With the changes to the US healthcare market due to the Affordable Care Act, United Church Homes had to update their business model almost overnight to accommodate these changes. In addition, there was opportunity to expand into additional long-term care and assisted-care business models to supplement their current assisted-care living facility footprint.
In order to support these changes, the IT Leadership Team completed an assessment of their current IT infrastructure and their existing IT staffing model. They quickly realized that their existing IT infrastructure - Windows Server 2003 and Exchange Server 2003 - needed a significant refresh to support these business model changes, both at the headquarters and at the remote communities, and the upfront capital expense necessary to do this implementation was major issue.
Finally, with their Electronic Medical Record provider moving to a pure
Cloud-based model, the IT team realized that their already over-extended IT team would need to be spending a good amount of time with the patient care staff supporting their questions and issues. The thought of having this team take on a large IT infrastructure upgrade and continue to support this core infrastructure was going to be problematic.
United Church Homes engaged Stratus Innovations Group initially to perform a Cloud Assessment that covered both the technical and financial risks and opportunities. From this, a deployment roadmap was developed that covered providing Office 365 collaboration and communication tools to the entire organization and a plan to migrate the legacy Windows Server 2003 platform.
part of this technical risk assessment, there was a huge
concern around security given the HIPAA requirements of
the organization. To support UCH's HIPAA compliance, the
need was identified for single sign-on to Office 365,
but the current IT infrastructure didn't support the
ability to implement a load-balanced, highly-available
Active Directory Federation Service environment. To fix
this, we first designed and implemented an Active Directory Federation Service environment in Windows Azure via a Windows Azure Virtual Network and Azure Virtual Machines, where all Office 365 federation authentication and authorization communication stays within the Microsoft Cloud datacenters. This provides the additional benefit of not having Office 365 access impacted by a corporate-wide area network outage or internal Active Directory access issue.
Finally, we developed an Exchange 2003 to Exchange Online migration plan, and within a few months UCH had their organization up and running on Office 365.
The biggest positive impact that this solution provided UCH was the amount of additional time that their IT system administrators and helpdesk had available to focus on strategic issues and pressing EMR customer support issues rather than fighting fires with their legacy Exchange 2003 environment. Because of this, they were able to deploy additional collaboration tools to their mobile patient care staff that they couldn't provide previously.
Additionally, with the "internet facing" access model of Office 365, UCH was able to quickly provide Email and other corporate communication access to the 3rd party locations that they didn't directly own, but managed under a fee-based service model. This allowed them to very easily and quickly integrate any other external 3rd party provider into the corporate umbrella, providing a much faster and less expensive business model for corporate M&A activities.
Finally, they now have a highly available ADFS environment for single sign-on to Office 365, with all federation authentication and authorization never leaving the Microsoft Cloud Services datacenter environment, greatly reducing the chance of a potential security breach caused by "man in the middle" network attacks.