Last summer, as the first wave of the pandemic started to wane, a largely unheralded deal was struck which could save the NHS hundreds of millions of pounds.
The landmark agreement – forged by NHSX, NHS Digital and Microsoft (MS) – paved the way for the tech giant’s 365 Product stack to be rolled out throughout the health service.
Labelled N365 by stakeholders, it promised to give some 1.4 million healthcare professionals and more than 450 organisations throughout England the opportunity to access MS digital tools – including Teams, SharePoint, Word, and OneDrive – for free or at a greatly reduced rate.
A year on, NHS employees across the board, from clinicians to clerical assistants, department managers to midwives are putting the Cloud-based products to use for improved productivity and delivery of vital services.
Quite simply, without having Teams in place alongside Microsoft 365 over the last 12 months, the NHS could not have coped with the pressures of the Covid-19 response.
But the story doesn't stop there. Now NHS organisations have experienced the power of collaborative working from their organisational intranet, the challenge lies in leveraging Microsoft’s technology to deliver truly integrated care.
Why it matters
Thanks to applications including the ubiquitous Word, Excel, Teams, and Powerpoint, Microsoft 365 has become the go-to digital hub for organisations worldwide.
NHS staff have now joined the party and are using the MS stack to communicate more effectively than ever before thanks to single sign-on access to the information, applications and services they need, supporting system-wide transformation, productivity and, crucially, patient care and safety.
Earlier this year, the health service transferred more than two million NHS mail mailboxes to Microsoft's Azure cloud, bringing the Government's vision of cloud-first health service a step closer and ending an all-too-common occupational hazard for most health and care professionals - the full mailbox!
In short, the N365 roll-out has been adopted so rapidly precisely because it puts the right staff with the right skills in the right place at the right time.
Migrating NHS systems to the Azure cloud environment has given the workforce access to a wide range of agile digital solutions, too, giving staff more time to do what they do best – delivering high quality, compassionate care.
It’s not all good news though. Many organisations have embraced Microsoft 365, but some still think of their intranet as an isolated portal sitting alongside it. Microsoft’s apps, however, can seamlessly be integrated with the existing intranet transforming these into Intelligent Work Hubs, allowing clinicians to collaborate, communicate and securely coordinate care from anywhere based on accurate and real time information.
Single Sign-On (SSO) through the Azure Active Directory
Some are well-known, including Single Sign-On through the Azure Active Directory, which promises to free up thousands of NHS hours by improving staff access to computer systems alone - such as electronic patient records (EPR) - and follows a £40 million Government investment to transform slow log-in times.
In the past, time-poor NHS staff have been left frustrated when signing into different devices and applications during the course of a busy working day, with some needing to log into as many as 15 different systems.
Now, SSO provides secure access to multiple independent systems via a single log-in name and password - promoting greater staff integration.
And the use of MS Azure Active Directory will allow any updates to staff profiles to be mirrored within staff directories, reducing the IT burden.
SharePoint supporting deeper integration
Document management system SharePoint Online has been adopted widely too, thanks to its ability to deliver system-wide document storage alongside features including collaborative working and secure access.
Although dry by definition, the platform has proven a huge hit in many NHS settings as it will also work hand-in-hand with an organisation’s ,bringing communication tools, documents, resources, and key insights together within an integrated workspace.
Teams improving engagement and productivity
Microsoft Teams also needs little introduction. But following its widespread adoption, it’s now vital that Intelligent Work Hubs within the NHS encourage employees to use the app to connect with Peers across integrated care systems, too.
Alongside providing staff with a secure and reliable tool to collaborate via video calls and instant messaging, Teams can be used to share patient information and all-important patient flow.
In a recent blog, Dr Sarah Blackstock, Pediatrici Registrar and Clinical Fellow at NHSX, paid tribute to the impact the app has had on a stretched and splintered workforce often forced to work remotely.
Thanks to its ability to host real-time ;patient video consultations, Dr Blackstock reported, the app has allowed clinicians to “provide care more compassionately at scale”.
The 365 Product suite, however, also provides access to a host of lesser-known applications which promote collaborative working, too.
Did you know you can use MS Forms to quickly create questionnaires and registrations within your intranet. Microsoft Graph can be put to work to highlight documents relevant to diverse staff groups, or Microsoft Stream embedded in your organisation’s hub to deliver high-quality video content?
There is no doubt the N365 deal has delivered a pioneering opportunity to maximise digital transformation. But to supercharge organisational agility and drive further integration, healthcare providers need qualified support and guidance.
Supercharge your 365 subscription
VerseOne, an accredited Microsoft Gold Partner, is in the perfect position to help NHS organisations personalise their M365 applications through secure and seamless Microsoft365 integration with intranets which require no specialist IT provision.
Alan Neilson, VerseOne Group’s Founder and Executive Chairman, explained more: “Being able to draw upon the vast range of applications and tools embedded within Microsoft’s Azure Cloud environment and utilising our significant expertise through closely working with over 50+ NHS organisation, combined with our Intelligent Integration Platform Autevo, we can seamlessly and securely bring existing business critical solutions together delivering trusted digital solutions to the NHS clinicians and staff alike.
“As we have done over the past 17 years, we continue to work with NHS organisations to build truly functional next generation Intelligent Work Hubs that leverage the Office 365 suite of products, ;unifying hitherto siloed sources of information, delivering a powerful and trusted solution that is already assisting over 360,000 NHS staff.
With the combined power of our products and Microsoft’s open-standards software tools and technologies, we can now offer the NHS workforce a personalised, anywhere access to a “single source of truth" , enabling them effectively to collaborate, make critical decisions and ultimately deliver exemplar patient care.
Streamlined and secure digital solutions which continually add value are key if an integrated care system which allows staff to work on any device from anywhere is to become a reality.