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3 Lessons From Microsft Build 2018

3 Lessons From Microsft Build 2018

I recently attended the conference in Seattle, along with thousands of “the most innovative minds in tech” – or developers as they are commonly known.

As the p…

I recently attended the Microsoft Build conference in Seattle, along with thousands of “the most innovative minds in tech” – or developers as they are commonly known.

As the premiere tech event in the Microsoft world, there were 350 sessions and a multitude of product announcements. While there are many general recaps of the conference, I am going to focus here on what is important to Simient’s client base: government and health agencies who need rapid, usable frontline solutions built on pervasive technology.

Lesson #1: The new Business Application Platform is win-win

The easiest way to explain this is that Microsoft is separating out the platform from its CRM specific applications. Historically, we have used Microsoft’s Dynamics CRM to create “xRM” solutions – which means “anything” relationship management (not just Customer). At Simient we’ve created everything from patient management and clinical information systems for healthcare clients to teacher registration management systems for education.

But to do this, we had to strip out all the CRM functionality (like leads and opportunities) first, which wasn’t always easy or 100% possible.

Now, Microsoft is separating out the underlying platform, which is called the Common Data Model and providing that for partners and clients to build on top of using PowerApps. For custom developers like us, it’s a huge win. First, customers can buy the platform only, at a much reduced price (less than 50% of full CRM licences) which makes creating a line of business application far more affordable. Second, we don’t have to spend any time hiding or stripping out functionality which is another time and cost win. Third, we can simply start with the basic common data model, then either buy or build the solution components we need. Again, much more efficient – in both time and cost.

Dynamics 365 was already a good solution to create custom frontline applications, but this new development makes it an extremely compelling proposition. Faster, easier, cheaper: these are attributes the market will embrace.

Lesson #2: Apps are now easier

It has been challenging to create apps quickly for a Microsoft Dynamics or SharePoint solution. It usually resulted in a user having to log into Dynamics or SharePoint first, navigate through to the desired area, then use it…not the ideal user experience. Alternatively a completely separate application was coded from scratch

But now, PowerApps is perfect for creating standalone apps for high use processes, such as leave forms or incident reports. An app can be quickly designed in PowerApps, which connects to the Common Data Model or SharePoint for its data. Business process flows can also be easily added using the new workflow product “Flow”. Flow comes with over 220 connectors to external data sources (such as Office, Twitter, Trello, ServiceNow) with more being added daily..

In short, creating business apps has never been easier and this will provide clients with the flexibility to make data capture and integrating business processes much more accessible.

Lesson #3: Microsoft is opening up the covers

Microsoft’s vision is to provide technologies that empower the world to do more. From a technical point of view, this means they are embracing open source thinking – in a big way. Instead of the traditional approach of closing off their technology, they are using and integrating with popular open source solutions and are the single largest contributor to the open source repository, GitHub.

Microsoft are also now building and exposing APIs for their platforms and systems that anyone can call, not just themselves. For example, Microsoft Graph lets you securely connect to Office 365, Windows and the Enterprise , to enable scenarios such as onboarding users and finding meeting times, to existing line of business applications. This means you can now build systems with more automation, and expose that information in your own systems.

Embracing open source thinking is much more than just lip service: it’s moving at rapid speed, much to the delight of the development community.

 

And some final notes

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Some final notes about the conference:

  • It’s a huge conference, held over multiple venues. With up to 12 streams running concurrently, you simply can’t learn about everything and it’s best to choose a couple of focus topics and plan your sessions accordingly.
  • Microsoft’s product managers are listening. One of the most rewarding aspects of this conference was the emphasis on developer feedback straight to Microsoft’s product managers. Not only were they very accessible in person, but there were specific interview sessions available to provide more formal feedback.
  • It’s a spectacle. From the celebration event at the Pop Museum and Gallery to the animal petting zoo, it’s larger and louder than your typical Australian industry event. Taking home a caricature is a case in point!
  • Americans sure do love their Starbucks. While we may have a coffee shop (or more) on every corner, in the States they have a Starbucks on every corner, and the restaurants proudly display they serve Starbucks coffee! Oh, and don’t ask for a Flat White, they don’t know what that means.

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Further resources:

Presentation on PowerApps and Flow

Simient brings technology to the frontline of Australian organisations. At the critical point of service delivery, we make sure frontline staff have the full picture about each client. We’ve worked with many government and private clients to create innovative frontline solutions.

Adrian LaunchburyAdrian Launchbury more

The Outpatient IT Dilemma

The Outpatient IT Dilemma

Australian hospitals are preoccupied with the substantial task of implementing Electronic Medical Record systems, which are sometimes touted as the answer to all IT challenges.

Australian hospitals are preoccupied with the substantial task of implementing Electronic Medical Record systems, which are sometimes touted as the answer to all IT challenges.

But amidst long, complex rollouts that chew up resources and budget, there is one area of hospital oversight that is not usually well-served by the EMR. And that’s specialist outpatient clinics.

From an IT perspective, these clinics are the poor cousins to their inpatient counterparts. Often last in line and fragmented in size and voice, these clinics are typically left to their own devices rather than serviced by a proactive IT strategy.

What this results in is the stuff of IT nightmares. Disparate systems. Home-grown databases. Shadow IT.

The outcomes are even scarier. Multiple versions of patient records. No visibility or coordination across clinics. At best, this delivers a frustrating patient experience. At worst, it creates security and privacy vulnerabilities, while wasting precious IT resources on supporting systems that are going nowhere. And not to mention the operational inefficiencies of scheduling and credentialing without proper systems.

Hospitals need to challenge the commonly-held belief that the EMR will ‘cover everything’ and independently assess the level of support (and its financial viability) for outpatient clinics.

