Microsoft to Apply AI, Cloud Innovations to Health Care IT Push

The company's new Healthcare NExT initiative combines AI and cloud computing to bring cutting-edge tools to doctors and hospitals.

cloud health care

Microsoft is already bullish about artificial intelligence (AI) in the corporate world. Even households are part of the Redmond, Wash. technology giant's plan to bring the technology into the mainstream.

Today, Microsoft set its sights on the health care industry.

The company took the wraps off Healthcare NExT, a technology and partnership program that brings together Microsoft's massive cloud and the latest AI innovations from Microsoft Research in an effort to improve patient care and advance medical research.

The program, said Peter Lee, corporate vice president of Microsoft Research NExT, "will deeply integrate greenfield research and health technology product development, as well as establish a new model at Microsoft for strategic health industry partnerships," in a Feb. 16 announcement.

"Through these collaborations between health care partners and Microsoft’s AI and Research organization, our goal is to enable a new wave of innovation and impact using Microsoft's deep AI expertise and global-scale cloud," Lee continued.

University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Microsoft are about to embark on the first Healthcare NExT strategic research partnership, revealed Lee. The collaboration will involve using AI to empower clinicians and enhance productivity among medical staffers, with an eye on commercializing their efforts.

Also as part of Healthcare NExT, Microsoft Genomics, a cloud-based genetic analysis, sequencing and processing service, has forged an alliance with DNAnexus, a genome informatics data management specialist, and BC Platforms. Partners are also working on chatbots to help users learn more about their health benefits and set up virtual doctor visits.

Microsoft has also enlisted Skype for Business Online, the company's cloud-based enterprise communications platform.

"We are excited to announce the publication of new developer templates that extend Skype for Business as a platform for virtual health care," blogged Andrew Bybee, principal group program manager of the Skype for Business team at Microsoft, today.

"Office 365 with Skype for Business Online addresses the critical communication needs of healthcare providers, and these templates enable new mediums for care coordination for patients without requiring an Office 365 subscription."

Early customers include GE Healthcare, which is working on a Virtual Office Visit technology to improve access to care and reduce cost. Similarly, RingMD is using the technology for virtual consultations. CareFlow is integrating Skype for Business with its clinical communication platform, allowing doctors to communicate with each other, or their patients, and record those interactions into the clinical record.

AI and cognitive computing in healthcare is already transforming the industry.

The American Cancer Society uses IBM Watson to filter various data sources and websites to supply oncology patients with personalized treatments. The National Healthcare System in the UK teamed with Google DeepMind to investigate how to detect eye disease from a scan.

Before Healthcare NExT, Microsoft was helping the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center of New Hampshire devise a system that predicts medical emergencies by collecting data from blood pressure readers and weight scales.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the Internet.com network of...