Microsoft expands healthcare cloud strategy with new solutions and capabilities

Microsoft Corp. announced advancements in cloud technologies for healthcare and life sciences with the general availability of Azure Health Data Services and updates to Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare. Combined with the recent close of its acquisition of Nuance Communications, Microsoft is uniquely positioned to amplify an organization’s ability to help others by leveraging trusted AI to address the biggest challenges transforming the future of healthcare for all.

The health industry has undergone a rapid digital transformation over the past two years. Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare launched in September 2020 to address the health industry’s challenges — from reducing clinician burnout, delivering more personalized experiences for patients, and enabling health data interoperability. With today’s announcements, Microsoft continues to deliver on its healthcare strategy with solutions that help enhance patient engagement and clinician experiences, empower health team collaboration, and improve clinical and operational insights. Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare threads together innovative solutions from across the company to deliver a powerful, integrated, comprehensive cloud offering.

“The past two years have starkly revealed the pressing challenges facing healthcare and life sciences across the globe,” said Tom McGuinness, corporate vice president, Global Healthcare & Life Sciences, Microsoft. “At a time when healthcare systems are strained to capacity and researchers are racing against the clock, we believe that data and AI hold the keys to a new world of health and discovery for patients, clinicians, researchers and administrators. Microsoft is bringing together the solutions the industry needs in a cohesive way.”

Azure Health Data Services: Interoperability to drive better patient outcomes and clinical advances

The health industry generates an overwhelming amount of data, much of which is unstructured and inaccessible. Oftentimes this data sits in silos and is not used to its full potential. Within that data lies the power to deliver better patient care and outcomes, further clinical advances, and accelerate research breakthroughs. The key to unlocking the data is interoperability across the entire health ecosystem. Microsoft took the first step to address health data interoperability with Azure API for FHIR in 2019. Today the company revealed the next evolution of that journey — announcing general availability of Azure Health Data Services.

Azure Health Data Services is purpose-built for protected health information (PHI) and brings together diverse datasets — like clinical, imaging and streaming data from medical devices — in the cloud using global interoperability standards of Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR®) and Digital Imaging Communications in Medicine (DICOM). Azure Health Data Services is the only generally available solution of its kind to ingest, manage and transform a combination of clinical, imaging and medtech data. While other solutions exist for clinical and imaging data, Azure Health Data Services provides the most holistic view of the patient by unifying all three types of health data.

With Azure Health Data Services, metadata from medical images and medical devices can be read alongside clinical information, yielding more powerful results when a provider or researcher searches and queries patient information. The service also features a suite of tools that supports the de-identification and connection of data for compute, analytics and more — in a way that enables a meaningful impact on medicine and patient care. Azure Health Data Services includes the following features:

  • Support for secure PHI exchange in the cloud for structured, unstructured, imaging and medtech data using global interoperability standards like FHIR and DICOM.
  • A suite of healthcare APIs that securely brings health data to the cloud and persists it within a compliance boundary in Azure.
  • The ability to enable management, de-identification, event notification and transformation of data for downstream use.
  • Connection of PHI data to powerful technology in the Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare ecosystem, such as Synapse for deep analytics and AI development, Power BI for data visualization, or Microsoft Teams and Dynamics 365 for care team collaboration and improving patient engagement.

“There are several areas where cloud technology like Azure Health Data Services can help enhance healthcare. I believe it will play a critical role between various systems, allowing us to take data from health records and other data sources and combine it together in a centralized place where it can be used to inform and deliver patient-centric care,” said Matthew Kull, chief information officer, Cleveland Clinic. “It also can enable real-time complex deep learning — by normalizing data from different systems in a way that allows complex algorithmic analyses to occur via AI or ML — and integrate research-based insights back into a clinical workflow.”

The Azure Health Data Services are part of Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare, which is built for enterprise scale with Azure’s foundation of trust and security, providing all the benefits of Microsoft’s global footprint and commitment to open interoperability standards. Azure Health Data Services supports an organization’s HIPAA compliance, and data is managed according to applicable regulations, with certifications for ISO, HITRUST, FedRAMP and SOC.

Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare: Enhancing patient experiences and health team collaboration

Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare provides trusted and integrated capabilities that make it easier for organizations to create personalized patient experiences, give health teams connected collaboration tools, and adopt data standards important to healthcare.

Today, Microsoft announced several updates and new features that further strengthen Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare. The improvements are designed to transform the healthcare journey, using AI to give full visibility into data, reduce provider administrative burden, boost productivity for care teams on the frontline, increase workflow automation that can improve quality of care, reduce clinician burnout, and deliver better care faster and at a lower cost. New features that enhance patient and clinician experiences include:

  • New features in Microsoft Teams for virtual appointments, including the ability for patients to request on-demand appointments with their provider and new analytics capabilities that give providers key insights into the performance of virtual appointments. Teams also includes a new device tester that lets patients test their hardware settings before their virtual appointment, allowing the patient and provider to focus on the appointment instead of managing tech challenges. Learn more about additional features in Teams.
  • Enhanced clinical workflow integrations in Teams, including the general availability of the Microsoft Teams EHR connector for Cerner (a Cerner-validated application), which enables clinicians to launch virtual appointments and consult with other providers in Teams directly from their health record system. Additionally, the Teladoc app for Teams is now generally available, which brings the Teladoc Health Solo platform directly into Teams and makes it easier for healthcare workers to manage patient engagement across the care continuum.
  • Enhancements to Azure Health Bot templates, enabling organizations to quickly develop scenarios for self-reporting quality-of-life measurements and chronic condition management through virtual agents.
  • Updates to the Patient View, which provides insights into demographic and clinical patient informationThis update enables integration to Power Apps — allowing providers to easily customize the view for their own care scenarios.
  • A preview of the new Patient Insights capability, which enable care managers, patient representatives, outreach specialists and population health analysts to efficiently deliver and capture useful patient insights. Analytics from patient insights can potentially help organizations improve clinical processes and care management experiences.

Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare: Improving clinical and operational insights

Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare also introduces new features that improve clinical and operational insights, such as Text Analytics for health structuring to FHIR. Text Analytics for health enables healthcare organization to process and extract insights from unstructured medical data. This new feature transforms unstructured clinical documents into FHIR resource bundles to accelerate insights and supercharge interoperability. Microsoft is the first cloud provider to allow customers to formalize their natural language processing output as bundles of interconnected hierarchical FHIR resources, in adherence with the U.S. Core standards.

Get a deeper look at Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare’s new features by reading the full blog.

Microsoft and Nuance: Better together

Microsoft recently announced the completion of its acquisition of Nuance Communications, a leader in conversational AI and ambient solutions. As a single organization, Microsoft and Nuance are uniquely positioned to amplify an organization’s ability to help others by leveraging trusted AI to address the healthcare industry’s most pressing needs.

The scale, security and power of Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare and Azure Health Data Services’ strong cloud foundation for managing data, combined with Nuance’s deep domain expertise, give customers access to the broadest and deepest set of advanced AI solutions that will help drive better decision-making, create more meaningful connections and produce tangible outcomes.

Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

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