Tag Archives: medical

Medline streamlines workflow by automating accounts payable

Medline Industries, a manufacturer and distributor of medical supplies, based in Northfield, Ill., is growing quickly, said Sarah Stokes, director of accounts payable at the company. That means double-digit sales growth year over year, she said, but it also means more paperwork.

“Our biggest challenge is trying to keep up with the volume,” Stokes said.

To help tackle the 2,000 invoices the company receives each day, Medline has turned to optical character recognition (OCR) technology from vendor Abbyy, paired with platforms from several RPA vendors. The combination has gone a long way in automating accounts payable, Stokes said.

Automating accounts payable

Setting up automation for the accounts payable invoice paperwork took around seven months, Stokes said. The accounts payable department first brought in a few RPA vendors, eventually choosing UiPath.

UiPath, a major RPA vendor, provides a bot platform for automating routine tasks. It partners with other vendors, including computer vision and machine learning vendors, to enable customers to imbue their bots with additional skills.

Understanding they needed an OCR vendor as well, the accounts payable team asked the RPA vendors they brought in for recommendations. The vendors, according to Stokes, recommended Abbyy.


A longtime vendor of content capture and document data extraction software, Abbyy maintains partnerships with a number of RPA vendors, Abbyy CEO Ulf Persson said.

Through a suite of intelligent document capturing products, Abbyy can enable RPA users to take “unstructured data or semi-structured data [and turn it] into structured data that can be used in the process automation,” Persson said.

There are literally hundreds of processes in a company that can, or should, undergo automation.
Ulf PerssonCEO, Abbyy

By pairing traditional OCR and document capture technologies with RPA and intelligent content management, Abbyy can touch more markets, Persson said.

“As a capture vendor, you would touch maybe 20% of the automation enterprise. … Now, we can touch 100%,” he said. “That’s tremendously exciting.”

Abbyy works within a range of industries, Persson said, as automation can benefit virtually any company.

“There are literally hundreds of processes in a company that can, or should, undergo automation,” he said.

Saving time

That holds true for Medline. In addition to automating accounts payable invoices, the cash application group is looking at implementing Abbyy, Stokes said. Other divisions of the company also automate processes, she continued, although she couldn’t point to exactly which ones.

Abbyy has been useful, she said, and pairing it with UiPath has saved employees a lot of time. Using automation, only “half of our total head count” works on invoices, she said.

Still, her department did initially face some challenges with Abbyy.

Abbyy CEO Ulf Persson at the Content IQ Summit
Abbyy CEO Ulf Persson speaks at Abbyy’s recent Content IQ Summit.

“Our biggest struggle is we didn’t realize how important the view to the vendor database was,” Stokes said.

Because of the way Abbyy is set up, it needs a clean view of the vendor database. If it sees duplicate vendors, then training batches aren’t understood, she said.

In order to use the platform properly, accounts payable had to identify duplicates and fix them. The process took about three months, she said.

Now, however, Abbyy and UiPath are up and running, and those initial challenges have been ironed out, Stokes said, and adoption of those tools are growing. “It’s getting bigger,” she said.

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How autonomous systems use AI that learns from the world around it

Millions of engineers across industries such as automotive, aerospace, industrial machinery and medical devices have already built models of the systems they work on using MATLAB or Simulink. This new partnership allows users to bring simulation models built using MATLAB and Simulink to Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing platform, enabling unprecedented scalability and making it easier for developers and engineers building autonomous systems.

“Our core interest really comes down to engineering productivity — the ability to succeed at a task in the least amount of time possible,” said Loren Dean, MathWorks senior director of engineering for MATLAB products.  “This partnership allows engineers to stay in a familiar workflow to learn and apply AI without having to do the things that are non-traditional for them, like setting up the infrastructure to run a bunch of simulations at once. They’re shielded from all that.”

By running hundreds or thousands of simulations in parallel in Azure and learning from massive amounts of data at once, deep reinforcement learning algorithms can find optimal solutions to chaotic, real-world control problems that other types of AI still struggle to solve.

