New plan’s emphasis on Office 365 and Azure Active Directory designed to improve collaboration with social care sector
The NHS in England and Scotland has made plans to extend the integration of the NHSmail system with Microsoft services in a move to increase the scope for working with organisations outside the system.
NHS Digital, the provider of technology and digital services for the health service, said that later this year NHSmail will be integrated with Microsoft Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) in both countries and Office 365 (O365) in England.
Integration with O365 in Scotland is subject to confirmation by NHS National Services Scotland.
The move will enable users of the secure email system to use their credentials to log onto a range of services.
NHSmail, which is run by Accenture under five-year contracts for each country dating back to 2015, currently makes use of Microsoft Exchange and Skype for Business for audio and video calls, and is confined to NHS employees and organisations commissioned to deliver healthcare services.
The integration is intended to encourage communication with employees from other organisations, notably those providing social care. It amounts to a significant step in the effort to increase collaboration between the sectors.
The first part will be the synchronisation of the NHSmail directory with Azure AD, which is expected to be completed by April. This will be followed by integration with O365 services – such as OneDrive, OneNote and Yammer – which is scheduled to be completed by August.
O365 services will be hosted in the EU or US data centres in line with the recently published guidance on offshoring data and the use of public cloud services. NHSmail Exchange and Skype for Business services will remain outside of the O365 tenant and hosted within NHSmail data centres in England.
The existing national NHSmail service team will continue to provide frontline support for the core NHSmail service and any organisation wishing to use the NHSmail/O365 hybrid.
Neil Bennett, service director for NHS Digital, said: “This synchronisation of NHSmail to Azure AD and integration with O365 is part of our long term vision to bring about greater collaboration across the wider health and care system. It means information can be more readily and securely shared between health and care organisations and teams can collaborate more easily.
“Ultimately it will enable NHS staff to access multiple applications and services using their NHSmail user name and password which makes their job easier. This benefits patients because it makes the NHS more efficient and they can be assured that their confidentiality continues to be strictly maintained.”
Image from psd.scot.nhs.uk, Open Government Licence