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The 2022 HIMSS conference wrapped up in Orlando and experts from around the world attended to share their perspectives and key learnings from the last two years of the pandemic, which have transformed healthcare and made a lasting impact. Trends that are changing the industry have emerged, including the growing need to create more personalized experiences for patients, the opportunity to implement virtual health solutions to unlock new avenues of care for providers, and the challenge of reducing administrative burden so we can help lower clinician burnout. We showcased the next wave of innovation for Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare and how it continues to help organizations reshape their connected care journey to deliver personalized patient experiences, expand virtual health capabilities, and transform data interoperability.

We heard many stories of resilience and organizations mobilizing their resources to adopt digital technologies that helped them move forward in their data interoperability journey, gain insights from their data, and unlock cloud-based innovation. During our HIMSS Views from the Top session, Strategies for Creating a Sustainable Healthcare Future, leaders from Microsoft, Nuance, Providence, and Novant Health discussed how healthcare organizations recognized the power technology can have in unlocking an organization’s potential—for frontline workers, patients, employees, and even society more broadly.  

There were countless examples of how organizations have reimagined care delivery and process access to critical services using telehealth and AI. They found new ways to secure their digital environments to scale and maintain business operations while extending frontline worker productivity and encouraging new forms of care management and engagement. If you couldn’t attend in person, we recommend exploring some of the engaging sessions at Microsoft at HIMSS 2022.

Improving patient experiences  

Many at the conference shared that the consumer can be and should be at the center of how healthcare is experienced and delivered. I had the privilege to moderate a panel of experts consisting of Micky Tripathi (Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology [ONC]), Rebecca Coyle (American Immunization Registry Association), Sandra Beattie (New York State), and Dr. Neelima Karipinemi (MITRE). We discussed how SMART Health Cards enable consumers to gain access to their health records by leveraging the same Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) standard being used today to promote healthcare interoperability. We also discussed how more than 200 million United States residents have adopted SMART Health Cards, with over half of the state Immunization Information Systems (IIS) registries and all the major nationwide pharmacies embracing them.  

We were excited to showcase the next wave of innovation for Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare and how it continues to reshape the connected care journey. Customers could explore our guided tours to learn how Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare provides an upgraded holistic patient view to help organizations better understand and elevate patient experiences—complete with a new enhanced 360-degree view of a patient’s journey in a clear and intuitive way. We previewed new enhancements to Patient Insights which enable care managers, patient representatives, outreach specialists, and population health analysts to efficiently deliver and capture useful patient insights. Analytics from patient insights can potentially help organizations improve clinical processes and care management experiences. 

Health organizations are also applying AI across every aspect of the care continuum—informing precision diagnostics and therapeutics, modernizing the digital front door for patient engagement, and increasing clinician efficiency. But this is only the beginning of AI’s potential for transforming care delivery experiences and improving health outcomes for patients. AI is being increasingly used to improve the depth of data analytics capabilities, in addition to automating key healthcare-related tasks. Recent research shared that healthcare AI technologies and services will surpass $34 billion worldwide by 2025.  

In early March, we announced the closing of the Nuance acquisition and at HIMSS, both companies joined together to showcase how AI has the power to reshape the connected care journey. Microsoft and Nuance joined together on stage to discuss where AI and ambient clinical intelligence technology help drive more personal, affordable, effective, and accessible healthcare while improving the patient, care team, and administrator experience.  

Empowering frontline healthcare workers 

Healthcare continues to undergo transformation—it’s facing unprecedented challenges, new and complex expectations, and remarkable opportunities for innovation and growth. At the heart of this transformation are frontline healthcare workers—the doctors, nurses, and care team members that work to help keep us safe and healthy. Touching nearly every step of the patient journey and maintaining the foundation of our healthcare system, healthcare workers require the latest tools to stay engaged, connected, and empowered to provide the best possible care. The adoption of technology to support frontline healthcare workers is increasing, and we’ve seen monthly usage of Microsoft Teams grow over 560 percent in this industry between March 2020 and November 2021. 

Virtual appointments are now commonplace in healthcare. For many providers, however, deploying and learning new systems to support this care modality has been more stressful than necessary. A smooth transition to remote patient care requires long-term virtual health and a remote collaboration strategy. This must include technology tools that span the entire lifecycle of a virtual appointment. You can read the recent blog post, “Empower frontline healthcare workers with Microsoft Teams,” from our Modern Work Transformation team to learn about our announcements like the Microsoft Teams EHR connector for Cerner, on-demand virtual appointments and queue view, Teladoc Health Solo™ with Microsoft Teams, and more. You can discover how digital tools can empower frontline healthcare workers through our recent Becker’s Hospital Review article.  