It turns out these problems are everywhere, said Gurdeep Pall, Microsoft’s corporate vice president for Business AI. Microsoft received three times more interest than it expected after opening its autonomous systems limited preview program in May.

The companies who have applied to work with Microsoft’s autonomous systems team and partners are looking to develop control systems to intelligently stitch fabric, optimize chemical engineering processes, manufacture durable consumer goods and even process food. The potential goes far beyond robotics or autonomous vehicles, Microsoft says.

“These are the kinds of diverse use cases for autonomous systems that we’re starting to see emerge,” Pall said.  “As customers learn about the capabilities of our toolchain, we’re seeing them apply it in really interesting ways because these control problems exist almost everywhere you look.”

Most customer use cases Microsoft has seen so far involve helping existing employees do their jobs more efficiently, safely or with higher quality, said Mark Hammond, Microsoft general manager for Business AI and the former CEO of the startup Bonsai, which Microsoft acquired last year. As sensors in modern workplaces collect ever more data, it can become difficult for any one operator — such as someone who is guiding a drill bit or calibrating expensive equipment — to track it all. AI tools can process that data and bring the most relevant patterns to that operator’s attention, enabling them to make more informed decisions.

“The journey from automated to autonomous systems is a spectrum of solutions, and very few of the engagements we’re seeing are in that fully autonomous with no humans in the loop zone,” Hammond said. “The vast majority are assistive technologies that work with people.”

Training AI systems in virtual worlds

Traditionally, AI models have often relied on labor-intensive labeled data for training, which works well for many problems but not for those that lack real-world data. Now, Microsoft and partners like MathWorks are expanding the use of AI into more areas such as those that require learning from the three-dimensional physical world around them — through the power of reinforcement learning and simulation.

Engineers have long used simulations to mathematically model the systems they work with in the real world. This allows them to estimate how a particular change in a chemical, manufacturing or industrial process may affect performance, without having to worry about slowing production or putting people or equipment at risk.

Now, those same simulations can be used to train reinforcement learning algorithms to find optimal solutions, Dean said.

“The AI is really augmenting how these traditional systems have worked — it just gives you greater confidence in your design and gives you additional capabilities that either had to be done manually before or were difficult to solve,” Dean said.

Imagine a building engineer whose job is to calibrate all the heating and cooling systems in a large commercial building to keep each room at a comfortable temperature as people stream in and out for meetings and outside weather fluctuates — while using as little energy as possible. That could involve tuning dozens of different parameters and might take many cycles of modeling and measuring changes for that engineer to find the best balance of controls.

With the new Microsoft and MathWorks partnership, that engineering expert could use machine teaching tools to help an AI system focus on the most important dimensions of the problem, set safety limits and figure out how to reward success as the algorithms learn. This allows for greater transparency and trust in how the AI system is making decisions and also helps it work more efficiently than randomly exploring all possibilities.

The engineer could train the AI using models that he or she already developed in MATLAB or Simulink. The simulations can be automatically scaled up in the Azure cloud — which means the engineer doesn’t have to worry about learning how to host and manage computing clusters.

The end result is the building engineer uses AI to zero in on promising solutions much faster — but still uses his or her judgment to decide what works best.

“This partnership really marries the best of MathWorks’ capabilities for modeling and simulation with the best of Microsoft’s capabilities for cloud computing and AI,” Microsoft’s Hammond said.

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Author: Microsoft News Center

CAE’s training simulators make us safer – from the hospitals to the heavens | Transform

The birth was seconds away. The mother rested on her back while a medical student sat at the foot of the bed, blue surgical gloves on her hands – a scene common to delivery rooms everywhere. Except the mom was a manikin, her fetus was a manikin and the student wore Microsoft HoloLens.

Using the device, the student looked at the mother’s abdomen and saw a hologram of the fetus inside the womb before it rotated and descended the birth canal. Then, her mixed-reality training session got tricky.

Suddenly, the baby’s shoulders became stuck inside the mother, a risky complication – but an emergency purposely triggered by a classroom instructor. The student had to act fast. She placed her hands on the tiny manikin and gently freed the shoulders, safely completing another digital delivery.

