As healthcare providers have faced unprecedented workloads (individually and institutionally) around the world, the pandemic response continues to cause seismic shifts in how, where, and when care is provided. Longer-term, it has revealed the need for fundamental shifts across the care continuum. As a physician, I have seen first-hand the challenges of not having the right data, at the right time, in the right format to make informed shared decisions with my patients. These challenges amplify the urgency for trusted partners and solutions to help solve emergent health challenges.
Today we’re taking a big step forward to address these challenges with the general availability of Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare. Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare brings together trusted capabilities to customers and partners that enhance patient engagement, empower health team collaboration, and improve clinical and operational insights. It makes it faster and easier to provide more efficient care and helps to ensure the end-to-end security, compliance, and interoperability of health data.
Innovation and Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare
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That starts with Azure API for FHIR, which enables the rapid exchange of data through Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR®) APIs, backed by a managed platform as a service (PaaS) offering. It makes it easier for anyone working with health data to ingest, manage, and persist protected health information in the cloud. The healthcare industry is rapidly transforming health data to the emerging standard of FHIR®, which enables a robust, extensible data model with standardized semantics and data exchange that enables all systems using FHIR to work together. Transforming your data to FHIR allows you to quickly connect existing data sources such as the electronic health record systems or research databases. FHIR also enables the rapid exchange of data in modern implementations of mobile and web development. Most importantly, FHIR can simplify data ingestion and accelerate development with analytics and Machine Learning tools. The shift from on-premises computing to the cloud in healthcare is one of the five megatrends I spoke about recently and is a one-time event happening in a more compressed period than other industries.
Another key innovation for Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare was born out of a Microsoft Hackathon and launched in 2019, but gained worldwide utilization this year during the pandemic. The Microsoft Health Bot service is an Azure cloud service that empowers healthcare organizations to rapidly build and deploy AI-powered virtual health assistants and chatbots that can be used to enhance their processes, self-service, and cost reduction efforts. The Health Bot comes with built-in healthcare AI services, such as clinical protocols and medical content from trusted industry sources, healthcare templates for rapid design, language understanding models that are tuned to understand medical and clinical terminology, and seamless hand-off to live chat and telehealth when required. The uptake of the Health Bot service has been incredible. Since March 2020, Microsoft’s Health Bot has triaged over 600 million messages and deployed 2,300 COVID-19 bots in 25 countries, to serve more than 50 million users. At a time when call centers and emergency departments were overwhelmed, this bot service has helped many hospital systems, non-government organizations (NGOs), and public health systems, including the US Center for Disease Control, to communicate up-to-date guidance, prioritize care for their most urgent patients, and receive real-time data on people’s interactions with the bot.