Adventist Health System boosts productivity with Office 365 ProPlus while complying with HIPAA

Healthcare headshot - cropped 2Today’s Office 365 ProPlus post was written by Todd Frantz, senior technologist for Adventist Health System.

As a healthcare organization, we have a great responsibility to protect the personal data of our patients. This concern for patient privacy has often meant that we take a measured approach to technology adoption. We want to deliver the latest capabilities to our users so they can work however they want to, whether that means with increased mobility or easier collaboration, but we can never sacrifice security to get there.

Finding a comfort level

Because Microsoft understands our need for HIPAA compliance, we were able to help our management team feel at ease with moving to cloud-based tools. Microsoft provided us with a business associate agreement (BAA), which is needed for HIPAA compliance and also delivers security and compliance capabilities within Office 365, that enabled Adventist Health System to expand our compliance efforts without additional effort or expense.

With these measures in place, we moved forward with our deployment of Office 365 ProPlus, including the full Office suite, Office Online and OneDrive for Business, to ensure that we always have the latest version of the apps. Because of our large and varied environment, we’ve traditionally found it challenging to keep our Office products current. With Office 365 ProPlus, we receive a lot of value from providing the most current capabilities and security features to everyone at Adventist Health System.

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Deploying Office 365 ProPlus

Taking advantage of the latest Microsoft Office Click-to-Run deployment technology for Office 365 ProPlus has helped the transition proceed smoothly. Even with the diversity of environments we support—from large hospitals with thousands of devices to small clinics with only a few devices and limited bandwidth—we have deployed the software with very few issues.

We did not face any show-stopping application compatibility issues with corporate-supported applications. Our only concerns came with a handful of machines using locally supported applications that needed updates. When a problem did come up, we could deploy Office 365 ProPlus in a side-by-side configuration and avoid challenges that could have slowed us down.

We took advantage of our existing Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) solution to distribute the installation files and then install Office 365 ProPlus on devices from a local copy. We also took advantage of BranchCache, a bandwidth optimization technology built into Windows, to facilitate deployment to small offices. Updates happen automatically after we release them to the local System Center servers. The way Click-to-Run schedules downloads and manages data rates has eliminated throughput challenges around patch distribution, allowing us to focus on deploying new capabilities.

We have deployed Office 365 ProPlus to 13,000+ devices to date. We prioritized machines with older versions of Office and left those running Office 2013 for the next phase of upgrades. Our focus is delivering function and value to our user community, and this mix allows us to move forward.

Taking the next step

Now that the oldest versions of Microsoft Outlook had been updated with the move to Office 365 ProPlus, we quickly migrated more than 70,000 mailboxes and moved our full email solution to Microsoft Exchange Online. Moving 70,000 of anything is complex, but our primary challenge was our ability to provide the support experience desired for our migrated users. The most significant issue we faced during the migration was dealing with the large number of shared calendars and conference rooms across the organization. All users that shared a calendar or managed a conference room needed to be migrated at the same time to minimize the disruption. Mapping the web of resource relationships ended up being the most complex part of the migration.

Having achieved our initial goal of improving email productivity and security, we are looking at other Office 365 capabilities that will help our employees be more efficient. One of those capabilities is Microsoft OneDrive for Business. With the continued growth of the security feature set in Office 365 and OneDrive for Business, such as rights management and data loss prevention, we can now enable our employees to access files from various devices and collaborate more easily.

In an early use case, we gave a group of cancer researchers access to OneDrive for Business, which saved them significant time and headaches. Previously, they had to complete many steps to share files at the level of security we require, but OneDrive for Business made the task easy. Compliance remains a priority at Adventist Health System, so when we can enable people to work the way they want and still meet our compliance needs, that’s a big win. We get the best of both worlds with Office 365.

We saw Office 365 as an opportunity to license a great technology. We can upgrade our existing technology with the latest security and compliance capabilities, and we can evaluate new technologies that benefit our employees. Though we may still approach the deployment of new technology slowly, we are impressed with the Microsoft philosophy of designing for the continued evolution of the product. We have been pleasantly surprised by the rate at which Microsoft has evolved the platform not only for features, but also for security and audit capabilities. We look forward to continuing this valuable partnership.

—Todd Frantz

With nearly 75,000 employees, 44 hospital campuses and more than 8,100 licensed beds in 10 states, Adventist Health System facilities incorporate the latest technological advancements and clinical research to serve more than 4.5 million patients annually.