This article first appeared in the Winter issue of The Record.
If you were to examine a hospital’s IT infrastructure, you may well find that they’re running hundreds, in some cases thousands, of different applications. Chances are that many don’t integrate with each other, because they’re all built on different technologies.
This lack of cohesion and interoperability can lead to inefficiencies and prevent workers from communicating and collaborating efficiently.
But, according to Paul Smolke, senior director of worldwide health at Microsoft, there is a better way if organisations take what he calls ‘a platform-based approach’.
“When I talk to healthcare providers, most have a minimum of 400 applications in their enterprise,” he explains. Now these organisations are being asked to look at new solutions for areas like Telehealth, Population Health, Patient Engagement, and Care Coordination among others. Adding more disparate applications to their existing environments is challenging and not sustainable in the long term. There’s an opportunity to look at platforms, rather than numerous disparate applications, to tackle the needs across these organisations.”
Pressed for time and resources, many healthcare organisations are taking an active approach towards adopting new applications that run on a common platform, and streamlining their processes at the same time.
“What a platform does, as opposed to several disparate solutions, is minimise the number of moving parts,” Smolke says. “Platforms have built in capabilities that can scale and be extended to streamline interoperability. Take Unified Communications (UC) as a platform example. Many UC platforms go beyond audio and video offering; presence, instant messaging, Meetings and Voice/PSTN. These platforms can also be extended and customised for tailored web and mobile experiences. The same UC platform that organisations use for internal communication can be tailored and extended for care teams to collaborate and communicate. It can also be integrated into existing healthcare applications and extended into telehealth and telemedicine solutions. The core UC components all leverage the same platform, improving functionality and reducing inefficiencies.
If you look at technology innovation in any industry today, almost everything that is happening is platform based.
From Azure to Office 365, Microsoft is bringing a platform-based approach to customers, enabling them to start working in ways that benefit the whole organisation and go beyond what specific applications may provide.
“We have an application platform called Microsoft Azure and a productivity platform called Office 365. We have a unified communications platform called Skype for Business and a relationship management platform called Dynamics 365. We are working with our partners to leverage these platforms in providing innovative solutions in the healthcare space.”
One major benefit of these platforms – and one particularly pertinent in the healthcare space – is that they allow organisations to be more nimble and proactive in the way they operate.
“Platforms allow organisations to move more quickly. Once they have the infrastructure in place, they can tailor for new scenarios as new needs arise,” says Smolke. “Skype for Business is a good example, and healthcare organisations can leverage Skype as a platform including building applications that leverage Skype to meet a new need they have.”
“Users can do virtual visits between patients and doctors, or interact with doctors and clinicians, in a browser, without even knowing they are using the Skype platform,” he says. “That same Skype technology can be integrated into electronic health records, with video and chat functionality easily integrated, meaning workers have all the relevant information regarding a patient at hand. Healthcare teams are now better placed to make a true difference and have all the tools they need at hand to do so thanks to this underlying platform.”
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