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2020 was the year that challenged healthcare professionals to learn, adapt, and grow as they cared for patients through the COVID-19 pandemic. The concepts of quarantine and social distancing became commonplace, as virtual health and remote patient monitoring usage grew exponentially, operational limits stretched, and care collaboration became more important than ever.

Fast forward to our current state during the COVID-19 pandemic and improving the pace of vaccine distribution. We have some of the same obstacles, and constant change has become normal. It has shown us what the healthcare community is capable of, although the current level of disruption and energy is not sustainable for the long term. It has proven that organizations—both big and small—can be adaptable and resilient. In response, we have accelerated our efforts to support and co-innovate with customers and partners to support you now and into the future. Last fall, we announced the general availability of Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare, and today, we are announcing the first update will be available in April, including new features for virtual health, continuous patient monitoring, and care coordination, and support for eight new languages.

Enhancing patient engagement

Virtual health has helped expand access to care at a time when the pandemic has restricted patients’ ability to see their doctors. This requires providers to think about ways to improve patient experiences, enhance care management workflows, and ensure secure health information exchanges. We’re introducing new Microsoft Dynamics 365 patient access features to streamline virtual experience for patients by allowing more flexibility in self-scheduling both virtual and in-person appointments through their existing patient portal and integrating virtual health assistants, like the Azure Health Bot service, for triaging, scheduling, and making it seamless to receive follow-up and wellness guidance from their care team.

Microsoft Teams empowers clinicians and patients to schedule and launch virtual visits in Teams or ​from within the Epic EHR*. Teams integrates into already existing workflows to improve collaboration while protecting sensitive patient information. During virtual clinic visits, physicians and caregivers can use Dynamics 365 patient insights to see a holistic, 360-degree view of their patients’ care plans without having to bounce between multiple systems to gather relevant patient information. Now physicians can see what appointments are scheduled and who’s waiting in their virtual clinic patient queue. This allows physicians to seamlessly move to their next patient visit and have all the respective patient data ready at their fingertips.

With the expertise of Microsoft partner Avtex, Mary Washington Health System is deploying a solution built on Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare that connects providers with patients who have canceled or deferred elective procedures, helping them reach patients digitally, more effectively than with traditional marketing campaigns. These improved consumer-integrated conveniences and highly secure access to care can help create a more efficient healthcare system, empower patients to take a more active role in their healthcare, and lead to better patient experiences.

Empowering health team collaboration

New models for virtual care can also lead to engaging with broader areas of the healthcare system. Health organizations can offer new care services for delivering a large portion of non-urgent office visits virtually or embedding virtual services in home care and remote patient monitoring models.

Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare is helping clinicians stay connected across the health system, and to their patients by offering new home health care plan management applications and remote patient monitoring features. We’re providing robust functionality in Dynamics 365 care management features that allow care managers to develop and follow-through on care plan activities and goals, set timeline views of the patient care plans, and improve workflow efficiency with the ability to view clinical events sequentially to discern the best next step in care and avoid costly duplication. Virtual home health features enhance patient and caregiver experiences, extend the reach of care providers, and improve care coordination and collaboration within the broader team.

With our new device management feature for continuous patient monitoring, health care organizations deploying wearable or remote monitoring devices, such as remote heartbeat monitors and blood pressure monitors for cardiovascular patients, can now track and manage their device inventory. Within the patient view feature, care coordinators can set care thresholds for a patient, or patient populations, based on a device or condition for individual patients. Care coordinators can enable integrated access between physicians, care managers, and at-home caregivers to deploy digital coaching or care plan navigation tools tailored to patient needs. Inside the health organization, Microsoft Teams provides a highly secure care collaboration channel to providers, care managers, and others involved in their care.

These new expansions in Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare make home care delivery more seamless for all involved. We are excited to see the impact as our healthcare customers and partners put them to use.

“Best Buy Health is able to deliver on its mission to help enrich and save lives through technology and meaningful connections by taking a digital-first approach to home healthcare. Using its unique assets, including Best Buy stores, caring centers, technology products including Lively devices, and virtual care capabilities, Best Buy Health supports care delivery in the home and provides independence and safety for active aging adults and people living with chronic conditions. Its partnership with Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare helps power these healthcare offerings, resulting in more personalized care, better virtual health opportunities and deeper patient insights, by using Power Platform, Dynamics 365, and Azure API for FHIR,” President of Best Buy Health, Deborah DiSanzo.

Improving clinical and operational analytics

Expanding access to care through virtual capabilities also means health organizations should reinforce the data and analytics foundation that will be required to achieve the full potential of virtual health. When you build an architecture in Azure—you now have a connected cloud for healthcare scenarios—tools are specifically designed to support data exchange with Azure API for FHIR, tools built to meet the requirements that health organizations need in the health care industry for GDPR, HITRUST, CCPA, and HIPAA, and we’re building that connectivity into our Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare tools so our health customers don’t have to spend cycles thinking about interoperability. Azure services widely support the healthcare common data model as the foundation for our business, workflow, and data and AI workflows. This sets us apart from other technology providers and offers our customers an easy way to accelerate their transformation by offering pre-built connectors and creating rich, 360-degree patient views for deep clinical and operational insights.

Successful adaptability and sustainability require strong tech partnerships

Embracing the power of digital, along with the power of human innovation and strategic partnerships can help support the continuity and stability of public health and safety in every country as the world works to address the pandemic and prepare for future public health risks. Our partner ecosystem continues to build and extend the capabilities of Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare creating new solutions to help healthcare providers connect digitally with patients, improve care collaboration, and customize to meet the needs of every healthcare customer.

As your partner and trusted advisor, we’re applying a digital-first-responder mindset to ensure we’re doing our part to help the global community address this historic challenge. Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare is designed to address that need—enabling your organization to be adaptable and agile during the changing environment while building resiliency that helps you weather today’s challenges and into the future.

Watch our Microsoft Ignite Digital Breakout Session #FS188 on March 2, 2021, to learn more about our latest feature updates for Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare. Visit Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare to view demos and stay updated.

 


* Support for other EHR systems coming soon