Healthcare Technology Innovator Accelerates Diabetes Prevention in the Cloud

July 27, 2018 / in Coverage / by admin

Microsoft Customer Stories

July 25, 2018

Solera Health is successfully fighting type 2 diabetes. Its secret? Using Microsoft Office 365 to give its distributed workforce the power to easily communicate and collaborate with health plans, diabetes prevention programs, and patients in a highly secure way. The company uses Microsoft Azure and Power BI to analyze member data, identify those at risk for type 2 diabetes, and connect them with best-fit diabetes prevention programs (DPP). Everyone wins, from patients enjoying healthier lives to health plans with lower costs.

The dedicated people at Solera Health believe that no one has to fall prey to chronic illnesses, and they’ve taken aim at type 2 diabetes. To help the US population embrace the healthy lifestyle choices that can help them avoid the disease, the Phoenix, Arizona–based integrated benefit network has created an innovative solution: a comprehensive network connecting health plans, healthcare providers, diabetes prevention programs (DPPs), and patients. The result? Happier, healthier individuals and communities all over the United States, lower reimbursement costs for insurers, and falling healthcare expenditures overall. Their catalyst for the innovative solution was Microsoft Office 365 and Microsoft Azure.

Forging a new path for preventative care

According to the American Diabetes Association, diabetes is the seventh-leading cause of death in the United States, costing the country $245 billion every year. Solera Health Chief Executive Officer Brenda Schmidt wanted to change those grim statistics. She saw a gap between the highly effective community prevention organizations that typically deliver low-cost, high-value outcomes and the insurers that aim to connect patients with best-fit prevention programs. Drawing on her deep background in healthcare IT, in 2015 she formed Solera Health, a service that connects insurers, patients, and community-based prevention programs. Now a company of more than 100 workers, Solera Health is disrupting healthcare in the best possible way, solving the need for aggregating and analyzing patient data and connecting patients to the most effective resources with its groundbreaking network platform.

Approximately 1,700 DPP organizations dot the US map, covering a patchwork of geographies and populations. Health plans recognize that prevention is key to better serving patients and lowering healthcare costs. But identifying patients at risk and connecting them with the DPP that meets each patient’s needs and preferences in their geographic area is complex and expensive. Community-based, nonclinical diabetes prevention programs frequently represent the most effective options for helping people make the changes they need to avoid chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes. However, these organizations are historically funded through grants and donations and are ill-equipped to meet the data security requirements necessary to obtain reimbursement from health plans. Enter Solera Health, with its safeguarded data aggregation platform and extensive DPP network—a new curated marketplace for diabetes prevention services.

Crafting a springboard for a modern workplace

For Solera Health Vice President of Technology Dan Hurley, creating a disruptive innovation begins with a leading-edge paradigm for the company’s workers. “We foster an agile, flexible culture,” he says. “At Solera, it doesn’t matter where we work. That’s the whole point of our Office 365 and Azure adoption.” This cloud-based environment involves such easy deployment and management that Hurley’s 35-person IT team has no trouble supporting nationally distributed employees. Everyone has a Microsoft Surface device and an Office 365 license. Hurley finds the flexibility of Microsoft licensing perfect for a rapidly growing startup. “We grew very fast,” he says. “The Microsoft pay-as-you-go approach is the best licensing model I have ever experienced in my 30-plus years in IT.”

Employees use Office 365 productivity tools like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint along with Skype for Business to work together online with colleagues all over the country. Hurley created a new approach for external collaboration with insurers and DPPs using the Phone System feature in Office 365 (Cloud PBX) and Skype for Business for private branch exchange (PBX) capabilities. Materials are easily shared visually in real time during Skype for Business calls, and customer contact data is contained within the Solera ecosystem. “We don’t use office phones anymore,” he says. “Instead, we assign everyone on the Solera team a Cloud PBX number anywhere in the country. If any customer-facing staff members leave Solera, we retain all their customer contact data.”

The company even designed the physical office space at its headquarters to promote collaboration. Rather than rows of cubicles and desks, clusters of tables form landing spaces for staff members who move fluidly among teams as their collaborative needs dictate. A network of remote marketing reps equipped with the same mobility-ready Surface devices are scattered across the United States. “Our modern physical and virtual workspaces support our ethos of cross-team collaboration,” says Hurley. “Finance people interface with our development team, our own marketing people, and our network partners. By using Office 365 cloud-based tools to work in a connected way, we’re constantly improving our product and processes.”

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Supporting the enterprise with highly secure cloud technology

Solera opted for a cloud-based infrastructure right from its beginning. Hurley sees a plethora of benefits from that approach: automated backups, redundancy, and high-availability network performance. Most important, in an industry where security is king, Solera has earned HITRUST certification, the highest security qualification possible for US healthcare organizations and the desired prescriptive framework for managing the security requirements of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). “If we’d been a traditional on-premises organization, it would have taken us almost an entire year to achieve HITRUST certification,” says Hurley. “And it would have meant extensive onsite inspections. But having our data in the Microsoft cloud gave us instant credibility—regulators know that our data is segregated from that of other companies and that it’s fully backed up and highly secured.”

Hurley’s team uses Microsoft Power BI as a multipurpose tool, collecting infrastructure reporting to monitor overall system health for proactive evaluation and action. The team drives critical goals by using data from insurers with ArcGIS Maps for Power BI to create compelling visualizations and sharpen the focus on locations with populations most vulnerable to diabetes. “We absolutely love the heat maps we get with ArcGIS Maps for Power BI. We can layer the prevention offerings from our network providers on top of these maps,” says Hurley. “After only two years, we’re seeing phenomenal success with all the high-risk populations, particularly the senior demographic, because our data and insights help connect those people with the diabetes care programs they need. Also, now that health plans use us to safeguard patient information, we can match more people with prevention programs. People tell us that they’re losing 15 to 20 pounds—in some cases, even more—keeping up with their grandchildren, and going places they never could before, because they’re fitter and healthier.”

Working toward a bright future

Solera plans to extend its diabetes prevention work. Core components of a healthy lifestyle—exercise, nutrition, sleep, and stress reduction—factor into prevention of other chronic conditions. Moreover, the diabetes prevention programs Solera amplifies can be also used to mitigate the progress of the disease in those who already have it. Solera’s cloud-based approach has won trust from the traditionally cautious healthcare insurance industry. “Every health plan we contract with performs a comprehensive risk assessment of Solera,” says Hurley. “The industry is still adjusting to our 100 percent cloud-based approach. It’s not what they’re used to, but they’re learning that with Office 365 and Azure, our data is safer than it would be if we used an on-premises datacenter.”

“We grew very fast. The Microsoft pay-as-you-go approach is the best licensing model I have ever experienced in my 30-plus years in IT.”

Dan Hurley: Vice President of Technology
Solera Health

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