3 data privacy features in Microsoft Office 2016

Coming on the heels of Windows 10, the new productivity and collaboration suite brings security features specifically for healthcare entities
By Tom Sullivan
08:02 AM
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Microsoft Office 2016 screenshots

When Microsoft released Office 2016 at September's end, the software giant somewhat quietly revealed a host of new features geared toward healthcare providers.

Those were mostly lost amid most of the trade press and mainstream media coverage, which largely focused on the new collaboration functionalities. That makes sense given the new Office's overarching themes as collaboration, productivity, and security.

While there are collaboration and productivity enhancements for health entities, healthcare CIOs and CISOs might be most interested in the privacy features. 

Here are three of those: 

1. PHI recognition: Outlook can now recognize protected health information in an attachment and warn the user before sending to avoid the common mishap of PHI landing in the inbox of someone who should not receive it. And different permissions can be set to stop some users from even sending PHI at all. 

2. Smart Attachments: This feature gives users the option of sending a link in lieu of heavy documents that consume a lot of memory. The reason that matters: When clinicians send a link via OneDrive for Business, the security mechanism authenticates the user and Exchange can track whether a recipient even clicked on that link – which could help account for what happens should data be sent to unintended recipients.

3. Encryption, single sign-on and authentication: This is kind of a threefer, admittedly. They are connected enough to group together. In addition to Office, Microsoft injected encryption into Office 365 services, so now both documents and emails are encrypted, while Windows Hello serves as a single sign-on capability and Windows Passport is now being used by third-party apps, such as an EMR, for facial recognition.

Office 2016 comes on the heels of Windows 10, which also brought new features specifically for healthcare.

Those include the ability to "snap together" different applications so clinicians can view an EMR alongside, say, a home health app, business intelligence tools for visualizing care data, mapping techniques for population health, as well as care management and information sharing functions

Windows 10, Office 2016 and the forthcoming Windows 10 Mobile are the foundation of the company's "One Windows" strategy -- to enable healthcare organizations to sync apps and data across smartphones, PCs, tablets and a wide range of medical and IoT devices.  

See also: 

Medjacking: Healthcare's newest risk? 

What hospitals need to know now about Windows 10 

5 tips for fighting cybercrime