CAE LucinaAR – the first human-patient simulator augmented with HoloLens – simultaneously delivered another digital lesson. The technology comes from CAE, a Canadian company that offers virtual-to-live training solutions to assess human performance, improving overall safety from health care to civil aviation to defense operations.

A medical student practices delivering a baby with the use of a virtual-to-live patient simulator and Hololens.
A medical student practices delivering a baby with CAE LucinaAR and HoloLens.

“CAE operates in three sectors where the stakes are high, where there’s no room for error and where the people need to be properly trained to be ready for unlikely situations that could lead to catastrophes,” says Dr. Robert Amyot, president of CAE Healthcare, one of CAE’s three business segments.

“On-the-job training is dangerous and costly,” adds Amyot, a cardiologist by trade. “So, we train pilots to make flying safer. We train the forces in our defense and security division to make them more prepared for their missions. And we train clinicians and health care providers to improve patient safety.”

By going digital, each of those training regimens is becoming more precise at pegging and addressing human vulnerabilities, says Marc Parent, the CEO at CAE.

In the realm of aviation, CAE guides pilots to prep for potential airborne adversities by using individualized simulations built with artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things (IoT).

A new pilot trains on a CAE flight simulator.
A new pilot trains on a CAE flight simulator.

“Although it’s the safest mode of transportation in the world, pilots have long been assessed in a subjective way,” Parent says. “But now, by leveraging the data that our simulators are giving us – powered by the cloud – we can give them an objective assessment in real time. That’s invaluable.

“When the pilots go into our simulator, we are able to give them personalized insights into their skills, into how they perform different operational practices. This raises their level,” Parent says. “And practice makes perfect.”

Missouri hospital sued over medical records breach

A hospital in Missouri faces a lawsuit after a medical records breach occurred as a result of an email phishing scam, something that’s difficult to protect against within healthcare organizations, according to a security expert.  

In January, Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., notified 63,049 individuals who were potentially affected by the medical records breach, according to Jake Jacobson, Children’s Mercy director of public relations.

An investigation led by the hospital determined that the mailbox accounts of four of five affected employees had been downloaded by unauthorized individuals. According to the notification, information accessed during the incident varied by individual, but could include information such as medical record number, first and last name, date of birth, gender, age, height, weight, body mass index, admission and discharge date, procedure date, diagnostic and procedure codes, demographic information, clinical information, conditions and diagnosis, and other treatment information and identifying or contact information.

Fight back with email screening tools

Security expert Larry Ponemon said a number of healthcare providers are particularly susceptible to phishing scams because cybersecurity is not their “highest priority” and they often lack a “good governance process” for controlling data access. Ponemon is the founder of Ponemon Institute, which studies data protection and information security.

“It seems like the healthcare industry, healthcare providers [are] the most vulnerable relative to the industries we study,” Ponemon said.

Within the healthcare industry there’s “not really a great technology that could identify a phishing email,” Ponemon said. He noted that implementing employee training and installing email screening tools that scour incoming emails, attachments and embedded URLs to identify potential phishing attacks could go a long way toward keeping such incidents at bay.

It seems like the healthcare industry, healthcare providers [are] the most vulnerable relative to the industries we study.
Larry Ponemonfounder, Ponemon Institute

“A lot of phishing scams I’ve seen have not been all that difficult to see,” Ponemon said. “If you look at the information, read the link, you can guess with about 90% accuracy that basically this is not real and [is] likely to be a phishing email. But people in healthcare are under a lot of pressure, so when they get an email they don’t necessarily stop and check the terms in each email.”

Additionally, Ponemon said healthcare organizations often operate a “flat network,” instead of having layers, meaning when something happens in one device, it can spread very quickly to multiple devices, which he described as a “lateral infection.”

“Malware infections on one system can actually touch hundreds or even thousands of systems in the world of IoT; in healthcare everything is about an IoT device,” Ponemon said. “That’s why it’s easy for bad stuff, malware, phishing scams, to spread quickly.”

