Picture This! Unified Communications in Healthcare

image If you search the term "unified communications" on this Blog, you'll see that it is a frequent topic.  I'm a huge proponent of the need for better tools to manage caregiver communication and collaboration in healthcare.  For way too long we have focused almost solely on the telephone.  Granted, the phone was a great invention and we couldn't practice medicine without it.  In fact as telephones went mobile, physicians were among the first professionals to use cellular because it delivered real business value in an informative intensive environment.  But let's face it, society has moved well beyond the limitations of synchronous voice communication.  There are times when waiting for a phone call to relay information doesn't make sense.  There are plenty of situations when the telephone isn't optimal for human collaboration involving complex work-flows and information-rich content.


You can read some of my musings on this topic here, here, here, and here.  However, just as the telephone has its limitations, reading about "unified communications" will only get you so far.  So, I'm pleased to introduce a new video we have just produced to help explain the value proposition for unified communication in health.  Today, the use of UC is pretty much confined to the enterprise environment, but as I've stated so often before, this will ultimately lead to improved communication and collaboration across the healthcare ecosystem and eventually right into the home. 

Enjoy the video!

Bill Crounse, MD  Senior Director, Worldwide Health  Microsoft Corporation

Comments (19)
  1. Guest says:

    Why would I buy UC from Microsoft if I can get Skype with same functionality for free?

  2. hlthblog says:


    We’re talking about scalable enterprise solutions here.  Many customers can benefit with very little added cost.

    Bill Crounse, MD

  3. I think this is a fantastic concept that will have incredible uptake, especially with recent graduates, younger healthcare professionals, and those who have strong interests in technology. The need for improved communication is immense as more information gets exchanged on a routine basis.

    Also, data transmissions must be secure. Many consumer modalities may not offer the type of security that is required to maintain patient confidentiality.

  4. Guest says:

    So you are saying that Skype is not scaleable and not enterprise ready? It is not true. It is in use by far more people in the world then UC which proves that it is far more capable in scale than MS Unified Communications. And as for cost, it is FREE – not even ‘very little added cost’.

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  6. Anon says:

    I don’t think that’s what Bill is saying. Skype is a consumer tool, not enterprise. It’s great for consumers like my parents, but is hosted (not on-premise) and doesn’t integrate with Outlook, Exchange, Active Directory and the other server software that most large enterprises use. Skype doesn’t allow you to place calls from the context of your e-mail in Outlook, or collaborate on data using Live Meeting, as the video demonstrates. These are some of the differences between Skype and Microsoft UC.

  7. Since I got into the software industry, I’ve always been looking for technology that has the ability

  8. Sanjay Gidwani says:

    This is great stuff.  One thing that might be helpful is patient status information.  Some twitter-esque application could be helpful in communicating a patient’s current status.

  9. Mark L says:

    So how many out there have the money and staff to implement this on top of all of the other things you have on your plate…….  My guess is that most organizations will have to wait until their preferred clinical applications provider integrates it into their application suite.

  10. hlthblog says:


    Thanks for writing.  While some customers will no doubt wait for that to happen (and several vendors including GE are working with us to leverage UC in their applications) many of our most innovative customers are moving forward themselves.  The reason is simple; a new generation of clinicians and patients are demanding this kind of connectivity, communication and collaboration.  Furthermore, smartly applied UC can save lots of money.  For instance, advances in voice and telecom technology make it possible to dramatically decrease the number of staff needed to "answer phones" and route routine calls.

    Bill Crounse, MD  

  11. HealthBlog says:

    If you want to go straight to the really sexy stuff , scroll toward the bottom of this entry and see

  12. Steve Wheeler says:

    I am very interested to know how much of UC is really available and working and who can we talk to at Microsoft regarding pricing, implementation etc.?

    Also, is the video on UC available to download and be shown to others?

    I will look forward to hearing from someone at Microsoft.

  13. hlthblog says:


    The unified communications technologies in our video are very much available today and are being deployed by Microsoft customers around the world, including many of our most progressive, innovative healthcare customers.  How to purchase the technology and from whom depends on the size of your organization and where you are located.  If you want to contact me using the e-mail button at the top of the screen, I will help you get the information you need.

    The video is not available for download, but you can certainly stream it from the Microsoft Health home page at http://www.microsoft.com/health or from my Blog.

    Bill Crounse, MD

  14. Mike England says:

    I noticed a few comments about both Skype and OCS both of which I think are great tools for specific circumstances. It will be interesting to see how Skype develop their enterprise solutions in the future, interopability is a major issue and that would be a big step forward for them. Hope to learn more at the Unified Communications Expo – http://www.ucexpo.co.uk where you can hear over 60 presentations for free. These will cover  all of the UC technologies including a rare keynote from Skype for Business as well as many Microsoft OCS partners.

  15. Mike England says:

    Sorry link didn’t come up from last comment, try http://www.ucexpo.co.uk

  16. Bill,

      Though Microsoft is retro-fitting Unified Communication to the HealthCare segment and I think they are doing a good job in that, we do have to agree that the solution offering is unclear at best. The heart of the solution in Microsoft’s Exchange and then add-on to it. Microsoft is a very good desktop application company and they have done a darn good job in developing enterprise applications as well. But this space is quite different. I have worked with the UC division integrating my VoIP platform with MS’s HSM, OCS offering. Knowing a lot about the internals, I was disappointed with what they have.


  17. HealthBlog says:

    Regular HealthBlog readers know that I am a big fan of unified communications technology and how it can

  18. As part of my job working for one of the leading integrators of UC for MS, I’ve had the privledge of working with several customers that have implemented this solution.  This is the type of technology that is truly transformational.  It both saves customers money, saves them time, and most importantly, provides for quicker and better patient (or customer) care.  This can provide an ROI that is measureable and is a technology that is driven by collaboration and innovation and is here to stay.

  19. hlthblog says:

    Thanks for your comment, Rodney.  UC technology is really taking off in health.  It makes good economic sense in a variety of clinical and administrative scenarios in the industry including caregiver collaboration, continuing medical education, and patient care.

    Bill Crounse, MD

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