The Pros and Cons of Microsoft SharePoint Online in Long Term Healthcare

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Explore the benefits and challenges of using Microsoft’s cloud-based collaboration platform in the Long Term Post Acute Care and assisted living spaces. 

Microsoft SharePoint is already popular for content management and collaboration across many industries, including healthcare. As providers migrate their Office 365 productivity applications to the cloud, they can switch from on-premises SharePoint server installation and migrate to SharePoint Online, which is bundled in most 365 subscriptions Microsoft SharePoint is already popular for content management and collaboration across many industries, including healthcare.

MarketsandMarkets predicts that investment in cloud computing will rise to $9.5 billion in the healthcare industry by 2020. When correctly configured, Office 365 and SharePoint cloud easily support HIPAA security and privacy requirements, making this platform perfect for the Long Term Post-Acute Care industry.

Benefits of SharePoint Online 

Long Term Care and senior living providers currently leverage SharePoint for several business functions in order to optimize resident care automate workflows for operational efficiency. This ranges from care coordination and documentation, to facilitating care consistency and team communication, to finance, marketing and human resources.

If you’re considering new digital tools for your senior living organization, here are some reasons to give SharePoint Online a hard look.

  • Simplicity of setup: Senior living organizations typically have limited IT resources, including in software development. With SharePoint Online, an IT department can easily reserve a tenant name, set and configure security in a cloud. Its diverse and user-friendly site template selection does not require any coding skills for implementation, and it is also easy to implement a team collaboration website theme, which eliminates the need to hire web developers.
  • Flexible subscription models: Many senior care providers often work with lower budgets than that of large healthcare organizations. Office 365 and SharePoint Online are subscription-based SaaS (Software as a Service) products that offer instant flexibility to increase or decrease your investment as needed
  • Mobile friendly: The senior care industry is highly mobile these days. For instance, many home health aides use cloud technology to streamline coordination with their remote supervisors, doctors, and clients as they travel from site to site. Office 365 and SharePoint provide a user friendly, consistent desktop and mobile interface. Caregivers and other team members can easily record work duties, track resident activities and manage documents fluidly across PCs, tablets or smartphones.
  • Effective collaboration: SharePoint fosters more effective collaboration across care teams by centralizing document creation, control, and distribution. SharePoint stores multiple document versions to track editing history, which helps maintain records necessary for HIPAA documentation. Document versioning and distribution are automated by SharePoint making consistent and accurate communication of company policies and resident care protocols easy
  • Data security & HIPAA compliance: Senior care organizations without large budgets for IT may struggle to protect their data when moving to the cloud. Microsoft automatically upgrades and patches cloud-based applications making sure you are always running on the latest most secure version of SharePoint Online. To use a platform in conjunction with protected health information (PHI), a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) is needed. SharePoint Online supports HIPAA compliance when purchased with Office365 Enterprise, for which Microsoft provides BAA*. SharePoint has built-in technical and administrative safeguards to meet HIPAA Rules so HIPAA Covered Entities can use the platform to meet regulations.

    *Note: Although Microsoft meets the Business Associate requirements, your organization still must educate employees on use of the software to comply with HIPAA regulations.

  • Disaster recovery: Earlier this year, Microsoft announced a new Files Restore feature for SharePoint to prevent data loss and associated HIPAA non-compliance fines. The Files Restore feature backs up SharePoint document libraries, protecting shared files in SharePoint, Teams, Outlook groups, and Yammer groups. It uses the same recovery capabilities that protect individual files in OneDrive for Business, which is ideal for most IT departments. Microsoft also constantly scans inventory, monitors and remediates machine health to protect SharePoint and other Office365 data from server outages, malware hacking, and infrastructure failures. 

Challenges to consider

Connectivity: Any cloud-based platform relies heavily on a great internet connection, internal network and Wi-Fi coverage. Consider your current IT situation and connectivity to ensure it supports the bandwidth required for moving to the Cloud.

Constant change: While it is usually ideal to use the latest version of a software application, some organizations might find the pace of changes a bit too fast. New features are being constantly added while existing features you may be comfortable with might disappear or morph.

Vcpi’s network engineers can help you determine if SharePoint Online will operationalize your senior living organization’s business in order to help residents thrive.

Contact us for a consultation today.