Microsoft’s focus on transforming healthcare: Intelligent health through AI and the cloud

A scientist holds a flow cell used for genomic sequencing of pediatric cancers
A St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital scientist holds a flow cell used for genomic sequencing of pediatric cancers. Photo courtesy of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Healthcare is an industry that touches all of us, given the most basic of human goals: we all want to lead healthy lives. Last year we embarked on Healthcare NExT, a Microsoft initiative which aims to accelerate healthcare innovation through artificial intelligence and cloud computing. By working side-by-side with the healthcare industry’s most pioneering players, we are bringing Microsoft’s capabilities in groundbreaking research and product development to help healthcare providers, biotech companies and organizations around the world use artificial intelligence (AI) and the cloud to innovate.

It’s exciting work with unique challenges, and in the lead-up to next week’s Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference, we’re announcing a number of solutions, projects and AI accelerators that we believe will help make intelligent health possible, with more details below:

  • Microsoft Genomics: The general availability on Microsoft Azure, providing researchers and clinicians with highly accelerated, cloud-powered genomic processing services. The flagship partner for this launch is St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
  • Microsoft Azure Security and Compliance Blueprint: HIPAA/HITRUST – Health Data & AI: The general availability of an end-to-end application development foundation to help health organizations move to the cloud with greater simplicity, compliance, security and industry-standard compatibility.
  • AI Network for Healthcare: An expansion of the Microsoft Intelligent Network for Eyecare, now AI Network for Healthcare, to create an AI-focused network in cardiology, in partnership with one of the largest health systems in India, Apollo Hospitals.
  • Microsoft 365 Huddle Solution Templates: The publication of new developer templates that extend Microsoft Teams, so health teams can benefit from state-of-the-art collaboration tools to drive quality and care outcomes in Microsoft 365.
  • Project Empower MD: Project EmpowerMD, a research collaboration with UPMC, will create a system that listens and learns from what doctors say and do, to dramatically reduce the burden of note-taking for physicians.
  • Project InnerEye: Announcing new integrations with TeraRecon and Intuitive Surgical.

We will also continue progress on current Healthcare NExT research-based projects like our Health Bot project as well as our partnerships with UPMC and Adaptive Biotechnologies.

Several themes emerge at the convergence of healthcare and technology. The explosion of data, incredible advances in computational biology, genomics and medical imaging have created vast amounts of data well beyond the ability of humans to comprehend. Clinicians and care teams are yearning to swivel their chairs from the computer and pay more attention to the patient, yet still they spend two-thirds of their time interacting with burdensome IT systems. And healthcare organizations everywhere still struggle with the lack of operational and regulatory clarity in managing and analyzing the datasets that they are generating every day. Providing cloud- and AI-powered tools will unlock the vast potential at these points of convergence. It’s why our focus is threefold: developing foundations for precision health care, enabling the health industry’s move to the cloud, and empowering the people that make healthcare work.

A scientist works in a genomic sequencing lab at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
A scientist works in a genomic sequencing laboratory at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, which has sequenced the cancers of thousands of pediatric patients. Photo courtesy of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Developing foundations for precision healthcare
Today, we are introducing the general availability of the Microsoft Genomics service, on Azure, which provides researchers, data scientists and clinicians cloud-powered genomic processing services to handle the data-rich workloads. The flagship partner with us on the launch of Microsoft Genomics is St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, which is leading the way the world understands, treats and cures childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases. In collaboration with our partners at DNAnexus, the service is an implementation of the Broad Institute’s Best Practices pipeline and enables users to take advantage of the power of Azure to handle cloud-scale genomics workloads.

From a genomics standpoint, few projects have produced this amount of data, and services and partnerships like this will help organizations like St. Jude do the great work they do, quicker and more efficiently. You can read more about this here.

Microsoft Genomics joins other precision healthcare initiatives at Microsoft including Project Premonition, and perhaps our most ambitious project, our recently announced collaboration with Adaptive Biotechnologies to decode the human immune system.

