Advocate Aurora Health Care

Advocate Aurora Health helps patients live well using Microsoft care coordination solution to enhance collaboration

Advocate Aurora Health is one of the largest healthcare networks in the United States. To continue to deliver innovative patient-centered care with interdisciplinary health teams, Advocate Aurora Health collaborated with Microsoft to launch a pilot project of a care coordination solution built on Microsoft Teams. The members now use the solution to communicate in real time and easily access information to enhance patient care. Advocate Aurora Health also uses other Office 365 applications like SharePoint Online and Yammer to streamline processes and promote team collaboration, which reduces administrative burden.

Patient care at the heart of the mission

Advocate Aurora Health approaches patient care by treating patients holistically and proactively. With dual headquarters in Downers Grove, Illinois and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Advocate Aurora Health serves nearly 3 million patients annually. Its mission is to reimagine health and transform care delivery to help people live well. Advocate Aurora Health operates 500 sites of care, including 27 hospitals, and is nationally recognized for its expertise in cardiology, neurosciences, oncology, and pediatrics.

Team-based care in an evolving industry

To best serve patients with complex conditions, Advocate Aurora Health operates interdisciplinary teams (IDTs) that include inpatient care managers and social workers, medical directors, physicians, ambulatory care managers, post-acute partners, and back-office staff. The IDTs handle all care details on individual patients, such as their medical condition, discharge planning, support network, follow-up plans, and how to optimize transitions from inpatient to outpatient care.

This interdisciplinary care benefits patients by improving care coordination, offering a seamless patient experience and ensuring patients receive the right care, in the right place, at the right time. 

“Interdisciplinary teams are the future of healthcare,” says Sherri Aufderheide, System Administrator for Care Management, Operations, and Utilization Management at Advocate Aurora Health. “Advocate Aurora Health is already investing in this modern team structure to ensure that we proactively address all factors that impact patient outcomes, instead of just reacting as issues arise.”

IDTs rely on current, accurate information to ensure the best patient experience and provide the best care possible. A unified platform empowers staff with full visibility into patient status, helping them coordinate care and decide on next steps together. IDTs meet weekly—so, if a patient is readmitted the day after the meeting, team members have all the patient information they need to coordinate the next step in care.

“We have team members located across the network, so we need centralized communication to see what’s happening at different points in the care continuum,” says Divyang Joshi, Medical Director and Medical Doctor in Internal Medicine at Advocate Aurora Health.

Care coordination solution

The Advocate Aurora Health Unified Communication Steering Committee is comprised of leaders from across the network, including members from HR, public affairs, marketing, physician and nursing informatics, finance, and health information technology (HIT). The committee was exploring how to bring new communication technology to the network when committee member and DNP nursing candidate Aufderheide proposed conducting a unified communication project as part of her scholarly project. “It made sense for me to focus on care coordination and care management,” says Aufderheide. “We want to reduce hospital utilization because of the increasing cost of care—and keep people healthier and out of the hospital.”

In early 2018, Aufderheide and the committee began designing a pilot project with an IDT at Advocate Sherman Hospital. Since Advocate had previously worked with Microsoft to deploy Office 365 and utilized many of the communication and productivity online services, the pilot made sense. In May 2018, Advocate Aurora Health initiated the care coordination solution, built on Microsoft Teams, to provide Advocate Sherman IDT members with a connected experience that promotes real-time collaboration, further enhancing security and lowering total cost of ownership (TCO). 

Advocate Aurora Health handles a lot of protected health information (PHI) and prioritizes data security in all its technology solutions to meet regulatory compliance requirements and reduce increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks. The security team at Advocate Aurora Health and Microsoft vetted Office 365 and the coordination care solution using a checklist to confirm that the built-in security met the customer’s strict industry requirements. “We have very stringent guidelines from our security team, which Office 365 met, and we’ve taken steps to ensure continued compliance,” says Dennis Giles, Director of Unified Communication and Collaboration, Service Desk, Health Informatics and Technology, at Advocate Aurora Health.

Advocate Aurora Health confirmed that all the applications in Office 365 are covered under its business associate agreement (BAA) and that it complies with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). To further safeguard the network, Advocate Aurora Health uses the Office 365 Security and Compliance Center to monitor its Microsoft Secure Score, based on the organization’s regular activities within Office 365 and security settings, and assigns a score. With Microsoft Secure Score acting in place as an initial check point, Advocate Aurora Health can monitor and maintain a highly secure environment. “Patient information and data security compliance are of paramount importance to us, and we trust Microsoft solutions to help us secure and protect sensitive data,” says Giles.

Teamwork to coordinate care

The IDTs now all connect in the coordination care solution built on Microsoft Teams, which they use as a hub for teamwork in Office 365, engaging in persistent chat, meetings, notes, and attachments, accessible from any location. “Through the care coordination solution, we’ve streamlined teamwork, giving staff better ways to communicate and work together,” says Aufderheide. “Using Microsoft Teams is so convenient—I can post something and immediately share it with a whole predesignated group instead of manually looking through my contact list to find the right staff in the right doctor’s office,” says Aufderheide. “With the care coordination pilot, we bring everyone together in a targeted, consistent way.”

“It’s invaluable to have all communications in one location within IDTs,” says Giles. “Our clinicians don’t have to search through email or phone messages, which gives them more time to focus on our patients.”

Patient-centric care, reduced costs

By using Advocate Aurora Health IDT processes alongside the new solution’s tools, Aurora Advocate Health team members have been able to increase communication and visibility.

The team is always focused on moving patients to just the right level of care. “We never want fear of readmission to cause patients to be pushed to a higher level of care,” says Aufderheide. “With the connected collaboration tools in Office 365, we can be more confident that we are not overutilizing skilled nursing facilities and that we are transitioning patients out of the hospital at the optimal time.”

In addition to collaborating with Microsoft, Advocate Aurora Health worked with longtime partner Slalom Consulting, a member of the Microsoft Partner Network, which advised the IDTs on adoption best practices. “Slalom has been a trusted partner of Advocate Aurora Health for many years, especially working with Microsoft technologies,” says Giles. “We wanted to ensure good change management, and Slalom excels in managing organizational change and adoption.”

Advocate Aurora Health collaborated with Slalom and a Microsoft team to deliver training sessions for the pilot participants to help them use the capabilities within Office 365 to the fullest. “We invested in Office 365 to empower our providers to deliver outstanding care,” says Aufderheide. “We saw good adoption—our team members were very willing to give it a try and provide meaningful feedback on what was helpful to them.”

Better patient care, now and in the future

Advocate Aurora Health has already expanded the use of IDTs to another hospital since the Sherman hospital pilot project, and it plans to add two more hospitals by the end of 2018. After that, it wants the whole network to embrace IDTs and the other Office 365 components.

“By using the care coordination solution, we easily sync with anyone involved in a patient’s care and maintain better insight into each patient,” says Joshi. “It has become almost like a celebration when a team member says that the patient is being discharged or walked 100 feet, or a child who was totally paralyzed is now at home and working on feeding herself. When we see this communication become seamless and in real time, it’s a great victory for our teams.” 

Find out more about Advocate Aurora Health on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

By providing our staff with tools to enhance collaboration and coordinate care, we’ve improved the patient experience and ultimately helped reduce the cost of care. Dr.
Divyang Joshi, Medical Director and Medical Doctor in Internal Medicine Advocate Aurora Health
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