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Medical imaging, AI, and the cloud: what’s next?

Today marks the start of RSNA 2020, the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America. I participated in my first RSNA 35 years ago and I am super excited—as I am every year—to reconnect with my radiology colleagues and friends and learn about the latest medical and scientific advances in our field. Of course, RSNA will be very different this year. Instead of traveling to Chicago to attend sessions and presentations, and wander the exhibits, I’ll experience it all online. While I will miss the fun, excitement, and opportunities to connect that come with being there in person, I am amazed by what a rich and comprehensive conference the organizers of RSNA 2020 have put together using the advanced digital tools that we have at hand now.

It would be an understatement to say that this has been a year in which nearly everything is very different. From the tragic loss of life and rampant sickness to the economic disruption and the impact on our professions and our children’s education, so much of what we have been through because of COVID-19 has been extremely difficult. But the resilience of the response that so many people and institutions have shown in the face of all these challenges has been remarkable. And if it is possible to say there has been some good in all this, it would have to be the unprecedented transformation of the global healthcare ecosystem as hospitals, clinicians, and researchers have embraced a new generation of advanced digital health technologies that have helped them respond to the coronavirus crisis and laid the foundation for a more effective, affordable, and equitable future for healthcare.


As we move forward and the digital transformation of healthcare continues to accelerate, I see three significant trends that will influence the future of health and wellness.

One is the rapid emergence of virtual care through digital tools such as telehealth and remote monitoring that have made it safer and more convenient for patients to connect with their doctors during the pandemic, and that is empowering individuals to take charge of their health in entirely new ways. Virtual care has the capacity to personalize, accelerate, and augment treatment and prevention, saving time and money while improving outcomes. The ability to engage patients without requiring an in-person visit to a clinic will help ensure that they receive the right level of care and enable healthcare facilities to better manage the flow of patients into clinics and emergency rooms.

The second trend is the growing clarity of the promise of AI-driven precision medicine to serve as a major catalyst for improving health outcomes. As platforms for precision medicine and real-world evidence mature, we’ll see exciting opportunities to improve treatment and prevention as we personalize patient care and transform how we diagnose infectious disease, cancer, and autoimmune disorders.

And, finally, where healthcare organizations have long been reluctant to move data offsite due to security, trust, and privacy concerns, we have seen a historic shift to the cloud over the last nine months. Now, driven by regulatory changes, the massive increase in medical data, and the critical need to access and analyze all that data by providers, payers, public health agencies, and researchers, it’s clear to everyone that moving to the cloud is both essential and hugely beneficial, both to providers and to patients.

Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare

As part of Microsoft’s ongoing commitment to help healthcare customers and partners continue to make progress toward recovery and build more resilient and effective systems of care, in late October we announced the general availability of Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare. This powerful industry-specific solution provides integrated capabilities for automated and efficient high-value workflows, and advanced data analysis functionally for structured and unstructured data so that healthcare organizations can truly transform information into insight and insight into action.

Built on the trusted capabilities of Microsoft 365, Microsoft Azure, Microsoft Dynamics 365, and Microsoft Power Platform, Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare is designed to enhance patient engagement to make it easier for patients to interact with caregivers, empower health team collaboration to facilitate more efficient and rich real-time communication and collaboration across the care continuum, and improve clinical and operational data insights with the ability of healthcare organizations to connect data from across their systems to predict risk and help improve patient care and operational efficiencies. Our robust partner ecosystem extends the power of Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare by building and extending advanced health solutions to meet the most demanding challenges in healthcare.


All of this makes it a particularly exciting time to be a radiologist. In many ways, our field has always been at the forefront of advances in the technologies that improve the movement, management, and analysis of large amounts of health data. This shouldn’t really be a surprise, given that medical imaging accounts for nearly three-quarters of all health data, and analyzing 3D medical images can require up to 50 GB of bandwidth a day.

At Microsoft, streamlining the flow of health data, including medical imaging data, has been a significant focus of our work over the past few years. With the release of the Medical Imaging Server for DICOM (Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine) in September, we offer developers powerful tools to ingest and persist medical imaging data in the cloud. Elevating interoperability, this is the first cloud technology to bring together DICOM data standard and FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources) which allows for persisting medical imaging metadata alongside other clinical data and sets the stage for multiple scenarios in research and diagnosis which may be too difficult or expensive to execute today.

Now, with Project InnerEye and the open-source InnerEye Deep Learning Toolkit, we’re making machine learning techniques available to developers, researchers, and partners that they can use to pioneer new approaches by training their own ML models, with the aim of augmenting clinician productivity, helping to improve patient outcomes, and refining our understanding of how medical imaging can be combined with other types of data to advance personalized medicine.

