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Microsoft has been at the forefront of the big tech push into healthcare, a market technology giants see as a new frontier. Whether it is Apple, Amazon, or Google, many companies are creating solutions for healthcare organizations and professionals. With its main rivals involved in a market Microsoft is obviously interested is, how is the company planning to stay ahead of the pack?

The answer seems to be with analytics and AI. Over the last year, Microsoft has made significant announcements regarding its plans in the healthcare sector.

Last October, the Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare service became generally available. The company also rebranding Microsoft Healthcare Bot service as Azure Health Bot service. At Build 2021 in May, Microsoft made several major health-related announcements, including Text Analytics for Health in Azure Cognitive Services.

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Speaking to ZDNet, Tom McGuinness, corporate VP of global healthcare & life sciences for Microsoft, explains how connection is key to the company’s goals in healthcare:

“Some of the longest-standing challenges are around disconnectedness of data, disconnectedness of care teams, and frankly disconnectedness of patients to their own care,” says McGuinness.

Essentially, Microsoft says its healthcare partners say the industry is too disconnected. For example, a separation between one health department and another, or one branch of the industry and another. These issues have become worse during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Some of the more interesting questions that we’re working with our partners and customers to help solve are, how do you now make virtual care, as a point-of-care engagement, better connected to the physical care? We know that patients want a more connected experience, and we know they don’t want to have to have the same discussion in multiple settings,” says McGuinness.

Looking Ahead

McGuiness says the Cloud for Healthcare service was launched to address issues raised by partners. Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare is the Redmond company’s first industry-centered cloud platforms. It leverages tools like Dynamics 365 Marketing, Dynamics 365 Customer Service and Azure IoT.

Healthcare organizations can tap into the solution to roll out new patient experiences with a focus on improving patient outreach and satisfactions. Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare expands on Microsoft’s current cloud services to allow faster collaborations amongst teams (using Microsoft Teams).

Microsoft’s push to see greater connection and interoperability in medical systems has led the company to back the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FIHR). This is a standard that allows the secure sharing of information on across healthcare systems.

Another major step Microsoft has taken into healthcare is the acquisition of AI speech tech company Nuance for $19.7bn back in April. It is worth noting Nuance is not a health-focused company, and powers products like Apple’s Siri. However, over 65% of the companies revenue is generate by the healthcare industry.

Nuance is something of a strange acquisiton if only because it was not like the much cheaper $7.5 billion headline-grabbing Bethesda games deal. However, the purchase of Nuance is Microsoft’s second-largest acquisition ever, following the $26bn purchase of LinkedIn.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella looks at the deal to buy Nuance as a direct move in the healthcare market. Specifically, he wants the company to enter a new era of communication between clinicians and patients… a market Microsoft says is at $500 billion.

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