Alleviating clinician burnout 

Over the last two years, the pandemic has created enormous pressure on the nation’s healthcare system. It has also placed a considerable burden on a shorthanded healthcare workforce. Unfortunately, many don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. A recent Microsoft Workforce Trend Index special report found that 58 percent of healthcare frontline workers worldwide are concerned that stress at work will stay the same or worsen in the year ahead. 

It’s clear that the current crisis calls for health industry leaders to increase their focus on employee wellbeing. A recent study in Nursing Administration Quarterly showed that workplaces that provided wellness support—such as offering access to mental health support and maintaining appropriate staffing levels—were at least three times more likely to have their staff experience better mental and physical health, less burnout, and a higher quality of life. 

In our lunch and learn discussion at HIMSS we shared that during the pandemic, shared stresses bonded frontline workers to each other. More broadly, surveys regularly show that employees who feel supported and heard are less likely to experience burnout. In addition to facilitating communication and teamwork, technologies can help strengthen the bonds between co-workers. Remote workers communicating largely through video, emails, and chat, say they felt more connected before switching to hybrid work. 

“People want to feel like they have colleagues in arms,” says Robert Groves, chief medical officer of Banner/Aetna. “If you take away the human connection and focus exclusively on throughput, then you have just eliminated the reason that most people get into healthcare.” 

Unleashing the power of data 

Another challenge facing the health industry is the sheer volume of data it produces, which is too often unstructured and inaccessible. By some estimates, 80 percent of healthcare data is unstructured, including clinical notes of diverse types, medical imaging reports, medical publications, and more. This not only wastes valuable time on processing but also means that the data is unusable for analysis, AI, and machine learning at scale. The cloud is becoming increasingly important in healthcare as organizations’ interest in data analytics and AI continues to grow. 

The 21st Century Cures Act was passed in an effort to promote innovation in healthcare and requires, among other things, the support of health information technology interoperability. The key to achieving full interoperability is the representation of health data in the FHIR format. 

While FHIR is rapidly being adopted across the globe, there are several gaps in how to represent unstructured information in clinical narratives. Specifically, unstructured text typically cannot be easily ingested, normalized, structured, and analyzed by healthcare stakeholders in resources generated per the United States Core FHIR Guidelines. Organizations adhere to the FHIR standard in the pursuit of interoperability but lose the deep context and relationships from the clinical narrative. 

We were excited to announce new investments in Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare to support healthcare organizations in their data interoperability journey. The general availability of Azure Health Data Services is a critical next step to help health and life sciences organizations harness and unlock the power of health data.  

We were also excited to share a breakthrough solution to simultaneously accelerate unstructured data insights and supercharge interoperability between health organizations: Text Analytics for health structuring to FHIR. Now in preview, this feature of text analytics for health enables health organizations to transform unstructured clinical documents into FHIR resource bundles, to deliver better health insights to more people, faster. 

Text analytics for health is a generally available natural language processing (NLP) service within Microsoft Azure Cognitive Services that was purpose-built to extract information from biomedical and clinical free-text documents. In our newest release of this service, Microsoft allows customers to formalize their NLP output as bundles of interconnected hierarchical FHIR resources, in adherence with the United States Core standards. 

Partnering to reimagine healthcare 

Now more than ever, the healthcare industry needs innovative, diverse, and transformative solutions to deliver equitable and high-quality healthcare, provide better patient outcomes, and extend both with global scale and cost-effectiveness. We are honored that so many partners trust Microsoft to be their platform partner and joined us at HIMSS 2022.  

It was equally exciting to see the innovative technology from our booth partners Efferent, EPAM, KPMG, Quisitive, PwC, Tegria, and Teladoc. If you missed the show, you can watch an overview of their organization’s offer within our virtual booth tour. You’ll experience firsthand how our partners accelerate the delivery of value to our customers by leveraging Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare capabilities. 

Reimagining the future of healthcare  

Our interactions with customers continue to inspire us to keep enhancing the capabilities of Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare. Our work to innovate, reshape, and reimagine healthcare will only continue to grow. Microsoft is committed to innovating new and cutting-edge solutions that help make healthcare more personal, affordable, effective, and accessible while continuing to improve the patient and clinician experience. We’re excited to see what the next innovation will be at HIMSS 2023 in Chicago. 

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