Nurse wearing a facemask working on her standing desk.Who would have thought when I made my 2020 health trends and predictions in January that our world would be upended by COVID-19? In a year marked by the health and economic crisis posed by a global pandemic, we’ve seen countless examples of the U.S. health and life sciences community rising to each new challenge and demonstrating resiliency, agility and commitment to address the most demanding requirements in over 100 years. I wanted to take this opportunity to express heartfelt thanks to all in our field for going above and beyond anyone’s expectations – and for the opportunity to partner on some transformative initiatives.

Accelerating the response

One of my 2020 predictions that proved true in this extraordinary year is the critical role of the cloud and artificial intelligence in health and life sciences. In a sense, the coronavirus served as an accelerator for many of our existing cloud and AI solutions, including the Microsoft Azure-powered Cloud for Healthcare, AI in health, Healthcare Bot service, Azure Front Door, Azure API for FHIR, HoloLens 2 and Microsoft 365 (including Teams). These capabilities are enabling:

  • Virtual health, including visits, hospital rounds, delivery of key information to help the public assess COVID-19 risks, and scalable, secure entry points for fast delivery of applications.
    • It’s worth noting that between March 1 and Dec. 7, our trusted health-bot service has been used by 75 million global customers to develop 2,311 COVID-19 bots, supporting 769 million conversations.
  • Virtual clinical trial coordination and the internet of medical things, or IoMT.
  • Remote assist and mixed reality for faster diagnoses, reducing time-to-care and more.
  • Virtual or hybrid work and medical/science remote learning to further “social determinants of health” (SDOH), which are the conditions in places where people live, learn, work and play that affect their health and quality-of-life risks and outcomes.
    • Microsoft Teams is integral in this area, providing chat, video, voice and healthcare collaboration tools in a single hub that supports compliance with HIPAA, HITECH and other regulations.
  • Ventilator splitting and diagnoses.
  • Vaccine design, development and clinical trials.
    • We recently released our COVID-19 Vaccine Eligibility Checker, allowing healthcare organizations to help the public assess their eligibility for vaccines. Built on our Healthcare Bot service, the checker uses the latest CDC guidelines for prioritizing patient populations for the first vaccine waves.

Empowering progress

We are very proud to collaborate with U.S. health and life sciences organizations, helping empower their progress on several fronts. Here are just a few examples of how Microsoft spurred momentum on COVID-19 challenges:

Vaccinating the nation

Health organizations are currently focused on managing the surge in COVID-19 cases as well as vaccinating the nation. Our team is working with many U.S. hospitals and healthcare providers to develop new Healthcare Bots to answer public questions on when, where and how to get vaccinated.

We’re also collaborating on vaccine deployment through our Microsoft Vaccination Registration and Administration Solution, or VRAS. This comprehensive, end-to-end solution facilitates the entire process, from helping people self-assess, register and schedule vaccinations to enabling providers to administer and monitor operations, record vaccination data, and create reports and dashboards.

Looking ahead

Our Health and Life Sciences team is looking ahead to prepare for a post-COVID environment. We are gathering lessons learned about responding to and recovering from this pandemic so that we can reimagine the future with a lasting framework to deal with public health crises. These efforts include:

Collaborating in health and life sciences

In addition to delivering trusted cloud and AI solutions, our team has partnered on several health and life sciences initiatives this year to address COVID-19 issues and boost other worthy endeavors. We:

Supporting the front lines

In reflecting on this tumultuous year, I’m often reminded of what Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella reiterated in July: “We’ve focused on acting as digital first responders to the world’s first responders, supporting those on the front lines of this pandemic.” Our team is honored and grateful to serve in this capacity for U.S. health and life sciences professionals. I’m also thrilled that we’ve remained dedicated to enabling better experiences, insights and care, passionate about driving innovation and committed to living Microsoft’s mission of empowering others. Going forward, we will advance these ideals so that health and life sciences organizations across the country can continue achieving more for everyone.