Jacobson, with Children’s Mercy, said the hospital has taken steps to protect against further incidents, including implementing additional technical control of multifactor authentication. Additionally, the hospital has installed a call center and informational webpage to provide answers to families who might have been affected and is offering free identify theft protection to those families.

Medical records breaches not new

The lawsuit against Children’s Mercy Hospital was filed by the firm McShane & Brady in July. Attorney Maureen Brady said the firm would like to see medical records breaches stopped.

“It’s very hard because you can’t unring that bell,” Brady said. “Once the information is out, it’s out forever; you can’t get it back … the anxiety and embarrassment and humiliation that goes along with this type of disclosure is astronomical.”

The threat of a medical records breach occurring is not new to the healthcare community. Though 2017 saw fewer massive health data breaches compared to 2016, 5.6 million Americans suffered from a medical records breach, an average of at least one medical records breach per day throughout the year, according to data released last year by Protenus.

In addition to the newly filed lawsuit, Children’s Mercy Hospital has faced other lawsuits in the past for medical records breaches.

Why healthcare APIs will save lives, money and time

Stan Huff, M.D., chief medical informatics officer at Intermountain Healthcare, made a strong case for medical platform interoperability, healthcare APIs and an open source approach to health IT at an Object Management Group conference in Boston on Monday.

IT departments in most industries have long been enthusiastic users of APIs – standard software building blocks that make development and interoperability easier. They’ve also participated in the open source movement, where code is shared, reused and improved upon for the common good.

In the health IT space, however, these concepts have been slower to gain traction, and Apple just recently became the first company to open up its Health Record API to developers. Apple’s API is based on the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) standard, which was created in 2014 and is arguably the most talked about of the healthcare APIs today.

But being talked about is a long way from being implemented, and that, Huff was quick to stress, is the major problem. “FHIR is really easy to implement,” he told a room full of physicians. “It’s had unprecedented support from EHR companies. But it’s young still. We have a vision, but we just need to get there.”

What healthcare APIs can jump-start

The vision is a world where any electronic health record system could communicate with any other system; data could be gathered and mined; and, ultimately, decision engines could be built that could improve patient care, cut costs, reduce medical errors and even help with doctor burnout, Huff said.

To make his point, he shared some stark data. Citing a Johns Hopkins study, Huff said approximately 250,000 people die a year due to medical error, making errors the third-leading cause of death in the U.S. That is five times the amount of people who die in auto accidents, he said.

And then there is the issue of cost, because each EHR system at each hospital needs unique applications created for it. “That’s like saying we need 50 different versions of Yelp for each hospital,” he said. “Our architecture is wrong. It’s set up so that we can’t share what we’ve created. We’re paying an incredible price for software. Each useful app is created or re-created on each platform, and we pay for it.”

To be more specific, Huff said Intermountain, based in Murray, Utah, has developed 150 clinical decision support engines that offer best practices and advice on everything from diabetes to heart health.

“But that 150 really represents the low-hanging fruit,” he said. “We need 5,000 rules or modules, and there’s no scalable path to get there. And there’s no scalable path to pass that information on to community hospitals.”

If we do this right, we could save 100,000 lives a year.
Stan HuffM.D., chief medical informatics officer, Intermountain Healthcare

One large hospital was able to develop 13 of these decision engines in six months, but they’re specific to the EHR in use and would be “cost-prohibitive” to share with other hospitals.

To get started with healthcare APIs and down the path of interoperability, Huff said IT professionals need to ask themselves three questions:

  • What data should be collected?
  • How should the data be modeled?
  • And what does the data mean?

Asking, and then answering, those questions will kick-start the interoperability journey, help decide on the correct healthcare APIs and eventually will lead to sweeping changes in medicine.

“If we do this right, we could save 100,000 lives a year,” he said. “We could go from being right 50% of the time to 80% of the time. And we could get new EHR systems for millions, rather than billions.”

Six ransomware prevention tips for healthcare organizations

In healthcare, medical practices are in the business of treating patients for illness and disease. Some of the…


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conditions healthcare providers encounter can be prevented if a patient takes preventative steps. In a similar fashion, healthcare organizations should follow ransomware prevention tips to combat cyberattacks and data breaches. 

