the need for a technology platform that supports collaboration between people inside Allina and those outside of the organization. Allina had been managing that collaboration for several years through IBM Lotus QuickPlace software. When that software was discontinued by IBM, Allina had to consider its options. The organization had hosted its own deployment of QuickPlace. Now, to reduce costs and the burden on the IS department, Allina looked for software that it could acquire as a service over the Internet, eliminating the need to deploy and manage its own server computers.
As it turned out, the organization’s search for new collaboration software became an opportunity to further implement its strategy of centralizing on Microsoft technologies.
“Why Microsoft?” asks Meyer, rhetorically. “First, Microsoft products interoperate seamlessly with each other, so we can maintain and expand our infrastructure quickly and easily. Second, with a larger Enterprise Agreement with Microsoft, we have a better negotiating position.”
||With SharePoint Online, we have more confidence in the solution, so we use it more for the internal/external collaboration that’s fueling our growth.
Information Services Manager, Allina Hospitals & Clinics
For Allina, meeting its requirements for collaboration and following its strategic direction meant the same thing: adopting the Microsoft Business Productivity Online Standard Suite—specifically, Microsoft SharePoint Online, the hosted service version of the popular Microsoft collaboration and content management software.
Allina first implemented a pilot deployment of SharePoint Online. Having separate security groups helped to restrict users to the sites that they were authorized to use, but the pilot deployment also identified an area of concern: The need for users to log on to each site they visited. Allina solved the issue by adopting Microsoft single sign-on technology, making it possible for users to visit all the sites that they were authorized to use after logging on just once.
Meyer and his colleagues manage SharePoint Online through a Web-based administrative console. The console eases and largely automates tasks such as setting up site collections and granting user access to sites. It also makes it possible for administrators to track the use of Microsoft SharePoint Online and to redirect user licenses from unused accounts to accounts for new users.
Allina leaders and staff find that SharePoint Online reduces the cost of collaboration and the burden on its IS department to provide collaboration capabilities, yet is a more dependable and, thus, more useful solution.
Cuts Deployment Time by 80 Percent
Allina leaders wanted the new collaboration solution to ease the administrative burden on the IS department. It has achieved that with SharePoint Online, starting with the deployment of the solution. Self-hosting a collaboration solution would have entailed buying, installing, and configuring server computers; installing software; and more. Meyer estimates that the process could have taken two months. Instead, Allina adopted SharePoint Online in just eight days, 80 percent less time than it would have needed for a self-hosted solution.
The department also saves time on continuing maintenance because of its use of SharePoint Online, according to Meyer. “Setting up new sites on demand is quick and easy,” he says. “We never have to deploy updates; we never have to troubleshoot a computer. The time we save enables us to better support the things that matter most to Allina, such as finding increasingly useful ways to work with affiliated doctors.”
Reduces Collaboration Costs by 44 Percent
Allina also wanted to reduce the costs of collaboration. It has achieved that goal, too, with SharePoint Online. For example, Allina had spent about U.S.$9,000 to license QuickPlace. Hardware, additional software, and labor brought the total costs to about $12,000—which would have been met or exceeded by a new self-hosted solution. In contrast, Allina licensed SharePoint Online—and avoided the other costs—for about $6,700, a savings of 44 percent. The reduction in server management throughout the year adds to the savings.
Increases Reliability, Confidence, and Use
Although savings in the IS department are helpful, Meyer says that Microsoft SharePoint Online is delivering other benefits to the organization too.
For example, the Allina staff finds SharePoint Online to be more reliable, with higher availability, than its former IBM solution. Guaranteed service-level agreements from Microsoft mean that any disruptions that might occur will be resolved promptly; Allina didn’t have redundancy built into its QuickPlace solution, so the outages that occurred could take days to resolve.
As a healthcare provider, Allina needs to keep its data—especially patient data—secure. SharePoint Online helps do that too. “We have a highly secure environment without having to create a security infrastructure, install a firewall, or register outside users,” says Meyer. “Great security has never been this easy.”
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