When I was a medical student, I was stationed in the outback of Australia for a time. I was the only person with medical training for more than a hundred miles to provide care for the indigenous aboriginals living in that remote region. Sometimes I had to make decisions about whether or not to trigger the expense of having one of my patients transported to the nearest base hospital. I could consult with other clinicians over the phone, but I would have loved to be able to use the video technology we have today. That way, the remote clinician could have seen what I saw via video and I’d have had more support in making diagnostic and treatment decisions, rather than relying on my limited medical student acumen. I also would have learned more from the interaction.

That’s one of the great benefits of today’s technologies such as Skype—care teams can collaborate and confer with each other and their patients more effectively from anywhere. It’s one of the ways virtual health is helping to scale quality care at lower costs.

This kind of technology has been around for a long time, but now health organizations can empower care teams to communicate with each other and their patients using web and mobile experiences that integrate presence, chat, audio, and video with customized clinical processes. We recently announced Microsoft Office 365 Virtual Health Templates, which provide new functionality to connect people and providers through voice, video and messaging in any interface or application.

The open source templates make it easy for industry partners, developers, and enterprises to build customized virtual health solutions using Skype for Business as an extensible platform. Portals and apps tailored for a health organization’s virtual health scenario needs can be integrated with other healthcare applications like electronic health record (EHR) management systems and scheduling systems.

Cohesive virtual health

To shift from a sickness system to a wellness system, the health industry needs to enable new care and communication models. Today, we have the technology to do so.

We have mature cloud-based communication tools such as high-definition video conferencing that can make people feel as if they’re in the same room together and help doctors visually examine a patient. We have mature EHR systems. We have proven Internet of Things solutions that can connect the health and medical devices people have at home with CRM and clinical systems to help care teams and patients stay on top of chronic conditions. We have tools that can help health organizations automate targeted, preventive outreach.

In order for health organizations to provide quality, precision care and proactively engage those they serve to help them live healthier lives, they need to be able to make the most of all these technologies. That means they need virtual health solutions to be tied in with other health systems. And they need virtual health experiences to be easy for care teams and patients to use from any interface or application.

That’s why I’m excited that health organizations can achieve a holistic, tailored, and easy-to-use approach to virtual health with solutions from our partners built on the extensible Skype platform.

To learn more and read about customers and partners that are already benefiting from our Virtual Health Templates read the Office team’s blog.

And to learn how an extensible productivity platform can accelerate the benefits of virtual health and help you achieve economies of scale, read Paul Smolke’s recent blog.

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