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Microsoft Aims To Expand Into Healthcare With AI And Cloud Services

By Victor Thomson , Feb 18, 2017 01:10 AM EST
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Microsoft plans to use chat bots, AI and cloud services to expand its share on the healthcare market. (Photo : Rajamanickam Antonimuthu / YouTube)

Microsoft aims to expand its share in the healthcare industry by leveraging its expertise in cloud services and artificial intelligence. The company hopes to be able to grow in a market known to be hard for technology companies.

Microsoft New Healthcare Initiative

According to Bloomberg Technology, Microsoft has launched a new initiative called Healthcare NExT that will combine work from Microsoft's Research AI units and existing industry players to help doctors triage sick patients more efficiently, reduce data entry tasks and ease outpatient care. The company has tried to expand in health care before, but it led to mixed results. Microsoft's Health Solutions Group has been functioning for many years, before being combined into a joint venture with General Electric Co.

According to Geek Wire, healthcare is a cluttered industry that uses a complex payment system and is regulated by a labyrinth of rules. As a consequence, the healthcare industry is resistant to innovation and rapid change. However, innovation is greatly needed in the healthcare field.

In the United States, healthcare costs per capita are higher than in almost any other country in the world. Americans still tend to have more health problems, compared to other industrialized countries and the healthcare costs per capita are still growing at an unsustainable pace.

Tech can make a difference and come with answers to the challenges in healthcare. Now Microsoft is joining the ranks of tech companies that are focusing their efforts on solving healthcare's most difficult issues with its ambitious Healthcare NExT initiative. The program has been launched this week with the aim to leverage Microsoft tools like artificial intelligence and the cloud to solve various issues in the health care system.

Microsoft's Other Healthcare Projects

This is a slight departure from Microsoft's previous healthcare projects like Microsoft Health that has focused on data-based patient programs. The new initiative will create partnerships between various players in the healthcare industry and Microsoft's AI and Research organization, starting with a collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC). UPMC's product development experts will work with Microsoft's research and technology expertise to build tech solutions that are customized to the needs they are serving.

The synergy between the products designed to solve healthcare issues and the realities of everyday healthcare is a crucial stepping stone in healthcare tech initiatives. More efficient information and workflow tools can improve health care systems and even save lives. Savings in energy, time and cost could have a huge impact on the health of patients and the industry as a whole.

Microsoft is also working on other projects, including physician-focused solutions, like the Microsoft Genomics‘ project that is using Azure's cloud computing to process samples more quickly and patient-focused solutions, like building healthcare chat bots by using Microsoft AI research. However, Microsoft's ambitious solutions are still in the early phase. Ensuring that the new products comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) and getting FDA approval require years of planning, testing, and paperwork.

There are still several challenges ahead. Culture clashes between healthcare and technology can make it challenging to work together on products. Impending changes to the Affordable Care Act could also have great unforeseen impacts on healthcare. Only time will tell if Microsoft's collaboration with medical partners can overcome the challenges in changing the healthcare system.

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