Extending and coordinating care with Unified Communication: The next wave is here

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Ten years ago I co-founded a company with the aim to provide web-based medical information, secure messaging and virtual visits between patients and their personal physicians. Working in partnership with Microsoft we developed technology that was well ahead of its time, and also well ahead of the market's ability to absorb it. Quite honestly, the technology was also a bit too complex, too expensive, and too hard to use. But that was then.

Roll forward ten years. The technology has matured. Governments and payors around the world are looking for ways to provide health information and medical services more efficiently. Shortages and mal-distributions of qualified medical professionals, aging populations, and the increasing burden of chronic disease are creating a perfect storm in healthcare. A medical model that is solely dependent on physicians providing care to patients one-on-one, in city center clinics or hospitals, doesn't scale anymore and certainly isn't sustainable.

Earlier this year I posted a Blog on Unified Communications: The Next Big Thing in Healthcare. If you didn't read it then, please read it now to become better grounded on what I'm about to share.

Envision a world where modalities for both synchronous and asynchronous communication begin to merge on the desktop, or even on your Smartphone. Imagine being able to schedule a virtual consultation with a colleague or colleagues as easily as you schedule an appointment in Outlook today.

Picture yourself using rich audio and video to enhance the communication and collaboration. Think about how you could share applications on your desktop, work together on documents, or extend presentations in a lecture hall to hundreds or thousands of your colleagues wherever they might be.

What about patients? Depending on your specialty this may be more or less relevant. However, I don't think there is a clinician out there who wouldn't benefit from incorporating Unified Communications into their practice work-flow. UC opens up amazing possibilities for virtual visits, follow-up visits, medication checks, home care, wound checks, chronic disease management, mental health, nurse call centers, patient education, and more. As governments and other payors around the world begin to understand the economics and value proposition of extending care with this now-commoditzed technology, healthcare services will go through a remarkable transformation.

With Microsoft Unified Communications, and the newest versions of Microsoft Office, Office Communicator and Office Live Meeting, all of this is not only possible; it is easy, intuitive and downright spectacular.

Use it as a hosted service or bring it into your enterprise. Do live interactive programs or record them for on-demand viewing later. There isn't a medical school, hospital, clinic, or physician's office that couldn't benefit from the mind-bending possibilities this technology unleashes. Get ready for a new day in healthcare.

Bill Crounse, MD Worldwide Health Director Microsoft Corporation

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