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Why Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare matters in the healthcare IT market

by MSCN Reporter
Staff Writer,

The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated changes in healthcare organizations, prompting many to adopt cloud technology and scrap older processes driven by legacy systems, spreadsheets, or paper. MSCloudNews spoke with Microsoft MVP Paul Swider about how healthcare IT has evolved in the last two years and how Microsoft's broad Cloud for Healthcare offering, which launched in 2020, is competing in the industry.

MSCN: What has changed in healthcare IT with the Covid-19 pandemic?

Paul Swider: [The last two years] remind me of the late 1990s when I was starting off in the healthcare IT field. My first large project in the clinical health space was Y2K. Everyone was making sure all our healthcare devices in hospitals would continue to run. I haven't seen an urgency like that in healthcare since then—until now. 

As 2020 began, I was an Azure MVP working closely with the Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare team. This new offering from Microsoft is built on top of Azure, Dynamics 365, Power Platform, and Microsoft 365, and provides for an explosion of patient demand for remote services.

Healthcare organizations are usually laggards in adopting new tech. But demands have changed. Now, healthcare organizations are trying to decide whether people should get emergency testing and figure out ways to move on-prem patient data up to the cloud. Much of this can be accomplished with Power Apps Portals. In fact, around a third of the technology you are deploying when you use Cloud for Healthcare is Dynamics. In other cases, an organization might be using a bot.

Just like we have Azure SQL to provision serverless SQL, you can do the same with FHIR services. As the pandemic progressed, we saw an explosion in FHIR services—the standard for getting data back and forth between cloud and on-prem—and the evolution of the HL7 standard. FHIR allows for a safe way to get clinical and healthcare data to the cloud. If you look at billion-dollar learning hospitals like Dartmouth, Harvard, the UC schools, or big healthcare systems in the Southeast, they still keep most patient data on-prem or in a private cloud and haven't adopted public cloud fully. Amazon, Google, and Epic have all begun to offer FHIR services. Together with its competitors, Microsoft has turned FHIR into a service, extending it. As a result, you are not just getting data to and from an on-prem environment, but also changing its attributes. One example is deidentification APIs, which might be useful when trying to do testing, or if you don't want to identify patients because you are doing research across a larger population.

There is a lot of discussion of telehealth and chatbots in healthcare. What sort of Azure tools and services are healthcare organizations using?

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