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Microsoft in Health
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By Dennis Schmuland, Chief Health Strategy Officer, U.S. Health & Life Sciences, Microsoft
Much of this blog is focused on how the current epidemic of consumer disengagement is fueling the medical cost crisis and how important it is for every consumer to think and act like their health is an asset that they own and need to protect. People who live healthier lifestyles are more productive and require less care.
But getting and keeping consumers engaged as active participants in their health is no easy feat. So, in keeping with Microsoft’s commitment to practice what we preach, I wanted to share an innovative program Microsoft has implemented to make it easier for its employees to think less about "getting care" and more about "taking care" into their own hands and taking ownership of their own health.
Each fall, as a foundational component of Microsoft’s wellness program, Microsoft offers a “Know Your Numbers” (a.k.a. KYN) health screening program to employees, spouses, and domestic partners at multiple sites across the country. The service combines a flu shot, health risk assessment, biometric screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, body composition and body mass index, and an optional counseling session with a health coach to build a personal action plan.
One of the main challenges involved discovering how to quickly match an employee’s biometric screening data (completed during registration) with their Health Risk Assessment (HRA) information to create a real-time Wellness Report. The Wellness Report provides a snapshot of employee’s current health status, a “wellness score” and “health age” that they can review with a health coach, as well as recommendations for healthy behaviors and lifestyle modifications to improve their health numbers over time.
Scantron forms, a machine-readable paper used to mark responses to multiple-choice questions, were used for the 2010 KYN program to capture employees’ basic information at check-in time, as well as for their biometric values during the screening. Completing the forms by hand caused delays and resulted in longer wait times for screening appointments, as the paper forms were packaged and shipped manually to then be matched to an employee’s HRA to create the Wellness Report.
“Reflecting on the program, the team determined that an improved electronic experience was needed to avoid errors and inefficiencies common to paper-based processes, such as delays, completion errors, paper handling costs, and data loss,” said Julie Sheehy, director, employee health & wellness benefits at Microsoft Corporation.
Thus, when the Microsoft Benefits team learned that a simple digital pen could be used as a natural user interface (NUI) to capture data the instant it was written – significantly reducing the cost, time and error rate associated with paper forms – they redesigned the process.
Last fall in 2011 in partnership with their screening vendor, LiveHealthier, which also has a HealthVault-compatible health and wellness coaching solution for employees, Microsoft Benefits implemented a digital pen, digitized paper format, and Capturx software from Microsoft’s ISV partner, Adapx, to streamline the way they capture data electronically and enable real-time delivery of the Wellness Report to each employee.
“With this new system, at check-in for the KYN appointment, employees completed a personalized digitized form, and during screenings, nurses wrote down each participant’s biometric results information on the digitized form using the digital pen,” said Sheehy. “This allowed us to automatically capture and store the data.”
After each screening appointment, the data was directly uploaded to Microsoft SharePoint. The health screening vendor was then able to pull the screening data off SharePoint and immediately match the data to the employee’s HRA, producing a Wellness Report that was shared instantly with the employee via the Wellness Portal. This allowed employees to meet with a health coach right after their biometric screening to review their Wellness Reports and develop a Wellness Action Plan on the spot.
But this story gets even better, because the reengineered process opens up several possible future enhancements to make it easier for employees to receive results quickly and act on the recommendations. For example, because the data from a digital pen can automatically be uploaded into SharePoint or Dynamics CRM, both of which can trigger workflows, it's now possible in the future for the health coach, by merely checking a box on the action plan form while they are talking with the employee, to send a text message inviting any at-risk individuals (e.g. those with high cholesterol, blood sugar, or hypertension) to enroll in a care management program by simply responding to a text message.