Technology Record - Issue 28: Spring 2023

160 FEATURE “One of the first major healthcare trends was the move from paper to digital through the adoption of EHRs,” says Rhew. “Another was in technologies that patients could use while at home, such as mobile phone applications, wearables and virtual care solutions.” However, today the focus has progressed to data, particularly regarding storage and computing in the cloud, interoperability, AI and ML, and data collaboration. Microsoft has doubled down on each of these areas to deliver new experiences to its partners and customers. “Massive amounts of data can be generated from genomic sequences, EHR data and remote monitoring devices, which require upgraded storage and computing capabilities,” says Rhew. “Many healthcare organisations are now moving their data from on-premises data centres to the cloud, which also improves cost-efficiency as they only pay for what they use. “Our high-performance computer capabilities and partnership with AI and computing company NVIDIA – which is focused on building a supercomputer and AI platform on Azure – will enable this transition.” In the area of interoperability, Microsoft has built Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare with FHIR-enabled data at its core. “This allows data to flow between Microsoft platforms and facilitates interoperability with EHRs,” says Rhew. “The result is that interoperability opens up new and exciting clinical use cases in patient engagement, clinical and operational insights, clinician experiences and healthcare team collaboration.” AI in healthcare is another key focus area for Microsoft, particularly highlighted by its $19.7 billion acquisition of Nuance. The firm is well-known for its voice AI capabilities, advanced imaging AI and image-sharing capabilities, and decades-long experience integrating healthcare data into clinical workflows in the EHR. Microsoft continues to advance its AI and ML capabilities with solutions like Text Analytics for Health. “This powerful technology allows a computer – instead of a human – to rapidly search multiple data sets, read and extract data from text passages, and synthesise information in real time,” says Rhew. “One compelling use case involves clinical trials matching, helping patients to identify which clinical trials are most appropriate for their condition.” Partnerships have also been key for Microsoft to facilitate effective data collaboration. It has joined forces with healthcare data consortium Truveta and biomedical research platform Terra to assist researchers, clinicians and industry partners in the development and validation of AI algorithms. The power of partnership Microsoft has partnered with many organisations to transform its ability to engage with patients; develop, validate and apply AI and ML in research and clinical settings; and transform the delivery of healthcare. However, there is one public-private partnership that Rhew believes is simple in concept but profound in impact. “During the pandemic, we observed that many underserved communities consistently demonstrated low Covid-19 vaccination rates,” he says. “We later realised that it was not access to the vaccine that was the primary barrier, but rather the lack of trust with the people and organisations delivering the messages and the vaccine.” To overcome this, Microsoft and a consortium of partners across the non-profit, healthcare and technology sectors began a joint effort to empower communitybased organisations with the tools, information and resources to deliver Covid-19 vaccines and other health services such as diabetes and blood pressure screenings, adult and childhood immunisations, and enrolment in the US healthcare programme Medicaid. The results were very impressive. This collaborative effort – later named the Health Equity Consortium – helped communities in four US states to increase Covid-19 vaccination rates and deliver essential health services to vulnerable, underserved and under-represented populations. “Central to this model was the need to digitally connect community-based organisations, local healthcare providers and public health to enable a bidirectional flow of data between these three key stakeholders,” says Rhew. “This enabled more comprehensive and secure data capture from underserved communities, facilitated coordinated efforts around specific public health and community health initiatives, and expedited real-time reporting of conditions to public health. “Microsoft helped to empower community-based organisations through public-private partnerships, technology and data in an effective model of care that is potentially reproducible throughout the world.” “ Healthcare provider organisations are placing greater emphasis on clinician well-being, operational efficiency and patient access to care, and using technology to do so”