Microsoft has been working on health-related initiatives for years, but the company is now bringing its efforts together into a new Microsoft Healthcare team. This doesn’t mean you’ll be visiting a Microsoft Store anytime soon for human virus scans, instead it’s a bigger effort to create cloud-based patient profiles, push doctors to the cloud, and eventually have artificial intelligence analyzing data.
The software maker has hired two industry veterans to help out: Jim Weinstein and Joshua Mandel. Weinstein is the former CEO of the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health system and joins Microsoft as the VP of Microsoft Healthcare, and will work with healthcare organizations to move systems to the cloud. Mandel joins as Microsoft Healthcare chief architect, after completing a nearly two-year stint at Google as an executive for the company’s Verily venture (formerly Google Life Sciences). Mandel will be working closely with the open standards community to create an open cloud architecture for all healthcare providers.
Microsoft’s new Healthcare team appears to be a more formalized approach to the company’s Healthcare NExT (New Experiences and Technologies) company-wide initiative that kicked off last year. NExT was designed to foster health industry partnerships and bring together Microsoft’s research, AI, and cloud teams to focus on healthcare.
Microsoft is trying to find ways to move healthcare data to the cloud securely and in a way that doesn’t break strict compliance requirements for confidentiality. The new Microsoft Healthcare team will be part of Microsoft’s broader AI and Research division. “At Microsoft, we’re confident that many aspects of the IT foundations for healthcare will move from on-premise doctors’ offices and clinics to live in the cloud,” explains Peter Lee, head of Microsoft Healthcare. “We are taking concrete steps with an initial ‘blueprint’ intended to standardize the process for the compliant, privacy-preserving movement of a patient’s personal health information to the cloud and the automated tracking of its exposure to machine learning and data science.”
Lee admits the company has its “work cut out for us,” and this certainly won’t be an easy task for Microsoft. There’s an ongoing race to bring more technology to healthcare and, in particular, artificial intelligence. IBM, Baidu Google, and Alibaba are all working on similar healthcare initiatives, but IBM has struggled with its own efforts. Some analysts predict that AI use in healthcare will grow over the next decade and potentially generate huge savings for the US healthcare economy. Microsoft is clearly part of the broader race to introduce cloud technology, IoT devices, and AI into healthcare, and this new team will be responsible for that. Microsoft now plans to share more about Microsoft Healthcare later this year.