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The whole of the healthcare industry has been impacted by COVID-19 in an unprecedented way. It’s had a substantial impact, and in many ways, it has raised the bar on what we need to collectively deliver as an industry.

Ecosystems create powerful forces that can reshape industries. In healthcare, we have the potential to deliver a personalized and integrated experience for consumers, enhance provider productivity, engage formal and informal caregivers, and improve outcomes and affordability. Across the healthcare ecosystem, we’re seeing organizations bring together compute, data, and artificial intelligence (AI) to help accelerate the response to COVID-19. From testing to therapeutics and vaccines. Healthcare providers are triaging patients with our Healthcare Bot service, helping more than 31 million people to access critical healthcare information. Biotech organizations are using our machine learning capabilities to decode the immune system response to the virus, and healthcare providers and hospitals around the world are using FHIR technology in Azure to make data available for research, provide more robust treatment assessments, and deliver first-class telehealth experiences to their patients.

That’s why in May we launched the Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare Preview—consisting of Microsoft Azure, Microsoft 365, Microsoft Dynamics 365, and Microsoft Power Platform—and all built on a foundation of security and compliance. Our partner ecosystem extends the value of this platform with custom-built solutions for healthcare. Our ambition is to empower and activate a ‘connected healthcare ecosystem’ with digital technology, to enhance patient engagement, empower health team collaboration, and improve clinical and operational data insights.

But all of this was just the beginning. We’re excited to share recently added capabilities to Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare.

Continuous patient monitoring through Azure IoT and FHIR interoperability

Traditional healthcare providers, innovators, and even biopharma researchers are ushering in a new era of health data agility that is not limited to patient charts and documents, it is expanding rapidly to include device data captured both inside and outside the clinician’s office. They’re using machine learning and analytics from the Internet of Things (IoT), where devices monitoring patients in their daily lives will be used as a standard approach to deliver cost savings, improve patient visibility outside of the physician’s office, and to create new insights for patient care. Yet as new IoT apps and solutions are developed, two consistent barriers are preventing broad scalability of these solutions: interoperability of IoT device data with the rest of the healthcare data, such as clinical or pharmaceutical records, and the secure and private exchange of protected health information (PHI) from these devices in the cloud.

Real-time patient data is transforming the relationship between clinician and patient, shifting from traditional reactive, symptom-based care toward proactive, personalized care. Whether in the hospital or in the home, continuous patient monitoring is critical for enabling timely medical interventions, reducing readmission rates, and improving health outcomes. Announcing the Azure IoT Connector for FHIR Preview capabilities within Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare. Several Microsoft customers like Humana, Sensoria, and Centene are already underway with the new Azure IoT Connector for FHIR technology.

Uncovering deep insights and relationships in medical data

Last week we introduced Text Analytics for health, a new gated public preview feature of Text Analytics in Azure Cognitive Services that enables developers to process and extract insights from unstructured medical data. Trained on a diverse range of medical data—covering various formats of clinical notes, clinical trials protocols, and more—the health feature is capable of processing a broad range of data types and tasks, without the need for time-intensive, manual development of custom models to extract insights from the data.

Text Analytics for health enables researchers, data analysts, medical professionals and ISVs in the healthcare and biomedical space to unlock a wide range of scenarios—like producing analytics on historical medical data and creating prediction models, matching patients to clinical trials, or assisting in clinical quality reviews.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Microsoft partnered with the Allen Institute for AI and leading research groups to prepare the COVID-19 Open Research Dataset, a free resource of over 47,000 scholarly articles for use by the global research community. With Cognitive Search and Text Analytics, we developed the COVID-19 search engine, which enables researchers to more quickly evaluate and gain insights from the overwhelming amount of information about COVID-19.

Empowering health team collaboration and resource coordination

We are providing two Emergency Response Solutions capabilities as part of Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare. Originally developed to help health organizations around the world respond to COVID-19, the solutions provide situational awareness around important supplies, equipment, people, and other resources lighting up drill-down dashboards and analytics to better inform decisions during a time of need. They are flexible enough to support various types of emergencies and to support ongoing operations.

The Hospital Emergency Response solution supports hospital operations and on-the-ground data collection and integration, and the Regional Emergency Response solution, supports public health organizations and other government agencies to provide aggregate views across their regional providers.

The Hospital Emergency Response solution provides mobile crowdsourcing capabilities as well as the option to automate data collection through system integration. Many healthcare organizations today, need to track and gain visibility over critical resources like available beds and in-demand supplies like ventilators and masks. They also rely on their frontline workers to collect this information, so they need to provide an easily accessible platform that works from smartphones or tablets. Aggregating the data automatically to hospital decision support reporting for viewing by emergency managers, enables them to coordinate and make quick decisions in near real-time about where to divert necessary resources.

The Regional Emergency Response solution provides an aggregated view of COVID-19 cases, bed capacity, equipment usage, supplies, and staff across a large region and can be collected directly by hospital administrators through a portal, or directly integrated with hospital solution tenants.

Together, the solutions are designed to meet the needs of both healthcare providers and state or regional public health departments—providing a mechanism to collect needed information to deliver rich decision-making insights leveraging a platform that provides for ease in tailoring and agility during a time of need.

Targeting communications, priority notifications, and lists in Microsoft Teams

We’re hearing from customers around the globe how the pandemic has created new challenges as they work to handle drastic shifts in their day-to-day operations. That’s why we are bringing new Microsoft Teams capabilities to Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare that connect and empower care teams to securely collaborate and communicate, helping clinicians and administrators perform their jobs more effectively.

Knowing who is on shift and being able to reach them at the right time is key to delivering timely patient care. Often valuable time is spent trying to identify the correct contact information for healthcare staff members. Currently, with targeted communications in Teams, individuals can manually create tags to organize users based on attributes such as a role, skill, or location. Once applied they can message everyone assigned to a tag at the same time in a chat or channel conversation: for example, you can message all @Orderlies in a ward.

Priority notifications in Teams grants healthcare organizations the ability to continually send notifications that repeat every two minutes for up to 20 minutes on all messages marked as urgent.

For healthcare organizations tracking issues, device assets, routines, and inventory are paramount for coordinating better care. Microsoft Lists, which is now rolling out and will be fully integrated in Teams, includes templates for quick lists, configurable color formatting, and even the ability to create alerts and processes. Administrators can also add a rule system based on “if this then that” scenarios to update based on value changes. Lists can also integrate with Power Platform, including custom list forms with Power Apps and workflows with Power Automate.

Extensible healthcare partner ecosystem

Our robust ecosystem of healthcare partners is building solutions that complement and extend the capabilities of Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare. Partners who joined the Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare Preview program include Accenture, Adaptive Biotechnologies, Allscripts, DXC Technology, Innovaccer, KPMG, and Nuance. We’re proud to announce the following new partners who have joined the public preview program Imprivata, Mazik Global, and Phreesia. Microsoft is proud to work closely with some of the leading providers of health system applications.

During this current global economic climate and time of uncertainty, the biggest learning is that no business is immune to a crisis, and no organization is 100 percent resilient. But it has also taught us that healthcare systems that are fortified with digital capabilities have been able to pivot more rapidly and respond to their patients’ needs.

The path forward is to build a connected health ecosystem that can harness data, provide insights to improve health outcomes, reduce the cost of care, and enable healthier lives. Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare’s connected cloud is designed to address that need. It’s created to help customers break through these friction points on their digital transformation journey. It is a comprehensive offering of connected industry-leading clouds–built to enable your organization’s digital transformation by design.

Visit Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare to learn more, view demos, and join our preview.