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‘Microsoft’s healthcare initiative to change the industry’
  • By Marian Chu
  • Published 2017.05.30 11:31
  • Updated 2017.05.30 11:31
  • comments 0

Microsoft, with their extensive experience in healthcare, has recently launched a cutting-edge initiative called Healthcare NeXT with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) to combine artificial intelligence, cloud technology, and research into one.

Although the company is a relatively late entrant in healthcare cloud, Microsoft is catching up – and more – according to Callum Bir, director of Business Development and Public Health Sector of the Asia Pacific Region. Bir sat down with Korea Biomedical Review Tuesday to discuss the company’s growth plan with Healthcare NeXT initiative.

Callum Bir, director of Business Development and Public Health Sector of Microsoft’s Asia Pacific Region, explains about his company’s new healthcare initiative, during an interview with Korea Biomedical Review at the Federation of Korean Industries, downtown Seoul, Tuesday.

Question: What is Microsoft “Azure” and how will it change the industry?

Answer: Azure is one of the few clouds that we have in the industry which can help specifically when it comes to healthcare. Azure’s core capabilities include artificial intelligence, internet of things (IoT), and platform pieces.

Although hospitals have been investing in technology for a long time, they can’t just “lift and shift.” It takes time, planning, and strategy. There may be even some applications that make no sense to move to the cloud. Demand is also hard to predict, so hospitals cannot forward invest.

What Azure does is give you the flexibility to scale up and down when you need to. It allows hospitals to start small and grow very quickly, and they don’t have to invest in millions of dollars up front. All of which creates new revenue streams for hospitals.

We are disrupting the procurement model by distributing platform as a service. We also have a subscription model, so our customers don’t have to buy a license, and it saves cost. Essentially, you have one platform that provides everything.

Q: What differentiates Microsoft Azure from similar service providers?

A: Most people may not appreciate and recognize that we have been doing “cloud” work for a very long time – we just haven’t called it that. For example, Hotmail, consumer services, MSN are known as cloud now. We’re not just getting the infrastructure right; we’re also getting privacy, compliance, security right as well.

Because of the healthcare focus that we’ve had and the length of experience we’ve had in the enterprise area, we have formed a deeper understanding of our partners. Microsoft excels not because we just have the infrastructure, but because we have great partnerships. We also understand different platforms and cognitive capabilities while investing in problem areas.

The number one distinguishing factor is our focus on industry specific regulatory compliance. We invest more in that area more than anyone else. We offer U.S. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability (HIPPAA) compliance. We also offer high-tech compliance on top of that, which is more stringent.

Microsoft also has the world’s largest data centers, which is bigger than all other data centers put together. We allow scalability to occur, and we have it available to everywhere we go. We also provide a high level of trust, provided by a dedicated team that works country by country, region to region to figure out the various compliances in each country.

At Azure, we’re working to look at how to apply the cloud across all the application services that we offer. As a company, we’ve been doing a lot of research in health, and we have brought that all under one umbrella. Bringing all the research under one roof solidifies our position in our industry.

Q: What is Microsoft working on in Healthcare NeXT and how will it change the industry?

A: Healthcare NeXT is, I think, groundbreaking. We have formed a strategic partnership with UPMC to work on HealthVault Insights, Microsoft Genomics, health chatbot, and InnerEye.

Microsoft Genomics can sequence genomes seven times faster than anyone else. This type of precision medicine is going to change the way we practice healthcare. It’s disruptive.

We’re also working on healthbot chatbot technology which focuses on the ability to triage. We’re not replacing doctors; instead, we’re looking for a better triage mechanism: how do we triage doctors, and how do we triage conditions that patients express.

All in all, our initiative is focused on how to create smart AI across every fabric, every application that we have. We’re not creating just an investment engine – our mission is to empower every single individual on the planet. We’re not researching just for the sake of research, or creating technology for the sake of technology. Healthcare NeXT will be a life-changing, health industry changing experience.


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