Microsoft rolls out more AI-infused healthcare services, software

Microsoft's year-old Healthcare NExT research organization is stepping up its work to make Microsoft's cloud and AI services applicable to health researchers and doctors.

While Amazon and Apple are looking at healthcare from the employee-consumption side, Microsoft is focusing on using its cloud assets to meet the needs of researchers and doctors.

Last February, Microsoft announced it was creating a new healthcare-focused research unit, Healthcare NExT. On February 28, a week ahead of the HIMMS (Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society) medical IT conference, Microsoft is rolling out more healthcare "intelligent health" services and software.

Microsoft is making its Microsoft Genomics service generally available as of today. This service, which runs on Microsoft's Azure cloud, is a precision medicine/genomic-processing service for medical professionals. Microsoft additionally is making generally available as of today its Azure Security and Compliance Blueprint for HIPAA/HITRUST. This guidance document is designed to help health organizations move to Azure while handling sensitive data.

Microsoft also is publishing new developer templates under the "Microsoft 365 Huddle Solution" brand. These templates are for Microsoft Teams and meant to enable health professionals to better use Teams in creating and maintaining their workflows. And the company is working on a research collaboration with UMPC to create a "Project Empower MD" system to reduce the task of note-taking for physicians.

Microsoft made its initial foray into healthcare over a decade ago, but ended up retrenching and selling off most of the health assets it originally acquired. Recently, the company announced it was dropping its HealthVault Insights applications, but is applying lessons learned about increasing patient engagement using machine-learning to other healthcare initiatives, officials said.

While Microsoft continues to operate its HealthVault patient-records system, the focus for the Healthcare NExT organization is first and foremost about applying the huge amounts of cloud processing power and AI smarts to the growing amount of health data out there.

"We make equity investments, we do commercial agreements, but we are very research-focused," said Peter Lee, Corporate Vice President and head of Healthcare NExT "We are not a profit and loss center for Microsoft. This organization was Satya's (CEO Satya Nadella) and Harry's [research chief Harry Shum] idea."

Lee said his ultimate challenge is to harness all of Microsoft's AI products and services and turn them into viable health services. But don't expect Microsoft to use the same tactic to create a Retail NeXT or Insurance NExT research organization. Healthcare got the spotlight because, at least in part, of Microsoft's increasing and very public mission of doing good.


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