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Microsoft 365

Improving patient health through collaboration, innovation and efficiency with Office 365

Today’s Microsoft Office 365 post was written by Dennis Giles, director of Unified Communications for Advocate Health Care.

Traditionally, hospitals concentrated on taking care of patients while they were within the walls of the building. Today, there’s a new model for healthcare, one in which hospitals and healthcare systems look beyond the facility itself, helping patients avoid hospital stays and ensuring the best possible long-term outcomes. That new model requires a new way of thinking about patients and how a healthcare system operates to most efficiently care for them.

As one of Illinois’s largest hospital systems, Advocate Health Care faces special challenges. We aim for excellence in all that we do, but providing the same high level of service across our entire organization of 37,000 associates is no small task. We decided to enhance our ability to share best practices and promote teamwork among our facilities by giving all employees underlying technology to support those collaboration goals. In our case, that technology comes in the form of Microsoft Office 365, which we embraced as early adopters when it launched more than five years ago.

We recently participated in a total economic impact analysis of our Office 365 adoption. Conducted by Forrester, the analysis revealed through multiple metrics that the move to Office 365 has been a truly transformative one for us. We’re reaping financial benefits such as a three-year, risk-adjusted return on investment of 63 percent* from our Office 365 subscription, saving U.S. $53.8 million† from our information worker productivity gains alone. For example, the Forrester analysis found that we’re saving $2.2 million over three years† in time and transportation costs, because our information workers now have effective collaboration tools they use to minimize the need for travel.

By making it easier to work together, we’ve increased efficiency throughout our system. In fact, the Forrester analysis shows that we’re saving two million worker hours over three years,* which has an incredible impact on productivity. We’ve also minimized the amount of time that our clinical staff spend traveling to see patients, whether that’s moving from hospital to hospital or from floor to floor. For example, we established an electronic Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in the early 2000s, and this solution now utilizes video calls with Skype for Business Online to provide multidisciplinary rounds for some of our hospitals’ ICUs. Centralized physicians monitor patients using video and onscreen vital signs, and multidisciplinary rounds take place by moving a wheeled workstation around each ICU so that all the caregivers involved can coordinate the patient’s care—without traveling from one hospital to another. Conducting those rounds using video, rather than just a voice call, has made a tremendous difference. It’s now a more personalized experience, with greater interaction among everyone involved.

That same mobile communication capability comes in handy when we transfer patients from a hospital’s emergency department into another unit. All patient moves require that nurses convey critical information to the receiving department, and previously, our nurses would need to leave the floor to collect patients from the emergency department. Today, they receive handoff information from anywhere, which means they can stay where they’re needed, and a patient transport associate makes the patient transfer.

We’re continuing to expand our adoption of Office 365 functionality. A few years back, we established a system that nurses use to follow up on patients’ visits and make sure that each patient’s transition from hospital to home goes smoothly. Now, we’re taking it to the next level with a pilot program aimed at longer-term follow-up with high-risk patients, such as those with chronic conditions. Nurses use our Patient Experience System, which takes advantage of Microsoft SharePoint technology, to make regular contact with discharged high-risk patients. Every nurse in the program has access to the system’s shared information and insights. This helps them make sure the patients are staying healthy and receiving the follow-on services that they need to avoid re-admittance. Ultimately, we’ll be able to track areas in which those patients have trouble managing their health so that we can proactively find even better ways to serve them.

We’re also breaking down the barriers between our facilities and sharing best practices across Advocate Health Care. In the past, we used shared network drives, but necessary firewalls presented roadblocks. Today, we use multiple Office 365 components to collaborate on documents and access a single source of the truth. Employees help each other answer questions about everything from finding benefits information to hand-washing protocols. Together, we look for successes and promote them throughout the organization.

Adopting Office 365 has helped us improve security and compliance with a wide range of policies as well. For example, we deployed Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) to all 37,000 members of our workforce to safeguard our email environment against potential threats. With ATP, we’re better protected against zero-day malware attacks, because associates can only access links and email attachments that have been identified as not malicious.

We moved our intranet onto SharePoint Online and save $400,000 in infrastructure every four years,‡ plus annual maintenance cost savings. Our 128 content owners formed a Yammer group to train themselves how to interact with the new intranet, sharing knowledge and gaining expertise with minimal IT department involvement.

And we’re just scratching the surface. We’re excited to dig into Microsoft Power BI to gain intelligence from our data and refine our clinical procedures. We already use it to track the demand for our language carts, which provide web-based translation services for non-English-speaking patients. Because we can see how we’re using those carts and where they’re needed most, we can improve that service to our patients.

We also look forward to exploring MyAnalytics for a greater understanding of how we work in our individual roles. We’re confident that we’ll continue to derive additional value from Office 365 as we take advantage of more and more functionality.

We are using Office 365 to raise the standard of care at Advocate Health Care, transforming from a system of hospitals into a true hospital system in which we work collaboratively to positively influence patient health and safety. Having a set of capabilities like Office 365 that helps us support collaboration, foster efficiency and bring insights to life has been essential in getting us to where we are today.

—Dennis Giles

Read the full commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting, “Business Value Realization with Office 365: A Total Economic Impact Analysis of Microsoft Office 365.”


*Business Value Realization with Office 365: A Total Economic Impact Analysis of Microsoft Office 365,” Forrester Research, Inc., March 2017, page 3
†Business Value Realization with Office 365: A Total Economic Impact Analysis of Microsoft Office 365,” Forrester Research, Inc., March 2017, page 4
‡Business Value Realization with Office 365: A Total Economic Impact Analysis of Microsoft Office 365,” Forrester Research, Inc., March 2017, page 15