Doctor touching electronic medical record on tablet. DNA. Digital healthcare and network connection on hologram modern virtual screen interface, medical technology and futuristic concept.

It’s always exciting to attend an event like HLTH! A time to come together with other healthcare innovators as a community to connect with peers, share, and learn from each other. It’s an opportunity to get a pulse on what’s trending and how we shape the future of healthcare. It’s an opportunity to get a pulse on what’s trending and how we shape the future of healthcare. I encourage you to watch HLTH sessions on-demand at HLTH 2020.

But 2020 has been a year of dynamic change—The world after this pandemic will not be the same as the one that came before it. From remote teamwork and telehealth, to supply management and customer service, to critical cloud infrastructure and security—we are working alongside customers every day to help manage through a world of remote everything.

The whole of the healthcare industry has been impacted by COVID-19 in an unprecedented way. It’s had a substantial impact, and in many ways, it has raised the bar on what we need to collectively deliver as an industry.

Wall have the potential to deliver a personalized experience for health consumers, empower health team productivity, improve health data accessibility, and find ways to remove the barriers of health equity and affordability. Across the healthcare ecosystem, we’re seeing organizations bring together compute, data, and artificial intelligence (AI) to help accelerate the response to COVID-19. From diagnostic testing to therapeutics and vaccines. Healthcare providers are triaging patients with our Healthcare Bot service, helping more than 40 million people to access critical healthcare information. Biotech organizations are using our machine learning capabilities to decode the immune system response to the virus, and healthcare providers and hospitals around the world are using FHIR technology in Azure to make data available for research, provide more robust treatment assessments, and deliver first-class telehealth experiences to their patients.

Technology has played an important role in helping to battle the pandemic, and Microsoft will continue to lean in to support efforts where technology can make a difference today and beyond.

Leading through COVID-19 response and recovery

During their HLTH keynote, Microsoft’s own Kurt DelBene EVP, Corporate Strategy, and Toni Townes Whitley, President US Regulated Industries, along with Dr. Nicole Fisher, President, Health and Human Rights Strategies, Global Health and Policy Contributor, Forbes, shared their insights and initiatives that are helping Microsoft employees, customers and partners through the pandemic.

In these types of situations, we must be ready to learn together. Over the past several years one of the hallmarks of our culture has been a learning organization. This is incredibly important as we focus on our employees and our customers. We became digital-first responders supporting customers and partners by leaning in, learning and helping organizations adapt to the disruption, and build scalable modalities of care while safeguarding patients, employees, and assetsFrom remote teamwork and telehealth, to supply chain management and customer service, to critical cloud infrastructure and security, we are working alongside customers every day to help manage through a world of remote everything.

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. In that same spirit, we announced our first industry-specific cloud offering, Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare. 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. 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. In September, we announced the general availability of Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare coming on October 28, 2020. Throughout the public preview, we’ve been working closely with customers and partners across the healthcare ecosystem on key use cases, to facilitate integrations into existing platforms and systems of record, to streamline their workflows, and ultimately deliver better experiences, insights, and care 

At Microsoft, we will continue to focus on helping everyone get back to their places of work or school, and enabling organizations with the speed and agility to adjust to change, build resiliency that help them weather today’s challenges so they can begin to reimagine tomorrow. 

Reshaping the future of disease diagnostic

Julie Rubinstein, President of Adaptive Biotechnologies, and Dr. Greg Moore, Microsoft CVP of Health, highlighted the unreleased insights from the growing and largest ImmuneCODE database in their announcement session, “T-cells: The key to SARS-CoV-2 immunity? ImmuneCODE is one of the largest, most detailed views of the immune response to COVID-19 based on de-identified data generated from thousands of COVID-19 blood samples from patients around the globe. This new data points to T-cells giving us predictive power for early detection and predetermining the body’s immune response.

This is reshaping the future of disease diagnostic with Azure machine learning and AI. Microsoft took the existing partnership with Adaptive and pivoted to use the same technology and antigen mapping and apply it to COVID-19. Recognizing that this approach to the virus is one of a kind, looking at T-cells for the answer for early detection, immune response individual to individual, and for therapeutics and vaccines to determine the best course of action for each patient. Information from ImmuneCODE will continue to accelerate ongoing global efforts to develop better diagnostics, vaccines, and therapeutics for COVID-19. For more information on how to join or get involved in the Adaptive and Microsoft collaboration, check out, ImmuneRace.