In the on-going fight between cyberattackers and security software firms, the most common casualties are those who don’t employ adequate protections in their systems — from small medical practices that have limited budgets and IT knowledge all the way to large healthcare organizations. With so much at risk for healthcare organizations, IT must implement proactive steps to help mitigate their risks and keep attacks at bay.

Here are six ransomware prevention tips healthcare organizations should include as part of their ongoing security strategy.

Email protections can reduce potential attacks

Small and large organizations should recognize that email is one of the preferred methods cybercriminals use to execute malicious code. This allows attackers to reach as many potential victims as possible by hiding behind phishing attempts and fake emails to persuade recipients to open an attachment. As a result, cyberattackers are able to infect a user’s machine and take control of it and hold their data for ransom. IT must ensure adequate protections and filters are applied at the email level, and users should have limited permissions to network resources to limit damage in the case of successful infections. 

End-user education and awareness

Educating users on how to determine whether an email is safe to open and review its attachment is a critical step to reduce the potential of a successful infection. Unfortunately, cybercriminals have also adopted new methods that allow them to disguise themselves behind email addresses of the recipient’s co-workers and other services to make the email look like it is coming from a trusted source. IT departments must spend more time upfront educating their end users and adopting security campaigns.

Implementing protections at multiple entry points

Protecting against attacks requires organizations to cover multiple fronts from which attackers attempt to infect and gain access to systems. As a result, healthcare organizations must invest in having the proper security tools for the following three areas: email, network environment and endpoint devices. This approach helps create a fence that plays a critical role at stopping hacking and phishing attempts.

A working backup with a tested recovery plan

In the unfortunate event that a user or organization is faced with a successful ransomware infection, one of the best defenses that an organization has is when they are able to successfully recover their data and restore all the affected information successfully. Part of this recovery exercise comes from the requirement for an organization to ensure that they have tested their DR plan to ensure a quick and successful recovery.

Employee advanced threat protection for emails and systems

For IT to feel comfortable that their systems are protected, intelligent systems that can monitor network and user activities 24/7/365 are one of the most recommended ransomware prevention tips. Today IT departments in healthcare are installing tools that offer advanced threat protection, including machine learning that analyzes all activities around a system to identify abnormal activities that could signal an infection or hacking attempt. These systems are also supplementing traditional antivirus tools that primarily rely on signature-based virus definition to detect possible malicious code based on behavior and not signature.

All systems must stay up to date

For a cyberattacker to take control of a victim’s computer, their malicious code must locate a vulnerability and exploit it to execute itself. Targeted systems include the browser, the network firewall, the operating system, smartphone platforms and device firmware. Fortunately, most software vendors are continuously updating their software and ensuring their products are secure. Although there are cases when patching occurs after an initial exploit is discovered by hackers, most companies can quickly react and offer fixes for their vulnerabilities. IT must ensure that all their systems remain up to date when it comes to patches and updates to address any potential vulnerabilities that may exist in their systems.

Investing in end-user training, security tools and continuous system monitoring is becoming the norm for IT across hospitals and other healthcare organizations. With the increasing threats and sophistication of tools used by cybercriminals today, healthcare entities cannot rely solely on legacy antivirus tools and traditional firewalls to keep them protected. The damages from data breaches or infections have serious implications, and organizations can ensure their IT has the funding and support to build their defenses against this threat by following the ransomware prevention tips above.

Dig Deeper on Electronic medical records security and data loss prevention

Radiology AI and deep learning take over RSNA 2017

CHICAGO — As the medical imaging world debates whether machines are supplanting humans, veteran radiology AI thinker Curtis Langlotz, M.D., offered what is becoming a widely held view of the profession’s technology future.

“To the question, will AI replace radiologists, I say the answer is no. But radiologists who do AI will replace radiologists who don’t,” Langlotz, professor of radiology and biomedical informatics at Stanford University School of Medicine, said to a packed hall at the RSNA 2017 conference.

