Ground Zero for Unified Communications in Healthcare

My team in Australia has just published a case study that demonstrates the value and potential for Microsoft Unified Communications in Healthcare. 

HealthBlog readers know I'm passionate about this topic. There is nothing more important to the patient care process than seamless communication and collaboration amongst members of the care team and between the providers of care and their patients.

With this week's release of our Unified Communications platform, the capabilities I could only dream of ten years ago have become reality.  And not just for what could be accomplished in healthcare, but for what is actually being done right now in healthcare. 

As is more often the case than not these days, some of the latest evidence comes from outside the United States.  Eastern Health is the second largest health provider in Melbourne, Australia, caring for a population of more than 800,000 people.  Based on highly positive feedback and results from a pilot of 100 users, Eastern Health plans to implement our latest Unified Communications capabilities for more than 4000 of their staff working across the organization's five hospitals.  Using Microsoft® Exchange Server 2007 with Unified Messaging in conjunction with Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007, Eastern Health will have a unified communications environment that offers extended capabilities and improves patient outreach.

Hospital staff will enjoy the benefits of Exchange Server 2007 Unified   Messaging delivering e-mail, voice mail, and faxes to users’ inboxes. Users can access that information from familiar clients such as the Microsoft Office Outlook® 2007 messaging and collaboration client, or from a telephone using Microsoft Office Outlook Voice Access. With Office Communications Server 2007, users can send instant messages and see the availability of other employees through presence awareness. Presence signals a user’s availability using a colored alert linked to that person’s presence status as set in his or her Office Outlook 2007 calendar or Microsoft Office Communicator 2007 client.  Unified Communications will also enable rich video and audio conferencing and full integration with Office Live Meeting; technology that is proving to be extremely valuable in hospital and clinic settings for staff education, training, and outreach activities with medical staff, community members and patients.

I predict Unified Communications is going to be huge in healthcare.  We are embarking on a new era that will extend the reach of every organization and clinician for the delivery of health information and medical services.

I'm planning a trip "down under" to visit customers and partners in that part of the world early next year.  I can't wait to see the innovative ways Unified Communications is being deployed to better serve clinicians and patients all across Australia.  Who's next?   

Bill Crounse, MD    Worldwide Health Director    Microsoft Corporation


Comments (12)

  1. Mark Holden says:

    Oh gosh… What is the buzz all about? Exchange server 2007 and Unified Communication is implemented by yet another customer. Big deal… This is no different then implementing this stuff in any other organization be it Microsoft Corporation itself or European Defence Agency or U.S. Army or else. Last two (real Microsoft customers) are not saving lives or anything like this in any way, quite the opposite at times. Are they embarking on a new era as well?  

  2. hlthblog says:


    Thanks for your comment.  You are correct; in defense or major corporations it’s no big deal.  In healthcare, it’s a big deal.  Unified Communications offers the potential to connect you with your healthcare provider in new and very compelling ways.  Have you ever played phone tag with your doctor?  It’s frustrating for the doctor and for you (even dangerous) when you are most in need of information.  Ever wanted just a bit of information or reassurance only to be told you need to make an appointment, take time off work, drive somewhere, wait, and "see" the doctor?  Perhaps an e-mail, instant message or "virtual visit" would do at much less cost to you, your employer, and your insurance plan.  Do you want your care providers to have more efficient means to communicate and collaborate on your treatment, reducing possible errors or duplication of services?  I could go on, but I won’t.  As someone who practiced medicine for 20 years let me assure you, it’s a big deal.

    Bill Crounse, MD

  3. antonio osuna says:

    Hi Bill,

    just a question… do you have any plan of making a video of this topic? UC in Healthcare? it would be a great way of showing it to many customers.


  4. hlthblog says:

    Thanks Antonio.  I agree that a video case study is in order.  I’ll circle with my team and see if we can provide one in coming months.  In the meantime, you’ll find lots more information on Microsoft’s web site regarding Unified Communications.  It doesn’t take too much imagination to visualize the many scenarios for UC in healthcare.  Still, a picture is worth a thousand words, and we’ll get going on that video.

    Bill Crounse, MD

  5. L. Jarrell says:

    We have recently installed most of the same architecture including video conferencing. It is rolling out across our 9 hospitals and 17,000 empoyees as I type this. We are also looking at an integrated model that includes sponsored links on, passport credentials passing to our systems for patients to schedule appointments and  using Dynamic CRM to track activity and assist with marketing and BD efforts. New portals using MS tools is also in the works and we are now including healthvault for better patient communication throughout our community. We are in the strategic stages of planning much of this with MS. There is a lot of exciting possibilities and we absolutely need to reinvent the way we interact with our patients and community.   L. Jarrell, SVP&CIO

  6. hlthblog says:

    L. Jarrell

    Congratulations on your progressive thinking and the leadership you are demonstrating to the rest of the healthcare industry.  Your future, your patients, your physicians and nurses, and your community will be better served because of your willingness to take a stand on the very critical role of information technology and unified communications as an essential tool for the delivery of health information and medical services in the years ahead.

    Best wishes always,

    Bill Crounse, MD     Worldwide Health Director    Microsoft

  7. S R A says:

    M Holden – the buzz is that Healthcare is where finance was in the 60’s (some might say, generously, the 70’s) when it comes to technology. The industry focus has, correctly, been on health care and savings lives, at the cost of fragile, brittle, closed IT & IS systems. At the end of the day, healthcare organizations are no different than any other business. Some will survive, some will thrive – those that thrive will have, amongst other factors, a sane, strong IT & IS strategy. Those that thrive will be best positioned to continue to deliver a complete continuum of care to their patients.

    It’s good to see this sisyphean rock finally turn over and start to gain some intelligent momentum!

  8. hlthblog says:

    I couldn’t have said it better.  Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Bill Crounse, MD

  9. HealthBlog says:

    I’ve written before on HealthBlog about the importance of providing data input options in IT solutions

  10. HealthBlog says:

    If you search the term "unified communications" on this Blog, you’ll see that it is a frequent topic.

  11. Anthony Fanning says:

    I think Unified Communications in Healthcare is huge.  Organisations that can leverage on demand collaboration and shared health data will be leap-frogging ahead.

    It certainly is a big deal.  I would like to see if Hospital 2000 (ie Amalga HIS / RIS / PACS) has this functionality already built in – or whether MS is planning to release it on it’s roadmap in the near future.

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