How Cambridge University Hospitals plan to use Office 365 to improve patient care

clinicians using workstations on wheels on the ward
Image: Cambridge University Hospitals

Microsoft's suite of cloud-based productivity tools were targeted to help improve workplace communication and access to patient information across the NHS Foundation Trust

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Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (CUH) is migrating to Microsoft Office 365 for Business as part of its drive to digitise working practices and patient treatment.

The move to a cloud-based system will end the days of insufficient email capacity and provide new ways for staff to collaborate, communicate, and access patient information on the fly.

"In this model, nobody will see their mailboxes full," Zafar Chaudry, the Chief Information Officer at CUH told Computerworld UK.

"They will get mail on their phones, or bring their own device, [and] we'll leverage the power of the cloud to store more, and use OneDrive to collaborate on documents in real-time."

The adoption of Office 365 is part of the broader NHS move towards telehealth, driven by dwindling budgets and supported by the changing consumption habits of digital natives.

Read next: How the NHS is transitioning to the new Health and Social Care Network (HSCN)

Healthcare increasingly depends on remote access to information and digital communication with patients to drive financial savings. It can offer increased convenience and flexibility to both staff and patients, maximise staffing capacity and reducing waiting times for appointments.

It can increase convenience and flexibility for both staff and patients, maximise staffing capacity and reduce waiting times for appointments.

Office 365 provides a range of tools to support this new model of digital healthcare. It combines the familiar Microsoft suite of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook with the power of the cloud to share and sync files remotely.

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Colleagues can collaborate on documents in real-time, review each other's calendars, or communicate across instant and face-to-face messaging apps including Skype for Business, Yammer and Microsoft Teams.

Digital healthcare at CUH

CUH will be the largest healthcare organisation in England running Office 365. The Trust runs numerous services across Cambridge and the southeast of England, including the Addenbrooke’s and Rosie hospitals, a biomedical research centre, and a range of specialist facilities for complex conditions.

It has also earned a global reputation for embracing innovation. In July, CUH became the first healthcare organisation outside of the US to earn a place on the American Hospital Association (AHA)'s annual "Health Care's Most Wired" list.

Central to CUH's digital success is the implementation of Epic, an electronic patient record system. CUH was the first hospital trust in the UK to adopt the system, which lets clinics access and update information about patient treatment in real-time at their bedside.

Epic has helped half the time taken to prepare discharge medications, free up 4,500 orthopaedic clinic appointments by giving virtual access to patient notes and X-rays, and save around 2,500 bed days a year - the equivalent of £980,000 - by creating new prescribing alerts.

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As CUH was completing its deployment of Epic, it was also coming to the end of its previous enterprise agreement with Microsoft.

"The next part of our digital journey was around what do we do with antiquated e-mail systems and what do we do with antiquated office productivity tools," says Chaudry.

Those systems were Office 2010 and Microsoft Exchange Server 2003. Staff were unhappy that their mailboxes were constantly full, and that they didn’t have tools that allowed them to collaborate on documents, which meant that a secretary had to collate all their individual edits.

CUH also needed a flexible and secure collaboration tool. NHS data breaches have led to a series of high-profile leaks of patient information, and research suggests that around a third of all doctors now use third-party messaging apps.

Office 365 offered solutions to all the problems of the legacy systems. It promised secure email access to 13,000 users, an end to concerns over storage, and the addition of a series of leading collaboration tools.

Benefits of Office 365

Continuing the partnership with Microsoft was a logical choice, but Chaudry wanted to explore the benefits of more modern tools. CUH followed its established strategy of looking into how technologies are used by cross-sectional industries such as banking and retail, rather than in just the health sector.

"The general feedback from people who used Office 365 that we got was it's a great tool, very easy to use, that we don't have to worry about running, managing and maintaining," says Chaudry.

"And globally, now there are a lot of Office 365 users. So it wasn't a technology that was very untried and untested. It has been well established."

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"It will also take some of the pressure off the IT team," says Chaudry. "When we're running our own e-mail systems, we're not that good at providing great service levels. Whereas Microsoft running and configuring and upgrading their own tool sets is a completely different ball game."

CUH will also now get immediate access to the latest upgraded versions of the entire suite of Microsoft applications.

"We waited 13 years to upgrade our e-mail system. Microsoft in the cloud continually upgrades their system and optimises it without us having to worry about it. In effect, they become my extended service team without me having to pay for it."

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