The setting was a scientific panel during the 103rd Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, held at the McCormick Place conference center.

RSNA show vigorous in its second century

RSNA, with more than 54,000 members from around the world, annually stages what is the biggest healthcare conference and exposition on the continent. This year, the event attracted some 50,000 attendees, with nearly half of them medical imaging professionals, and 667 exhibitors — mostly vendors.

In addition to artificial intelligence and various forms of machine learning, RSNA 2017 was more deeply immersed than ever before in value-based imaging, the pursuit of quality over volume, as the U.S. healthcare system moves in that direction.

The RSNA 2017 exposition floor at the McCormick Place conference center in Chicago.
The RSNA 2017 exposition floor at the McCormick Place conference center in Chicago.

Deconstructing PACS

Also as strong as ever were picture archiving and communications systems (PACS) and vendor-neutral archive (VNA) technologies and systems for storing and viewing complex medical images, including the increasingly popular strategy of “deconstructing PACS” — stitching together parts of PACS from various vendors.

But radiology AI and deep learning — a subset of machine learning that uses advanced statistical techniques to enable computers to improve at tasks with experience — were probably the hottest topics at RSNA 2017.

Indeed, Langlotz’s session — and dozens of other panels on AI, deep learning and machine learning in radiology and other imaging-intensive specialties — drew overflow crowds.

Radiology AI excitement and reality

To the question, will AI replace radiologists, I say the answer is no. But radiologists who do AI will replace radiologists who don’t.
Curtis LanglotzM.D., professor of radiology and biomedical informatics at Stanford University School of Medicine

“We’re definitely right in the eye of the storm of the hype cycle,” Rasu Shrestha, M.D., chief innovation officer at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, told SearchHealthIT on the busy “technical exhibition,” or show, floor. “Having said that, that hype is being driven by an immense amount of hope. Could AI and machine learning solve for the complexities of healthcare?”

Langlotz acknowledged that radiology AI has already been through a number of hype-bust cycles in recent decades, but his work and that of colleagues at the Mayo Clinic and The Ohio State University, among others, shows that AI and machine learning have made dramatic progress.

Luciano Prevedello, M.D., division chief for medical imaging informatics at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, said at the same deep learning session that “from 2014 to 2015 is when the algorithms started surpassing the human ability to classify” medical image data.

Experts say AI can aid imaging now

The radiology AI and deep learning experts said the software technologies, which require supercomputer-level computing power, can help radiologists and other imaging professionals on a practical basis.

For example, today, AI and deep learning can help physicians more efficiently produce images, improve quality of images, triage and classify images, serve in computer-aided detection of medical problems, and perform automated report drafting, Langlotz said.

As for value-based imaging, one radiology IT expert, Jim Whitfill, M.D., chief medical officer at Innovation Care Partners, a physician-led accountable care organization in Scottsdale, Ariz., said radiologists have opportunities to benefit financially from value-based care if they take on financial risk as ACOs do.

Value-based care and imaging not going away

During a panel on ACOs and value-based care, Whitfill noted that despite recent moves by the administration of President Donald Trump to trim several value-based care programs, federal healthcare officials are still behind the healthcare reimbursement approach, which Whitfill said has firm supporters.

“It’s absolutely critical that radiologists bring their talent around leadership, information technology and the larger healthcare system to bear as organizations begin to make this shift” toward value-based care, Whitfill said.

In an interview, Whitfill said one of the biggest technological advances in medical imaging that will help in the move toward value-based area is enterprise imaging.

“Historically we’ve been very focused on radiology in the PACS system,” Whitfill said. “But now, organizations are not only adding cardiology images, but also ophthalmology images, dermatology images and others, so we’re seeing a revolution in terms of the imaging platforms moving all these images into one place.”

By aligning sales and marketing, Mizuho OSI could sell faster

SAN FRANCISCO — To take on larger competitors with more resources, medical equipment manufacturer Mizuho OSI had to create a faster track from lead generation to sales.

To work smarter and faster to identify leads and close sales, the Union City, Calif., company broke down its internal silos, deciding that aligning sales and marketing departments would be its best bet.

