Founded in 1893 by the first public health nurse in the United States, Visiting Nurse Service of New York (VNSNY) is now the largest not-for-profit home- and community-based healthcare organization in the country, with 5,000 employees. Its various programs provide expert home care services, private care services, hospice and palliative care, community programs, a research center, and health plans.
VNSNY wanted a more integrated, manageable IT environment to support its varied programs and job roles, which include nurses, rehabilitation therapists, and home health aides. Its patients would benefit from a more inclusive online presence too, as the domain name of its website, VNSNYHomeCare.com, did not reflect the range of its services.
Cloud Technologies to Support Personalized Care
Secure, reliable mobile solutions are vital to VNSNY. For example, clinicians use the custom software as a service (SaaS) app Patient Care Records Suite (PCRS) during every shift. But for every app they used, clinicians created separate identities, requiring them to enter (and remember) several usernames and passwords every day. Forgotten or expired passwords meant time spent calling the help desk, and if internet connectivity was not reliable at a patient’s home, it slowed clinicians’ ability to access resources and provide proper care.
The organization was using multiple SaaS technologies and managing the associated vendors, services, and licensing agreements had become time-consuming and costly. VNSNY considered other solutions, but Ashish Sharma, Senior Systems Consultant at VNSNY, thought it made more sense to standardize and consolidate with Microsoft technologies. Thousands of clinicians were already using Microsoft Office 365 products and would not need training on those services.
In May 2016, VNSNY chose to standardize on Office 365 and Enterprise Mobility + Security for all roles and move its site to a new domain. But the organization had limited IT staff, most of whom were needed to maintain the current environment. VNSNY had thousands of mailboxes to migrate—many of them inactive, and all associated with subscriptions based on the and domain. To take on a project of this size and complexity, the organization needed assistance. The Microsoft account team suggested the Microsoft FastTrack customer-success service, included with cloud services like Office 365 and Azure.
Enlisting Migration Support
As a leading Microsoft FastTrack partner, SADA Systems was contracted to deliver migration services and provide ongoing support.
To create a migration roadmap, the SADA team evaluated the IT infrastructure at VNSNY, which included a reverse proxy server, third-party software, and IBM mainframe computers. As the project unfolded, VNSNY and SADA teams worked together to meet various requirements, from Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) standards to vital record specifications for IBM mainframe tape management.
To move to a new domain name and tenancy in Azure, VNSNY had to migrate 12,000 active user accounts and 8,000 mailboxes. To synchronize thousands of users and accounts across the old and new domains, SADA Senior Consultants helped the organization create Office 365 scripts to automate licensing and account cleanup. They also assisted in single sign-on (SSO), and multi-factor authentication with Azure Active Directory.
To avoid affecting clinicians’ use of the PCRS app, mailbox migrations had to occur after 9:00 PM, when the last shifts ended. The SADA team helped VNSNY develop a strategy for migrating mailboxes in a timely way without affecting app. Sharma says, “FastTrack helped determine which batch of mailboxes to move and when based on our requirements. Whenever we had a support question, SADA consultants responded within a couple of hours and stayed on the phone until the issue was resolved.
Meeting Rigorous HIPAA-compliant Security Standards
The SADA team also helped VNSNY ensure that security remained a priority. SADA proposed a way to integrate the PCRS app with Office 365 while still meeting HIPAA security requirements. Clinicians’ mobile phones were not company issued or domain-joined, so VNSNY had been storing user identities in Identity Manager and using JSON Web Tokens to authenticate anyone accessing the app features. The team suggested using cloud-based user identity management service Azure Active Directory Connect, delivered through the app store in Office 365, to manage identities.
The final project phase, still underway as of December 2017, involves setting up Microsoft Enterprise Mobility + Security identity management, mobile device management, and virtualization.
Support and Services that Save Time and Money
The move from on-premises Exchange Server to Exchange Online saves VNSNY IT staff two hours a day in system maintenance. Sharma reports that with inclusive Office 365 services, VNSNY has consolidated vendors. “Before, we used unrelated products, and it cost more to maintain separate vendors and training for each,” he says. “Office 365 includes SSO, video conferencing, tech support, auditing, and more. It’s a single platform with one provider, offering cost savings and convenience.”
Sharma estimates that working with FastTrack and SADA saved VNSNY several months, noting that past vendors had taken almost a year just for project planning and design. “Just to research and select the right technologies and licensing, while keeping up with our maintenance tasks, would have taken my team about two months. But in a very short time, FastTrack exposed us to the new technology, with guidance on how to use it,” he says.
Furthermore, FastTrack materials and support helped VNSNY IT staff expand their knowledge. “Technical knowledge sharing from FastTrack doubled our skills, so we can manage and support the solutions ourselves going forward. The FastTrack Team is highly experienced with the absolute latest capabilities,” says Sharma.
He concludes, “They quickly found a customized way to get more value out of the products we have while meeting rigorous security standards. FastTrack is a one-stop shop for deploying Microsoft cloud solutions quickly and getting the most value out of them. We greatly appreciate their help and expertise.“
If you’d like to learn more about Microsoft solutions and SADA services, send us a note and we’d be happy to connect you with one of our solutions experts.