Google, Apple, Amazon and now Microsoft. With global tech giants moving into healthcare, it's safe to say the industry will look very different five years from now. How? Microsoft, for one, is driving change in the form of elevated operating efficiency.

According to professional healthcare network Advisory Board, Microsoft (MS) has four "big healthcare bets" underway. And judging by who's signed on, it looks like they could succeed.

Healthcare's leading cloud provider

For capacity and security, healthcare systems are moving data storage into the cloud. Microsoft is quickly gaining ground as a cloud provider, thanks to the introduction of cutting-edge and healthcare-specific services, including:

  • A new service for the creation of conversational artificial intelligence (AI)
  • An interface using fast healthcare interoperability resource (FHIR) to transfer data securely and protect private health information

Microsoft's cloud client list includes big names like Kaiser Permanente. Its longstanding collaboration with electronic health records (EHR) developer Epic continues, as do its existing relationships with health systems like Mount Sinai and Providence St. Joseph.

Hospital's tech partner of choice

Unlike other tech giants, Microsoft doesn't plan tolaunch employee health clinics or acquire online pharmacies. It's not "trying to do health care," but make healthcare better by deploying technology tools.

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center is designing three new "digital" hospitals in collaboration with Microsoft. These specialty hospitals for cancer, heart and transplant, and vision and rehabilitation will be built with Microsoft's input on IT design, to take advantage of the latest technology and data analysis. The goal is to transform the current healthcare experience that patients and providers currently see as "disjointed and needlessly complex."

Harness AI to prevent disease

Microsoft's aspirations tend to be highest in the field of AI. It's currently helping UCLA Health rapidly analyze its vast data to tailor care. MS will eventually harness the intelligence to prevent disease. Other big-data learning endeavors include:

  • Working with pharmaceutical company Novartis to mine clinical data for rapid and precise product development.
  • Partnering with software company Nuance to create a neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) based system for exam rooms that listen to and automatically document patient visits. Doctors then review and edit in EHR.
  • Collaborating with digital mental health company SilverCloud to deliver evidence-based mental health treatment using AI.

Accelerate communication between care professionals

Microsoft wants to help providers talk to each other and their patients. With its MS Teams platform, providers have a patient care coordination hub, an audio-visual conference platform, secure messaging and a HIPAA compliant workflow tool. Current partner Humana uses it to improve communications for over 40,000 employees and health insurance beneficiaries.

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