At Ignite 2020, Microsoft today announced that Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare will soon be generally available. The managed service offering spans Microsoft Dynamics 365, Microsoft Azure, and Microsoft 365 and is designed to help health organizations manage operations. Eligible customers and partners will be able to sign up for service at the end of October.
Cloud for Healthcare is in many ways Microsoft’s answer to Google Cloud Healthcare API, albeit more holistic. But it might also be perceived as a response to the increasing demand for triaging technologies in light of the pandemic. Millions of patients wait at least two hours to see a health care provider, according to a study published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In response, tech giants like IBM and Facebook have partnered with governments and private industry to roll out chatbot-based solutions, as have a number of startups.
Leveraging Cloud for Healthcare, Microsoft says health systems can deploy virtual visits and remote health monitoring as a part of connected experiences. The platform facilitates data collection from medical devices (through Azure IoT) to allow care teams to monitor patients inside and outside clinical facilities, and it provide insights to help teams escalate care as needed and reduce readmissions.
Cloud for Healthcare also handles physician and referral management to expedite the creation of referrals and searches for providers, breaking out metrics like physician spend. On the patient side, Cloud for Healthcare hosts engagement portals, where patients can perform tasks like online booking, reminders, bill pay, and more while nurturing leads, publicizing events, and encouraging preventative and care management programs via interactive journeys.
Microsoft Teams is available to customers of Cloud for Healthcare, which Microsoft notes supports HIPAA and GDPR compliance and is HITRUST-certified. The Bookings app in Teams enables care providers to schedule, manage, and conduct provider-to-patient virtual visits within Teams, and the new Teams EHR connector — now in private preview — will allow clinicians to launch a visit or consult with another provider from their electronic health record (EHR) system. Microsoft says Epic will be the first EHR system to integrate with Teams in this way.
Cloud for Healthcare affords access to the Microsoft Healthcare Bot Service for creating self-assessment tools, which could reduce strain on hotlines. Microsoft says more than 1,600 instances of COVID-19 bots created with the Healthcare Bot Service went live in 23 countries between March and May. These include bots from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
For analytics, Cloud for Healthcare supports Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR), the standard describing data formats, elements, and APIs for exchanging EHRs. An Azure FHIR service allows health organizations to ingest and persist data in FHIR, while converters for Clinical Document Architecture (CDA) and other formats enable the reconciliation of records from different systems. (CDA is a markup standard that defines the structure of certain medical records, such as discharge summaries and progress notes.) Meanwhile, Dynamics 365 and Power Platform apps help read data in different formats and add visualizations and analytics.
Cloud for Healthcare also integrates with existing EHR and platform integrations, implementation services, and health care software-as-a-service offerings. Microsoft says it’s working closely with providers — including Accenture, Adaptive Biotechnologies, Allscripts, DXC Technology, Innovaccer, KPMG, and Nuance — to co-develop custom solutions. For example, Nuance and Microsoft partnered to integrate Nuance’s Dragon Ambient Experience with Teams. The integration, which is in private preview, captures and contextualizes physician-patient conversations, automatically documenting the encounters from within Teams.
Among the early adopters of Cloud for Healthcare are Providence St. Joseph, Helsinki University and Uusimaa Hospital District, St. Luke’s University Health Network, and Northwell Health.