Microsoft Teams integrates with EHRs for provider telehealth

• Microsoft’s video platform, Teams, integrates directly with patient registration software so doctors can start virtual tours directly from their EHRs, the software giant said Tuesday.

• Epic’s EHR will be the first to be completed and various groups on the Platform will be available at the Epic App Orchard later this year.

• Microsoft continued to investigate the health sector during the pandemic. The first industry-specific cloud offering, Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare, will generally be available in late October.

Patients have turned to virtual care in droves this year amid pandemic and friendly directives from the Trump administration, although the use of telemedicine has declined slightly from highs in April and May. However, analysts predict that COVID-19 will drive the long-term transformation of the healthcare system, with digital pathways to care to account for a larger share of medical visits and expenses.

Telemedicine is not just about patients who want to check their urgent care needs from the comfort of their homes. Hospitals are also participating in the campaign and investing in features such as post-operative follow-up digital exams, TeleICU and Telestroke. About 76 percent of hospitals used telemedicine in some way before the pandemic, but that number is likely to increase in 2020, experts say.

Just a few years ago, hospitals that had contracts with most telemedicine providers had to download an additional EHR. Switching between them can deprive doctors of valuable effort and increase duplication of records. Leading telemedicine providers such as MDLive, Amwell and Teladoc have worked to integrate into their portals with larger EHR providers like Epic and Cerner to streamline the visit process.

The teams are now doing the same.

“We thought about integrating it into different workflows for a year,” said Kristina Behr, CEO of Teams for Healthcare. “Covid helped us crystallize the emergency”.

Behr said Microsoft’s healthcare customers have lobbied the tech giant to integrate with Epic, but the teams are currently working on integration with several other EHR vendors. Data protection and security were key to the company when building the video platform, especially when it turned to healthcare, Behr said. For example, patients can use computers to send their doctor a sensitive photo that is encrypted during transport and not stored on the doctor’s mobile device.

The platform that offers workplace chat, file sharing, and web conferencing is HIPAA compliant. Rapid uptake was observed during the pandemic. In July, vendors hosted 46 million team meetings, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said during an investor call on the company’s fourth-quarter results. That’s an increase of 34 million in April.

Clients of the healthcare team include Washington-based Providence, the third-largest non-profit organization in the United States. New York Systems Stony Brook Medicine and Northwell Health; The St. Luke University Health Network in Pennsylvania; Confluent Health Physiotherapist; Minnesota Allina Health System; and the UK National Health Service.

Microsoft launched its first healthcare-specific cloud offering in May when it entered the industry during the COVID-19 pandemic. The service connects existing Microsoft services, such as the Azure cloud platform and teams, to help hospitals with telemedicine, care management, and patient loyalty through applications.

Tuesday’s news comes about a week after Microsoft announced it would integrate computers with AI-enabled speech recognition software from medical speech recognition company Nuance. The technology, which was developed in collaboration with Microsoft, automates the recording of physicians during the virtual visit of the patient.

Digital clinical assistants like Nuance aim to reduce administrative burdens for providers by simplifying the mechanical and time-consuming process of entering patient records. After a surge in demand for healthcare, Massachusetts-based Nuance decided to expand nationally in February.

The ultimate goal of the software is to extract the structured data from the transcribed notes and place it in the correct EHR field without human review. Multiplayer software isn’t fully available yet, although Nuance says it’s tight and competition in the area is increasing, including Suki’s voice-activated digital assistant and AWS Transcribe Medical, which is powered by the Notable Apple Watch platform.