Learn more about our latest medical imaging offerings at the RSNA industry hour lunch and learn on December 3, 12:30 PM – 1:30 PM Central Time.


Reimagining an industry that is as complex and touches as many lives as healthcare is a massive undertaking and at Microsoft, we have the privilege of working with amazing partners who stand at the forefront of innovation and progress in medical imaging technology.

Our partners are building transformative solutions to address some of the most difficult challenges in medical imaging. The amount of data generated by medical diagnostic imaging and connected devices is growing exponentially. Healthcare stakeholders, therefore, need effective ways of handling these data at scale.

This prompted Siemens Healthineers to build a dedicated cloud environment for Healthcare: The teamplay digital health platform. Through a certified gateway, the teamplay receiver, health data from connected medical devices can be aggregated. The teamplay cloud infrastructure is based on Azure, allowing secured processing of data within or outside a hospital’s network.

GE Healthcare’s Centricity™ Universal Viewer Zero Footprint (ZFP) connects advanced diagnostic tools and system-wide image management platforms across the care continuum to help healthcare organizations improve diagnostic speed and confidence. ZFP users can now open Microsoft Teams with one click and share studies with other clinicians via the secure and compliant channels.1

SOPHiA GENETICS, the company pioneering the Data-Driven Medicine movement—trusted by over 1000 healthcare institutions in 85 countries—is highlighting their radiomics capabilities through the universal SOPHiA Platform for oncology and COVID CT imaging. Radiomics transforms standard medical imaging into mineable data assets that can be analyzed and combined with genomic data for improved decision support of precision medicine. SOPHiA Radiomics Solutions offer comprehensive workflows for multiple research and disease indication needs. SOPHiA multimodal platform is deployed on Microsoft Azure Cloud.

Microsoft and Sectra are partnering on cloud-based enterprise imaging and AI. In our joint RSNA webinar, Reap the benefits of enterprise imaging in the cloud with Microsoft & Sectra on December 3, we will introduce the brand new all-Azure and hybrid Microsoft Azure Stack offering as well as a demo of how Teams integration will help radiologists to cope in the new virtual world. We will hear Judy Bartlett from our joint customer John Muir share her experiences about moving from on-prem to running the Sectra Enterprise Imaging Solution as a Service on Azure.

With the imminent release of a new version of iConnect Enterprise Archive, IBM Watson Health will start to bring to market solutions that support a containerized deployment, in addition to VMWare, on both the IBM Cloud and Azure. The containerization of this portfolio is one of IBM Watson Health’s key initiatives, starting with their VNA foundation and leveraging IBM’s Red Hat OpenShift technology to ensure build once and deploy anywhere to be cloud native and agnostic.

With NVIDIA Clara Imaging, developers and researchers have the ability to accelerate data annotation, build domain-specialized AI models, and deploy intelligent imaging workflows with state-of-the-art pre-trained models and reference applications. Working closely with Azure, these innovators can jumpstart their development in the cloud and also address tough medical imaging challenges faster. During the current pandemic, our partnership is heavily accelerating progress Research in drug discovery (UC, Riverside; UCB Covid Moonshot) using GPUs on Azure for quantum mechanics model as well as using AI for SARS COVID-19 risk evaluation in Italy (Hospital San Raffaele, Milan). This partnership also enables the development and deployment of smart hospital solutions, running on NVIDIA Clara Guardian and Azure.

And finally, Flywheel is a cloud-scale informatics platform for biomedical research and collaboration. What is exciting about their differentiated work is the ability to securely leverage cloud at the edge with Microsoft Azure Stack Hub and transform these image analytics with Microsoft AI enabling tools and Flywheel’s depth in medical imaging data management and automated workflows.

Microsoft is the only cloud that extends to the edge from Microsoft Azure Edge Zone for 5G to Microsoft Azure Sphere for security. We’re removing all barriers by covering all security and data sovereignty concerns in the cloud. With over 168,000 partners around the world, the network for innovation and collaboration runs deep. We cannot wait to see how together we will build solutions that transform healthcare around the world.

For more information on Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare, AI imaging tools, or to learn more about partnership visit the Microsoft virtual booth at RSNA or connect with us at our featured demo on November 29, 2:00 PM – 2:30 PM Central Time.

[1] Technology in development that represents ongoing research and development efforts. These technologies are not products and may never become products. Not for sale. Not cleared or approved by the U.S. FDA or any other global regulator for commercial availability.