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- Microsoft has been working in healthcare for the better part of 25 years.
- In October, it’s launching its newest program, Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare is using Azure, it combines telehealth, storage, clinical tools, and other services.
- 2 of Microsoft’s top healthcare execs explained how the tech giant is using the new service to push deeper into the $3.6 trillion healthcare industry.
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Microsoft’s healthcare strategy is all about Azure, a web-based service and money-making machine.
Microsoft uses Azure to build, store, and manage companies’ data, sites, and mobile apps. As of June, the tech giant made more than $50 billion from Azure and other internet businesses like Office 365 and LinkedIn year-over-year, the company said during earnings.
Long-term, the tech giant has the potential to make $140 billion in revenue from Azure alone, according to 2019 estimates by Bernstein. The total addressable market for infrastructure and platform services, Azure’s bread and butter, is between $900 billion and $1.2 trillion, the report said.
Microsoft doesn’t break out how much money it makes from selling the cloud to healthcare companies. But it’s been going after the healthcare industry for the better part of 25 years, and it’s increasingly using Azure to do so.
Its latest endeavor is Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare, a package that combines Teams and other web-based tools for health systems and doctors. The package is available for purchase on October 30. Other industries will soon get their own cloud kits, Tom McGuinness, a vice president at Microsoft Healthcare, said.
“Satya and the entire leadership team are looking for ways that we can contribute to the pandemic response,” he told Business Insider, referring to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.
In several respects, the US healthcare system wasn’t ready to handle, and still hasn’t solved, a series of emergencies caused by the coronavirus outbreaks, starting with shortages in protective equipment for healthcare workers.
Big tech firms helped fill in the gaps and started investing heavily in technology propelled by remote care. Google just poured $100 million into Amwell, the world’s second largest telehealth company. Amazon is betting big on wearables with its new Halo device, and Apple’s new watch has health components that could aid more clinical research.
Microsoft for its part is trying to own the underlying infrastructure of the way hospitals do business. With virtual care taking off, Microsoft said a big part of its healthcare strategy lies in using Azure to tackle some of the industry’s biggest problems, like clinician burnout and disconnected medical records. Meanwhile its reputation on security, privacy, and transparency makes it a good partner for the transition, David Rhew, Microsoft Healthcare’s chief medical officer, said.
“We’re extremely transparent in terms of our desire to not monetize data,” Rhew said.
Business financial make money capital trading Microsoft connected Teams with health systems’ electronic health records
Already, healthcare providers are turning to Microsoft Teams for virtual visits. In July alone, doctors and other people in healthcare conducted 46 million meetings with Teams, Nadella said during an earnings call.
They use the Zoom-like app for virtual visits with patients and, soon, administrative tasks.
For the new cloud package, Microsoft engineers got Teams to connect with Epic’s electronic health records and a transcription tool (“DAX”) made by Nuance Communications.
That means that while physicians do online appointments, they can see patients’ full histories and talk to them without worrying about taking notes, McGuinness said.
“We’ve all been in an exam room, physically where our poor physicians are typing the conversation as quickly into the EMR as possible,” he said. “And that’s tough on the patient. It’s tough on the physician.”
After the visit, doctors can approve the clinical note generated by DAX. Then it’s put directly into the patient’s medical record.
Rhew thinks the impact of the tool could be dramatic. Early adopters of DAX have seen 50% to 75% reductions in time for clinicians to document in the EHR, plus an increase of 88% of physician satisfaction in terms of documentation, Rhew said, citing internal research.
“For me as a clinician, I can tell you there’s been a significant amount of burnout among my peers and what drives a lot of that burnout is documentation into the electronic health record,” he said.
Business financial make money capital trading Finding new ways to use tech in the hospital
Microsoft’s virtual strategy isn’t just about video appointments. Over the course of the pandemic, the tech giant made a lot of traditional care, like booking sick patients, more remote.
But CIOs like Providence St. Joseph Health’s B.J. Moore and UPMC’s Ed McCallister said that such technologies adopted during the emergency will continue to power their strategies.
Microsoft repurposed its AI-driven chat bots to work for coronavirus, for example, which health systems used to triage potential patients. To date, they’ve delivered 500 million messages in more than 26 countries, Rhew said.
That tech is powered by Azure, along with text notifications, reminders, and links to join appointments — all newly available through the cloud offering.
“It’s much easier for a patient to be part of one health care system and then have a virtual visit with a second consult somewhere else,” McGuiness said. “And I think more so than even in the past, that raises the bar for data fluidity.”
Business financial make money capital trading Microsoft is connecting disparate devices and systems
Insiders call that communication “interoperability,” and it’s a big part of why healthcare CIOs are starting to favor Microsoft over the other big cloud providers, one tech chief told Business Insider in July: its healthcare services all work together.
Compare that to Amazon Web Services, which is cheaper, but requires more programming. While the 21st Century Cures Act and recent rules passed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid drive health systems to adopt better data function, Microsoft is positioning itself as their go-to partner for the new plumbing.
“Interoperability is like a building block. It’s a critical building block that allows us to be able to exchange important information between different systems of record and allow us to be able to view and act on it real time,” Rhew said.
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