“We had a gap in collaboration,” said Greg Neukirch, vice president of sales and marketing at Mizuho OSI, during a session at Dreamforce 2017 this week. “We needed to be smarter and faster and improve our customer experience beyond what we did in the past.”

Neukirch added that the company did extensive research to see which software tools could aid in aligning sales and marketing. It ultimately chose Salesforce for CRM and Salesforce Pardot for marketing automation.

“We had a sales team wanting more and a marketing team trying to give more, and we looked at how we could leverage Salesforce and Pardot to close the gap between those two functions,” Neukirch said.

Mizuho OSI adopted Salesforce in February 2016 and Pardot a year later, working to ensure close collaboration between the sales and marketing departments.

Bringing sales, marketing together

We had a sales team wanting more and a marketing team trying to give more, and we looked at how we could leverage Salesforce and Pardot to close the gap.
Greg Neukirchvice president of sales and marketing, Mizuho OSI

Breaking down internal silos for businesses is a common problem, because sales and marketing departments have historically had different objectives. But as consumers have become more educated through the buying process, aligning sales and marketing is a strategy that can bring a company more customers — it’s not an easy process, however.

“There was skepticism in our sales department,” Neukirch said. “They didn’t know the products or understand why they needed to do something different. But it was up to us to help communicate that value.”

New Salesforce Sales Cloud features are designed to make it easier for customers to better align sales and marketing. With the Lightning Data feature, for example, companies can discover and import new potential customers, according to Brooke Lane, director of product management for Sales Cloud.

“In today’s setting, we want to quickly close deals and also better understand customers,” Lane said. “With [the new feature] Campaign Management, it can help you show the impact of marketing activities on the sales pipeline. We want to continue bridging Salesforce and Pardot so you’re not troubled with tasks.”

Addressing implementation challenges

Mizuho OSI’s transition to a more efficient, modern customer journey — one that shortened the time for a prospect to become a customer — hasn’t come without challenges.

“Sales can’t do things on its own,” said Chris Lisle, director of North American sales at Mizuho OSI. “But the biggest hurdle was getting sales to adopt a new tool.”

Mizuho OSI ran into some hurdles during the implementation — mainly the time it takes to successfully change how the organization is run.

“We took time to identify the problems we wanted to solve — mainly that our customer journey was outdated,” said Kevin McCallum, director of marketing at Mizuho OSI. “We needed an aggressive timeline for our deployment, but however long you think it’ll take, it takes longer than that.”

But by aligning sales and marketing departments at the start of the project, Mizuho OSI was able to start modernizing its customer journey.

“Sales had full visibility with what we were doing and what we were working on and helped through the journey,” McCallum said.

Neukirch agreed, calling the alignment essential.

“To get that collaboration and see the departments come together, we were able to move faster,” Neukirch said.

And while the company is still aligning sales and marketing, it has seen anecdotal benefits of the change.

“What we did in the last nine months exceeded our expectations,” Neukirch said. “We were following that vision and executing on the deliverables and making sure we kept focus with how the customer could interact with us better and faster, so we’d have the opportunity to outpace the folks we’re in market against.”

Learn how your nonprofit can leverage technology for greater impact – Microsoft on the Issues

A refugee receives a medical checkup at a clinic in Uganda
A refugee receives a medical checkup at a clinic in Uganda. Thanks to its cloud-powered app, Medical Teams International can now upload patient notes from this visit, compile it with other patient data, and analyze it for trends that could indicate an upcoming outbreak.

The demands on nonprofits are perhaps greater today than ever. That’s why, in early 2016, Microsoft Philanthropies committed to donating $1 billion in cloud computing resources, over three years, to help 70,000 nonprofit organizations digitally scale their impact and serve the public good. Today, we’re proud to share that nonprofit demand for cloud solutions has dramatically exceeded our expectations. We have reached our original goal a year early and donated cloud services to more than 90,000 nonprofits.