Enabling the health industry’s move to the cloud
In parallel to helping lay foundations for precision medicine, we continue work to enable health data to live in the cloud, be properly structured and labelled, and allow its analysis by data and AI technologies. To that end, we are announcing general availability of a new Azure Security and Compliance Blueprint. The Azure Security and Compliance Blueprint: HIPAA/HITRUST – Health Data & AI provides a secure and automated foundation to build applications that manage sensitive and regulated data. Our aim is to make it easier for health organizations to move to the cloud and do so in a way that unlocks the full potential of data analytics and machine learning on that data. We are thrilled that leaders like IRIS and KenSci are using the blueprint to accelerate application development today.

Last year we announced a consortium with world-class eyecare providers in India, the United States, Australia and Brazil towards earlier screening and detection of eye diseases through Azure Machine Learning, to reduce avoidable blindness. With over 285 million people visually impaired and 55 million blind worldwide, upward of 70 percent of visual impairment is avoidable. Over a quarter million patient trials in India have been conducted using our AI models and are now being adopted by Government for Public Health Screening Programs, hospitals and medical systems. Today we are excited to announce an expansion of the AI Network for Healthcare, with a focus on cardiology, in partnership with one of the largest health systems in India, Apollo Hospitals. Together, we will be developing and deploying new machine learning models to gauge patient risk for heart disease in hopes of preventing or reversing these life-threatening conditions.

Empowering the people that make healthcare work
Health experts want to spend more time with patients – and less on burdensome, tedious tasks. To ease this pain point, we’re announcing tools and projects aimed at helping clinicians and care teams better serve patients, make their lives easier and reduce burnout.

The Health Team Huddle Templates, available today, are developer templates that extend Microsoft Teams by digitizing the huddle to create a single place to interact as a team. This can drive quality and care outcomes by scaling best practices, driving continuous improvement of care, and centralizing health teams’ ideas. More information on the Huddle Templates is available here.

Project EmpowerMD, a research collaboration with UPMC, aims to create an AI-powered system that can capture and integrate medical expertise at scale by listening and observing doctors doing their work as they meet their patients. The EmpowerMD architecture is a learning system that captures and synthesizes patient-physician conversations while maintaining privacy and compliance, and supporting applications such as the automatic production of encounter notes. The goal is to allow physicians to spend more face-to-face time with patients, by bringing together many services from Microsoft’s Intelligent Cloud including Custom Speech Services (CSS) and Language Understanding Intelligent Services (LUIS), customized for the medical domain. We have made great progress on building a rich medical knowledge graph and a recommendation system, all developed on an Azure-powered architecture for secure sharing of speech data with our healthcare partners. More information including a video is available here.

Project InnerEye screenshot on computer screen
Project InnerEye develops machine learning techniques for the automatic delineation of tumors as well as healthy anatomy in 3D radiological images.

Announced in private preview at RSNA, Project InnerEye uses state-of-the-art machine learning and computer vision to turn medical images into measurement devices, to amplify a clinician’s ability to personalize treatment, spend more time with their patients, and for hospitals to save costs. InnerEye goes beyond the research lab through cloud-based image segmentation services that integrate with third-party software products to enhance the clinical workflow of healthcare professionals such as radiation oncologists, surgeons, radiologists and medical physicists. And the proof is in the partners and integrations: InnerEye is being made accessible through the world’s first AI-results viewer for radiology, Northstar, from TeraRecon. Intuitive Surgical, a global leader in robotic-assisted, minimally invasive surgery, is working with the InnerEye team to explore machine learning applications to improve surgical outcomes.

Infusing technology and healthcare to achieve more
Our mission at Microsoft is to empower every person and organization to achieve more, and with that in mind, our ambition is that innovators will be able to use AI and the cloud to unlock biological insight and  break data from silos for a truly personal understanding of human health and in turn, enable better access to care, lower costs and improved outcomes.

We’re excited to meet many of you next week at HIMSS18 and share more about what we are working on. Please be sure to stop by our booth No. 3832 to see our solutions in action, and follow our HIMSS18 story on @Health_IT to learn more.

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