The needs of outpatient clinics

Outpatient clinics need frontline systems that are every bit as robust and efficient as their inpatient counterparts. However due to their small size and fragmented buying power, it does not make sense to purchase a separate system for every clinic. Instead, buying power must be consolidated, along with a cohesive IT strategy that puts clinics onto a common technology platform that is easily tailored and adaptive as needs change.

Outpatient clinics need capability that includes:

  • Core functionality that can be modified to the needs of each clinic, such as scheduling, credentialing and referrals
  • Key data integration to provide connectedness and visibility, with systems such as EMR, pathology, radiology, and patient administration
  • Longitudinal care records for patients across multiple clinics, so that care and progress are easily tracked over time
  • The ability to make simple field changes within the clinic, without relying on IT
  • A patient-centric, enterprise-wide view of resource capacity and capability that enables more efficient use of resources and an improved patient experience

Solving the dilemma

The EMR is designed to solve big problems but is rarely suited to the needs of outpatient clinics – both in terms of capability provided, flexibility to service the individual needs of multiple small clinics, and cost-effectiveness where pockets simply aren’t as deep as other departments.

In short, monolithic EMRs are not the answer.

Neither is everyone doing their own thing.

A middle ground is what’s required.

This “middle ground” is a pervasive technology platform that can be used across clinics. One that brings speed, agility and value, with core clinic capabilities provided from the outset that can easily be modified and adapted to individual needs. One that takes robust care of data, security and privacy. One that allows visibility across clinics, with full coordination of appointments, tests and specialist staff. And one that stops renegade systems from mushrooming out of control, by putting outpatient clinics on the IT front foot.

Simient is a frontline solution specialist. With years of experience in the health sector, we work to bridge the technology gap for outpatient clinics. You can find us at the forthcoming eHealth Expo on June 7 in Brisbane.

John StevensonJohn Stevenson more

Grapes of Wrath vs. AI

Grapes of Wrath vs. AI

What if John Steinbeck was 100 years younger?  Would Grapes of Wrath be retitled Data of Wrath?  Just to recap the story for those like me who said they read it in high school but…

What if John Steinbeck was 100 years younger?  Would Grapes of Wrath be retitled Data of Wrath?  Just to recap the story for those like me who said they read it in high school but really only skimmed it to find relevant quotes to use in the essay.  This story is set in the dustbowl mid west USA 1930s.  Tom Joad is recently released on parole for killing someone with a shovel.  He hitchhikes and then walks to his family home to find it abandoned and the damaged from a tractor having run through it.  He walks to his uncles farm to find the family loading up a truck to move to Beverly - no wait, that's the Beverly Hill Billies.  The Joads were heading for California to pick fruit.  I won't give it all away as it is a riveting story once you get used to the way they speak. 

The reason the Joads had to move is because the drought had meant that they had no income and couldn't pay off their loans to the banks in New York.  The banks resumed the land and forced the tenants off using tractors to push over their homes.  There was a mass exodus to California where there was supposed to be work, but there wasn't.  You can only imagine where the story goes from there. 

So what's the relevance and what has this got to do with AI?  The banks pushed tens of thousands of people off the land in search of work.  Can you imagine banks doing that sort of thing today?  Is AI the modern equivalent of the dirty thirties?  At the moment there is some concern about the advent of AI.  Notable people such as Elon Musk have raised concerns.

 

Elon Musk thinks that computers will beat humans at everything sometime between 2030 and 2040.  What does this mean?  In a 2014 research article by the Pew Research Centre, they surveyed just short of two thousand experts in robotics and AI.  The key findings of this research were:

half of these experts (48 percent) envision a future in which robots and digital agents [will] have displaced significant numbers of both blue- and white-collar workers—with many expressing concern that this will lead to vast increases in income inequality, masses of people who are effectively unemployable, and breakdowns in the social order.

Nice.  This does sound a little ominous.  What I take from this is that 52% of these experts didn't think that it was as bad as all that.  It does, however,  give some weight to the Grapes of Wrath analogy.

I actually have a more optimistic outlook.  While clearly many people more intelligent and qualified than me are thinking the worst, my view is that AI will actually lead to great productivity gains and as such greater prosperity.  It will create new industries that we have yet to envision.  The work that Simient has done to date with AI supports this.  The applications that we have built allow better utilisation of scarce resources.  Enabling in demand professionals such as Ear, Nose and Throat specialists to care for more people.  These applications are not about taking peoples jobs, but about empowering professionals to effectively serve more people.  

There are many opinions on this and it can be a polarizing issue.  Where do you think that this is leading are we heading to Cali to pick fruit, or are things all rosy down on the farm?

John StevensonJohn Stevenson more

Health Innovation in 2018

Health Innovation in 2018

A recent seminar on innovation in the health industry saw three speakers put forward their ideas and experiences about progress and the potholes that lie ahead...

 

Centric…

A recent seminar on innovation in the health industry saw three speakers put forward their ideas and experiences about progress and the potholes that lie ahead...

 

Centricity: One Platform, Any Challenge

Victoria Chalmers, Executive Director of the Health Contact Centre, spoke about the planning, change management and benefits of creating a centralised platform for all HCC’s 15 services. Based on Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Centricity allows staff to see all customer interactions across 600,000 instances of service per year.

 

 

Are You Afraid of Robots? The Emergence of Machine Learning in Health Screening

John Stevenson, Simient’s CEO, spoke of the emergence of machine learning in health screening and examined the trend of applying machine learning to health care settings.

 

From the Practical to the Life Saving

Janet Brimson, Partner at Business Aspect, discussed challenges faced by the health sector and how health clients are using new analytics and information management approaches to address these issues. Janet also talked on how ethics plays a significant influencing role in how this data can be used.

John StevensonJohn Stevenson more

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