Microsoft says care coordination and secure messaging tools are coming to its Teams platform
Microsoft is holding its Ignite conference this week, and the company teased a forthcoming care coordination tool that is in early stages of development – as well two secure messaging features it's creating as part of an effort to tailor Teams for specific industries.
WHY THIS MATTERS
Microsoft's Teams platform is a direct competitor to Slack's collaboration tools. But if the vendor is really moving into the care coordination space it will also encounter a wealth of best-of-breed care management technologies already on the market. And as electronic health record vendors focus on population health modules and features, they too are building out care coordination capabilities.
THE BIGGER PICTURE
Microsoft and its traditional IT rivals are bringing more and more products to the healthcare market. Just last month, in fact, Microsoft aligned with Amazon, Google, IBM, Salesforce and Oracle at a White House event to ease existing interoperability barriers with cloud, FHIR and other HL7 techs and specs.
The companies are also competing against each other, of course. Salesforce, for instance, added care coordination features to its Health Cloud earlier this year, saying the service can help clinicians communicate with each other and with patients outside the hospital's walls.
ON THE RECORD
"As an example of how Teams can enable secure workflows for regulated industries, we're delivering a new care coordination solution, now available in private preview, that gives healthcare teams a secure hub for coordinating care across multiple patients," Ron Markezich, Corporate Vice President for Microsoft 365, wrote on the company's blog. "It provides for integration with electronic health record systems and enables care providers to communicate about patient care in real-time within Teams' secure platform.”
Markezich said Microsoft is also releasing two new secure message capabilities for Teams: one for for image annotation and the other for priority notifications. While the image function is already generally available, the priority notifications feature is scheduled to be available for companies that use the commercial version of Teams by year's end.
"These capabilities support HIPAA compliance and enable doctors, nurses, and other clinicians to communicate about patients while avoiding the privacy risks that arise when healthcare professionals use consumer chat apps," Markezich added.
Microsoft said the new care coordination tools will integrate with EHR systems so clinicians and caregivers can communicate via the Teams platform. Considering that the average hospital has 16 different EMR vendors across all its affiliated practices, that integration won't be as easy as it might sound.
That said, the tech is in "private preview" mode, so it's a bit early to tell what shape it will take by the time it reaches the open market. But being able to use a Microsoft tool that will presumably work with its other platforms could make that one aspect of the integration much easier for hospitals and open up new opportunities that best-of-breed care coordination and group collaboration tools cannot.