Where the Providence, Microsoft ‘hospital of the future’ partnership stands 1 year later: 3 Qs with CIO BJ Moore

Since announcing its strategic alliance to build a high-tech hospital with Microsoft in July 2019, Providence has zeroed in on innovations in patient care delivery, virtual communication tools and artificial intelligence across its Renton, Wash.-based health system. 

When Providence revealed the collaboration, health system CEO Rod Hochman,MD, referred to it as a “hospital of the future,” according to a CNBC report. While still in the project’s early phases at the time, Providence said it planned to adapt an existing facility in Seattle near Microsoft’s headquarters to build the new high-tech hospital. 

The project, however, has a “much broader” focus, Providence Executive Vice President and CIO B.J. Moore told Becker’s Hospital Review.

“While the concept of ‘hospital of the future’ caught so much attention when our strategic alliance was announced a year ago, the reality is that our focus is much broader. From the beginning we defined this within our strategic framework of simplify/modernize/innovate,” Mr. Moore said. “In the innovate space, we are focused on the future of care delivery, a future that has the patient, not the site of care, at the center; with innovations on how care is delivered.”

Since partnering with the tech giant, Microsoft has pushed forward cloud adoption and deployed initiatives such as Microsoft Teams, which has helped employees manage remote work during the pandemic. Here, Mr. Moore discusses some of the project’s key accomplishments over the past year and its future goals. 

Editor’s note: Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and length. 

Question: Where is the high-tech hospital project at today? Is it operational or, if not, when do you plan to open?

B.J. Moore: While the concept of ‘hospital of the future’ caught so much attention when our strategic alliance was announced a year ago, the reality is that our focus is much broader. From the beginning we defined this within our strategic framework of simplify/modernize/innovate. In the innovate space, we are focused on the future of care delivery, a future that has the patient, not the site of care, at the center; with innovations on how care is delivered. For example, around telehealth and home monitoring scenarios, and innovation on the way we enable care providers for greater experience and outcomes. An example emerging from the collaboration with Microsoft is natural language processing and cancer treatment.

We will showcase some of the partnership in an acute care setting, time and location to be determined, but you will see the innovations from the Microsoft strategic alliance in many facets within our health system.

Q: What have been some of the project’s biggest accomplishments over the last year?

BM: Some of our biggest accomplishments include completing the deployment of Microsoft 365 across all our 132,000-plus caregivers in May. This was a huge achievement that was instrumental in allowing us to successfully manage the sudden transition to remote work and suspension of travel for thousands of our caregivers due to COVID-19. Having complete coverage of collaboration and productivity tools could not have been timelier.

The COVID-19 crisis took center stage earlier this year and it strengthened our strategic alliance. Working together we embraced opportunities for fast response and innovation. Examples of this include our symptom assessment chat bot using Microsoft Healthcare Bot service and emergency response and decision-making tools.

The progress we made in Microsoft cloud adoption already yielded substantial benefits in simplifying and modernizing our ecosystem. For example, the work to retire our data centers has helped us identify many applications to be retired, and we have already started to see the benefits of not having to keep upgrading servers and leases. Perhaps more importantly we are now able to deploy and bring solutions to production with much greater agility. An example of this is our machine learning and modeling of personal protective equipment, supplies, hospital beds and COVID-19 trends and predictions.

Q: What are some of your goals for the hospital or what do you hope to accomplish in the next year?

BM: We are looking to further accelerate our efforts to move to the cloud and leverage Azure across the ecosystem. This includes continuing to simplify our ecosystem, rationalizing a large number of applications, modernizing our internal engineering practices and continuing to build and develop our organization and information system culture around cloud computing.

Keep building on the momentum we have with users embracing Microsoft Teams and the Microsoft 365 suite. We, like many others, are undergoing a long-term transformation of the work environment and the way people collaborate. We want to be intentional about how the tools continue enabling best practice scenarios across a number of persons in the administrative and clinical environments.

We will continue to innovate together on building the future of healthcare delivery. This includes areas such as Microsoft Teams in telehealth scenarios, IoT and remote patient monitoring, and other innovations in machine learning, AI and analytics.

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