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A big thank you to HIMSS for putting on another stellar conference this year.

HIMSS gets bigger every year. It’s a reflection of our industry: The number of systems and amount of data in healthcare also keeps growing. That’s why it’s so important that organizations like Microsoft bring solutions to bear that make use of the innovative technologies encompassed by the term artificial intelligence (AI). That way, health organizations can move beyond having technology that just helps them digitize information to technology that empowers them with systems of insight.

At HIMSS17, many interesting discussions were had about the value and applicability of cognitive computing in health. Spurred on by the article in Forbes that came out right before the conference, “MD Anderson Benches IBM Watson In Setback For Artificial Intelligence In Medicine,” people were asking the question: Is the promise of AI in health artificial or real?

Amongst all the debate, however, there were many examples at HIMSS17 that proved the value of AI in health is very real.

Indeed, the five winners of the Microsoft Health Innovation Awards this year are already using systems of intelligence to digitally transform healthcare and improve people’s health. As just two examples: Children’s Mercy Kansas City is using machine learning to help them triage signs coming from pediatric cardiac patients who are at home between surgeries. And CoxHealth is using an Intelligent Retinal Imaging Systems (IRIS) solution to diagnose diabetic retinopathy cases faster and at a greater scale than previously possible.

To discuss the humanistic application of AI may seem almost anathema. But the reality of AI is that it’s scaling and adding to the art and insight of medical practitioners, not replacing it, and it’s doing so in very human and pragmatic ways—as evidenced by our Innovation Awards winners who are saving babies’ lives through better home monitoring and improving diabetic’s quality of life by catching preventable eye disease earlier.

It’s practical, real-world applications of cognitive computing like those showcased at HIMSS that are helping to democratize AI for the greater good. In order to realize the potential of AI to empower better health we need to make systems of intelligence accessible for all.  At Microsoft, we believe that AI is the underpinning of digital transformation for healthcare and we’re infusing intelligence into all of our products, applications, services, and experiences. We’re also making these same intelligent capabilities available to every application developer in the world. And we’re collaborating with health technology vendors through our AI in Health Partners Alliance.

A healthier, more sustainable future for societies depends on scaling the insight and art of medicine. No matter the technical and ethical challenges that will certainly scatter our pathway forward—which we’ll need to navigate carefully and thoughtfully—all of us in the health industry need to stay the course and continue to dream big about AI.

I hope you’ll check out our HIMSS17 recap page to see videos from the show floor and learn more about solutions that are already fulfilling the promise of AI in health.

You can also read about our latest initiatives intended to help transform healthcare and empower people to lead healthier lives—such as our Healthcare NExT initiative which is focused on strategic research partnerships that apply AI to some of the biggest problems in health—in this blog.