In a moment, I’ll explain how we’re going to triple the number of nonprofits we reach with the transformational power of the cloud, to more than 300,000, over the next three years. We will do that because we want to build on the inspiring work nonprofits have done, using technology in innovative ways, over the past 18 months. Medical Teams International (MTI) is a great example. In Uganda, which faces one of the worst refugee crises in the world today, MTI provides medical care to 1 million patients a year. Its staff used to rely on paper records. But since its care providers generate about 10 million medical records each year, it was nearly impossible for the nonprofit’s healthcare professionals to sort through mountains of paper to quickly find potentially lifesaving trends in the data.

“When I found out that it took six or seven weeks to get information about the services provided at the healthcare clinics, I was really amazed,” said Patrick Taylor, who until his recent retirement directed IT for Medical Teams International.

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Today, MTI uses a new app, built on Azure donated by Microsoft Philanthropies, to revolutionize the way it works. The app, designed by Cambia Health Solutions, has dramatically increased the speed and accuracy of diagnosis and treatment. “When we create a system that allows a doctor to move through patients more quickly, to provide better care, we’re honoring the dignity of the people who are coming and needing care,” Taylor says.  Perhaps even more important, health-care workers can now identify and stop infectious diseases like malaria before they become outbreaks.

We’re inspired by these kinds of stories, as they demonstrate the potential of technology to help transform how nonprofits pursue their missions and drive impact. As a result, we are working to help more nonprofits around the world more fully leverage the power of the cloud. Too many nonprofits have been left behind in the digital revolution that’s reshaping business and society. According to a 2017 Digital NGO Member Survey by NetHope, most nongovernmental organizations reported they do not have a comprehensive digital strategy. Many have a strong desire to adopt the latest technology, but struggle to envision, design and deploy technology to optimize their missions. Nearly half of nonprofits say their infrastructure is barely keeping up.

As an industry, we can help nonprofits digitally transform to raise funds, improve productivity, accelerate innovation and ultimately have a greater impact on the world’s most pressing issues. That’s why we’re announcing the formation of Microsoft’s Technology for Social Impact group, dedicated to serving the world’s nonprofit organizations. This new team will build the kind of robust ecosystem that today works so well for businesses, to help nonprofits move to the cloud and provide the support they need. We will continue to donate and discount cloud services for nonprofits. And today, we are sharing details of two new offers to bring value to the nonprofit community:

  • Microsoft 365 for Nonprofits, a complete, intelligent solution, including Office 365, Windows 10, and Enterprise Mobility + Security, that will empower nonprofits to be more creative and collaborate more easily. In a world where cyberattacks challenge organizations and place their beneficiaries at risk, Microsoft 365 offers a comprehensive shield through identity and access management, and information and threat protection.
  • Discounts on Surface Books and Surface Pros. Nonprofits deserve devices that will help them unlock the true potential of their people and teams, and improve the impact they have in the world. Surface devices bring the best of Office 365 to life and are designed to help people unlock their creativity and do more, through power, performance and unmatched inking. Now every nonprofit can more easily access the best of Office 365 and Windows 10, from inking, to biometrics to 3D experiences, and help improve and impact the lives of others. Microsoft Stores will offer 10 percent off on Surface and discounts will also be available through Surface channel partners.

This is only the beginning. In coming months, we will build upon these new offers, and on our longstanding commitment to nonprofits. We will engage with startups and incubators to create a pipeline of innovation for nonprofits, and help enable these technology professionals to build solutions that meet nonprofits’ unique needs. We will help build the kind of ecosystem that today works well for businesses — a community of providers that will distribute cloud services and deliver support and migration services for nonprofits. Together, we will help nonprofits raise more money, increase efficiencies and deliver the services on which their beneficiaries depend.

More details about these offers, and a new white paper that provides nonprofits with concrete steps to begin digitally transforming their work, can be found on our new Nonprofits website.

As part of Microsoft’s commitment to donate $1 billion in cloud services, since 2016, Azure for Research has donated cloud services to researchers working on projects at 700 universities around the world. Azure for Research today published a video about one of those projects, at the University of Southampton, U.K.

Tags: Microsoft Cloud, Microsoft Philanthropies, nonprofits