You may have seen it on the national news. The past few days, much of Western Washington state has been slammed by a series of snow and ice storms. The snow (one to two feet in some areas) was bad enough. Today a very unusual ice storm is covering everything already covered in snow with a glistening, half-inch sheet of ice. Seattle-Tacoma airport has cancelled most flights in and out of the city. All the schools are closed. Even the roads that were passable are now too treacherous for travel due to falling power lines, branches, and entire trees.
My home is located 1200 feet above sea level high in the hills of Bellevue, Washington. The view is fabulous, but in weather like this we pay a high price. If Seattle gets snow, we get lots more. Let’s just put it this way; I haven’t been able to make it into work for three days now. For many workers this would spell total disaster. And indeed, there are jobs to be done that cannot be done remotely. However, for me and so many others who work at Microsoft, staying home doesn’t really slow us down. We can be productive and connected to co-workers, customers, partners and colleagues no matter where we might happen to be – even stuck at home due to inclement weather.
Throughout my involuntary home confinement this week I’ve been just as productive as any other day in the “office”. Using Microsoft Lync for instant messaging, e-mail, phone, video and web conferencing I haven’t missed a beat. My colleagues and I are in constant touch with each other. With Lync we are communicating and collaborating, sharing documents, scheduling appointments, “meeting” with customers, and pretty much doing everything we would normally do at the office. Because Lync is deeply integrated with Microsoft Exchange, Office, and SharePoint, the communication and collaboration experience is seamless. Furthermore, with on-line “presence” built into Lync, I know exactly which of my colleagues and teams are available at any given moment and their preferred means of communication. Lync is even integrated with my Windows Phone 7 mobile device, so I’m always in touch even when I’m on the go.
Why am I sharing this on HealthBlog? For more than a decade, I’ve been a huge proponent for the use of unified communication technologies in health and healthcare. If you search HealthBlog using keywords like “unified communications”, “Lync”, or “collaboration” you’ll see this has been a frequent topic. It has also been a favorite on our on-line, video series, Microsoft Health Tech Today.
So much of what is done in healthcare is to disseminate and exchange information, communicate with colleagues and patients, collaborate on projects and presentations, and instruct or participate in medical education. As I said at the start, there are plenty of things in healthcare that can only be done in person. But for all the things that don’t require a “laying on of the hands”, tools like Microsoft Lync and related unified communication and collaboration technologies can extend the reach and scope of everything we do. They can also maintain care and productivity in so many ways no matter what the circumstances (or weather).
Now, please excuse me. I’m about to make a presentation to an important gathering of customers who are waiting for me in our Executive Briefing Center in Redmond. Good thing I can do my presentation without leaving home, because today that isn’t an option.
Bill Crounse, MD Senior Director, Worldwide Health Microsoft