Accessibility as a tech opportunity

With the unprecedented shift to a virtual world, it has never been more important to be accessible and inclusive of more than one billion people worldwide with a disability.

October marks the 75th anniversary of the National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). Jenny Lay-Flurrie, Chief Accessibility Officer at Microsoft, talked about her own personal journey and gives us a peek into the evolution of accessibility across companies, education, and healthcare.   

At Microsoft, we’re making accessibility a core part of our culture and how we design and build our products. People with disabilities have been the catalyst for innovations that have been critical during these times. Live Captions in Teams saw 30X growth in April versus February, Immersive Reader had a 560 percent increase in use, and upcoming wellbeing features in Teams responded to the growing importance of mental health.

Disability is a strength. All these technologies have been powered by insight from employees with disabilities. It’s one of the many reasons why our workforce must reflect the diversity of everyone who uses our technology. You might be surprised what is included as a disability, the majority of disabilities are invisible and include non-apparent conditions such as Cancer, Dyslexia, Autism, Depression, Anxiety, Diabetes, Asthma, and Lupus.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is one of those technologies that can help employers eliminate barriers to employment and it can help people with disabilities develop professional skills and influence workplace culture. Microsoft is an advocate of people with disabilities, committed to influencing the future of technology to ensure global independence and inclusion in society in three areas of focus: employment, daily life, communication, and connection. Read more about AI for Accessibility or our AI for Accessibility grants.

Ethical approaches to AI

Given the global scale of the pandemic, technology will play a critical role in nearly every facet of addressing COVID-19, from using AI to crunch massive datasets to analyzing disease vectors and identifying treatment impacts. We continue to collaborate with nonprofits, governments, and academic researchers on solutions, and bring our experience to the table, providing access to Microsoft AI, technical experts, data scientists, and other resources.

During the early days of the pandemic, a heightened public concern along with a readily transmissible respiratory pathogen necessitated that health systems adjust their underlying processes for screening and triage. Providence, a large multi-state multi-hospital health system with a significant presence in the greater Seattle region, applied an artificial intelligence (AI)-based chatbot technology, developed by Microsoft, to address the rising patient concerns about the virus.

By asking a series of questions based on the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, the chatbot screened patients for COVID-19 symptoms and/or exposures. Patients with symptoms and/or exposures were subsequently directed to Providence’s telehealth portal for clinical evaluation and possible testing. The bot was facilitating successful and efficient population-level care coordination. This enabled high-risk and/or symptomatic patients to receive a timely remote clinical evaluation, without increasing the risk of virus transmission to other patients or extending the wait-times for those with symptoms.

Since then, Microsoft has delivered the same chatbot technology for hospitals and governments across the globe. Today, more than 45 million people globally have been using this AI-enabled bot technology.

We all know every person is unique, and so are their illnesses. AI enables an entirely new level of personalized treatment by taking into consideration what makes a patient unique, from their genetics to their lifestyle. Precision medicine has the potential to radically improve health and longevity for every patient. This is an inflection point where the healthcare industry has an opportunity to improve the quality and delivery of care by taking a people-centered approach to the research, development, and deployment of AI. To achieve this, as an industry we need to embrace diverse perspectives, continuous learning, and agile responsiveness as AI technology and precision medicine continue to evolve.

But it’s also important healthcare organizations cultivate a responsible AI-ready culture throughout their businesses and put principles into place from implementation to governance with practices, tools, and technologies built on multidisciplinary research, shared learning, and leading innovation. Learn more about Microsoft’s commitment to responsible AI.

It’s a pivotal time to be working in healthcare and HLTH proved it. If you didn’t attend any of the live sessions, I’d encourage you to watch HLTH sessions on-demand at HLTH 2020.  And I look forward to seeing all of you at the HLTH 2021 event, where we are sure to gain a whole new set of insights and inspirations for a bold path forward.  

Visit Microsoft for Healthcare to learn about our perspective for healthcare organizations and the opportunity to see more information about the new Microsoft Cloud for Healthcaresolution.