The healthcare industry has come a long way from pen-to-paper from a pharmacy script or clinical SOAP note to now being able to provide primary care in the burgeoning hospital at home. My career in the Healthcare and Life Sciences (HLS) industry has spanned a variety of roles including: Military Clinician, Life Science Entrepreneur, Clinical Research Application Scientist and Corporate Executive. I currently lead the Partner Alliances team for Microsoft’s global cloud and data development and product group for health and life sciences. Today I consider myself an HLS generalist, bridging the gap between engineering and application in the great outdoors. I look forward to continuing to listen to needs, implement solutions, and collaborate with others to drive meaningful change in healthcare.

We started last month Azure Health data services, a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) offering built solely to support protected health information (PHI) in the cloud and built on the global open standards Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR)® and Digital Imaging Communications in Medicine ( DICOM) builds up. As I watch the team develop this product, I feel compelled to share our product team’s determination to develop healthcare technologies for an industry currently undergoing historically unprecedented transformation. We use technology that can ingest, transform and store data so our customers can use their data to span workflows from discovery research to clinical endpoints.1 The underlying technology enables our customers to engage in activities ranging from the identification of novel biomarkers to virtual clinical decision support. For example, today our customers can combine cellular exam data, pathology data, molecular imaging, genomics, handwritten, voice and text-based notes. With so much data, the goal is to enable our customers to derive insights from a single system of record, so they can optimize the user experience for patients, research and clinical workflows, increase adherence to therapy and provide scientists faster with contextual evidence supporting theirs early discoveries and doctors can focus more on health care without experiencing burnout and information overload. If you can put these datasets together in a meaningful way, the bottom line is that you automatically increase your signal-to-noise ratio because you are no longer looking for a needle in a haystack; You are looking for a book in a library.

Five years ago, under the leadership of Peter Lee, Microsoft made a purposeful decision that enabled us to be leaders in cloud, data, AI and innovation. In 2020, Microsoft won the Frost and Sullivan Best Practice Award for our commitment to global AI for the growth of healthcare IT, and for our innovation and leadership in the industry. Microsoft’s Executive Health Leadership Team recognized that we needed a common, standards-based platform for health and life sciences data and a secure, compliant environment for the industry to build on. To achieve this, we would need to contribute to the interoperability dynamics of the FHIR® standard. We also knew we had to go ahead with partners who knew the space better than we did. We are now focused on building the most trusted healthcare data platform, built with security and compliance in mind, ready to accommodate a variety of data types and standards, workflow accelerators, and scenario-specific capabilities. We hope this will enable our partner ecosystem to drive the last mile of innovation for our mutual providers, pharma, payer and life sciences clients.
With our partners as the foundation of our business, we will remain competitive in such times of change.

Our approach to building Azure Health data services was to help our partners build and manage the underlying cloud technology so they can continue to focus on the frontline industry scenarios. We value the intimate business propriety required to remain innovative and competitive. For this model to work, we must start and end with the question, “Are we going to develop, buy, or partner with this particular product, feature, or capability?” These decisions are tough and are made by key industry opinion leaders, the partner ecosystem and our leadership teams.

Get inspiration from industry leaders

To support this thesis, we have set up the Health Data Services Partner Alliances team. Our charter is to listen to industry leaders like Tom Arneman at EPAM, BJ Moore at Providence, and the broader trusted advisors in the Microsoft partnership ecosystem for health and life sciences. This industry-driven feedback challenged us to provide interoperable, FHIR-enabled services and partner-led solutions. Partners such as Redox, Onyx, 3Cloud, EPAM, SAS, Efferent, Teladoc and ZS Services have been instrumental in providing direct user feedback.

These solutions are brought to life with our joint customers from the provider, payer and pharmaceutical industries. Together, we deliver diversified solutions across the HLS continuum, which includes users ranging from translational oncology clinical trial coordinators to care providers accessing their patients remotely. We have worked closely to develop capabilities with early movers who have deep expertise in multimodal interoperability deployments, FHIR resource creation, MedTech eventing capabilities for remote patient monitoring, and DICOM for imaging. Now we’re scaling these managed services with global partners, their HLS practices for large enterprises, and best-in-class ISV solutions. We provide a broad movement and application toolset that will make it easier for our partners to build new transactional and analytical SMART on FHIR and other applications based on Azure Health Data Services.

These partners are the cornerstone for developing solutions to the biggest challenges we see today and anticipate in the years to come. At Microsoft, we focus on aligning with them on a defined customer and business opportunity, and then provide resources and appropriate support to deliver timely and measurable business value. If we act in this way, our probability of an optimized cooperation, the product; Market viability, market acceptance and long-term partnership are much greater.

Azure Health Data Services was built with the goal of enabling our customers to do more with their health data. We want our partners to be able to offer them solutions to do that – solutions optimized for Azure, Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare and Azure Health Data Services that can help them transform the patient experience, gain new insights and accelerate innovation.

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1EPAM introduces new cloud-based platform for digital clinical trials.

®FHIR is a registered trademark of Health Level Seven International registered with the US Trademark Office and is used with permission.

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