Unified Communications: A much needed solution in healthcare

How much time do you waste playing phone tag with colleagues, patients and staff? How many times are you interrupted by phone calls when caring for patients, or perhaps trying to have a quiet dinner with your family? At the start of each day, how many places and on how many devices do you need to check for messages, alerts, reminders, e-mails, voice mails, faxes, etc.? Did you know that according to a recent study, there's a 70 percent chance when you call someone at work you will get their voicemail? Another study suggests that some workers spend as much as three full working days a year trying to unsuccessfully connect with other people by phone. I suspect that for most physicians, the time sink is even greater.

Nothing is more important to healthcare professionals, or to patients under their care, than seamless communication and collaboration. But as the ways we are able to communicate have expanded, so too has the hassle of trying to managing it all. The answer is unified communications.

With unified communications, all of the ways we communicate and collaborate can be managed with software from the desktop, laptop or mobile device. You will be able to tell at a glance if the person you want to call is available to take your call as well as how and when he or she prefers to be contacted. You'll be able to initiate messaging, phone calls, conference calls, web casts, and even video conversations with the click of a mouse or perhaps a voice command. Intelligent software will monitor your working habits and preferences and expose tools that help you set rules on who may contact you when, where, why and on what device. Unified communications will also save you lots of money, as "long distance" becomes lost from our vernacular. Furthermore, unified communications will meet the needs of a new generation of skilled workers and consumers who gave up the telephone long ago for text messages, e-mails and community chat.

Over the next year, Microsoft and our partners will release compelling devices and solutions that will usher in and enable a new era of seamless communication and collaboration. For those of us who work in healthcare, it can't happen soon enough.

Bill Crounse, MD Healthcare Industry Director Microsoft Healthcare and Life Sciences