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Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare: A Critical Resource for an Infected World

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This week Microsoft updated us on their Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare offering (you can find the briefing online). I found it somewhat interesting that if we can make complicated healthcare efforts in the cloud while complying with very rigid security laws, why can’t we do the same for voting? I’m sure we could, and Microsoft is one of a small number of companies capable of bringing a solution to the market but cannot prevent a far more secure and safer alternative. Sadly, it is politics.

As I write this, it is hard not to see both the glaring problems of the voting technology and the enormous benefits of a program like this for patients and doctors working to give the best healthcare for the dollar.

Let’s talk about Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare this week, but while reading, ask yourself how much easier it might be to use similar technology, so we never again have to go through the voting nightmare that happened in 2020.

Empowering every person and every organization to achieve more

Particularly during a pandemic, finding ways to do more with less is critical to saving lives. This current problem makes the Microsoft Mission Statement that heads this section is so important now. Currently, patients and doctors get information from a variety of incompatible sources. These data sources range from information the patient has, data from different teams and doctors that have reviewed the patient's case, operational data about the facilities and available medications, and population health data that could point to the most efficient solution.

Sadly, the nature of the data and its sources are often incompatible and surrounded by unique security programs designed to comply with regulations. Some of the data is structured; some isn't. Indexes and how the data elements can change from one system to another makes it very hard to provide the complete result that would better assure a positive patient outcome.

Microsoft’s unique advantage

As I was writing this, it suddenly hit me that Microsoft has a unique advantage here. Back in the 1990s, Microsoft, like most companies, viewed interoperability as a bad thing. But after the U.S. AntiTrust trial and particularly as a result of the European Commission’s massive fines, Microsoft changed. They went from being hard to work with to leading their segment in interoperability, embracing concepts like Open Source and platforms like Linux.

This organizational change should have produced a unique skill set in large vendors’ class to solve interoperability problems. That is precisely the kind of problem they pointed out in this segment. There is no lack of data (Healthcare providers produce 50 petabytes of data per year). Microsoft’s problem that they may be uniquely capable of solving is a lack of interoperability between disparate systems.

Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare

As you would expect, the Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare is designed to deal with the incompatibilities and focus on high-value workflows. By providing a free flow of data between the systems while providing patient access to the result, the patient can remain connected with their case. Also, both the patient and medical team gets a complete, understandable view of the patient.

Nine focused capabilities surround this solution. First is a collaboration engine for the care team so they can identify and solve problems collectively. Second, there is care coordination, which helps develop systems that assure intelligent (efficient) workflows surrounding the patients’ health. Third, there is continuous patient monitoring, regardless of the patients’ location. Fourth, as you would expect, there is a significant interoperability effort to create new healthcare systems of engagement by connecting data from multiple systems. 

Fifth, there is an operational analytics effort to provide actionable insights derived from this massive data effort. Sixth, a clinical analytics component uses this now integrated data pool for actionable insights focused on patient care. Seventh, there is a virtual health component to provide new and more insightful avenues for patient care. Eighth, a patient's insight component helps push the patient towards behaviors that improve their health outlook. Ninth, a personalized care component helps build better relationships with patients by enhancing and improving their overall experience.

This solution has many companies participating in the effort. These partners range from large IT companies like IBM to software vendors like VMware and focused firms like GE Healthcare. There are over 55 partners they showcased during their pitch, with an impressive majority being multinational firms.

Demonstrations showcased how much more smoothly a patient could use their smartphone to follow their care, make appointments, communicate with doctors, track appointments (and move them if necessary), and chat for instant help. The app also notices if the patient is in distress both from the content and how they are chatting and provides recommendations for the medical professional.

They also showed setting up a patient portal, and like it is for most mature Microsoft Cloud offerings, the related tools are relatively easy to learn and seem very easy to use. This ease of use is critical because those who own the tool can configure it without their IT organization’s help.

Wrapping up

Our healthcare provider has a tool to help us manage our healthcare, but it leaves a lot to be desired. It doesn’t contain my medical history from my previous supplier, and it doesn’t even capture all of the procedures the new carrier has provided. It does a poor job of connecting the different professionals with my care. For instance, I had a nasty rash that no one seemed to figure out, but my general care provider didn’t have access to what the dermatologist had done, even though both were in the same system.

This Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare appears to be substantially better than the tool I’m currently using (I’m not naming that tool for personal privacy reasons). Particularly during this Pandemic, we need better tools to improve medical efficiency, allow more people to convalesce at home safely, and provide better engagement between patients and medical providers.

In the end, this is one of the most powerful medical solutions I’ve yet seen. It still leaves me believing that if we can fix the medical data system and provide better smartphone access to patients, we could do online voting and never again experience the mess we are sweating through this week.

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