Microsoft launches healthcare cloud, says more industry clouds will follow

Microsoft has launched its first industry-specific cloud offering aimed at healthcare, with the promise of more industry clouds to follow.

The announcement was made as part of the now-virtual Microsoft Build event. While the major headlines of the developer jamboree have focused around big investments in artificial intelligence, as sister publication AI News has reported, Azure has often featured peripherally underpinning the projects. The partnership with OpenAI – to whom Microsoft invested $1 billion last year – building a supercomputer is hosted on Azure.

This is therefore one of the few announcements with Azure front and centre – and health was an obvious first choice, as Microsoft explained. “Our commitment has always been to ensure the tools we provide are up to the task of supporting our customers in their time of need,” wrote Tom McGuinness, Microsoft CVP worldwide health and Gregory J. Moore, CVP Microsoft health, in a blog post.

“The offer brings together existing and future capabilities that deliver automation and efficiency on high-value workflows, as well as deep data analytics for both structured and unstructured data, that enable customers to turn insight into action,” they added. “A robust partner ecosystem extends the value of the platform with additional solutions to address the most pressing challenges the healthcare industry is facing today.”

The healthcare cloud, which is available in public preview and is available on free trial for the next six months, will connect products including Microsoft Dynamics 365 for marketing and customer service, as well as Azure IoT. Use cases include connected referral management for care teams, self-service portals for patients and providers, and the design of ‘interactive patient journeys [to] help promote better outcomes.’

Microsoft Teams, which is HIPAA-compliant and HITRUST certified, will also be part of this initiative, providing secure chat, voice and video meetings, alongside recording and note transcription.

Health remains one of the primary industries for the leading cloud providers. Google Cloud has its own HIPAA-approved healthcare APIs, which were made generally available a month ago having been in the works for two years, while Amazon Web Services (AWS) has an extensive healthcare and life sciences portfolio. Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, many providers extended services to those working in the industry; Microsoft made Teams available for free to NHS staff in the UK among other initiatives.

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