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The healthcare industry has come a long way from putting pen to paper on a pharmacy script or clinical SOAP note to now, being able to deliver primary care in the emerging hospital at home. My career in the healthcare and life sciences (HLS) industry has spanned different roles including: a military clinician, life science entrepreneur, clinical research application scientist, and business leader. Currently, I head the Partner Alliances team for Microsoft’s global health and Life sciences Cloud and Data engineering and product group. Today, I consider myself an HLS generalist bridging the gap between engineering and the application of it in the wild. I look forward to continuing to listen to the needs, implement solutions, and partner with others to bring forward meaningful change in healthcare.

Last month, we launched Azure Health Data Services, a platform as a service (PaaS) offering designed exclusively to support Protected Health Information (PHI) in the cloud, built on the global open standards Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR)® and Digital Imaging Communications in Medicine (DICOM). Watching the team work to develop this product, I feel compelled to share how intentional our product team is at building healthcare technologies for an industry that is currently experiencing historically unprecedented transformation. We are deploying technology that can ingest, transform, and persist data, allowing our customers to use their data to span workflows from discovery research to clinical end points.1 The underlying technology enables our customers to engage in activities ranging from novel biomarker identification to virtual clinical decision support. For example, today our customers can combine cellular assay data, pathology data, molecular imaging, genomics, handwritten, voice, and text derived notes. With so much data, the goal is to enable our customers to derive insights from a single system of record, so that they can optimize the user experience for patient,  research and clinical workflows so that adherence to treatment increases, scientists gain faster contextual evidence to support their early discoveries and clinicians can spend more time focused on delivering healthcare without experiencing burnout and information overload. The bottom line is, when you can bring these data sets together in a meaningful way, you inherently increase your signal to noise ratio since you are no longer looking for a needle in a haystack; you are looking for a book in a library.

Five years ago, under the leadership of Peter Lee, Microsoft made a purposeful decision that enabled us to lead the way in cloud, data, AI, and innovation. In 2020, Microsoft won the Frost and Sullivan Best Practice Award for our commitment to global AI for healthcare IT growth, and our innovation and leadership in the industry. The Microsoft executive health leadership team realized that we needed a common standards-based platform for healthcare and life sciences data and a secure compliant environment for the industry to build on. To accomplish this, we would need to contribute to the interoperability momentum for FHIR® standard. We also knew we had to lead with partners that know the space better than we do.  We are now focused on building the most trusted, health data platform designed with security and compliance in mind, that is ready to ingest a variety of data types and standards, workflow accelerators, and scenario-specific features. Our hope is that this will enable our ecosystem of partners to push the last mile of innovation for our shared customers in provider, pharmaceutical, payor, and life sciences.
With our partners as the foundation of our business, we will maintain competitive velocity in such transformational times.

Our approach to building Azure Health Data Services has been to support our partners by building and managing the underlying cloud technology so they can remain focused on the front-line industry scenarios. We appreciate the intimate business propriety required to remain innovative and competitive. For this model to work, we must begin and end with the question “are we going to build, buy, or partner for this given product, feature, or capability?” These decisions are rigorous and informed by key industry opinion leaders, the partner ecosystem, and our leadership teams.

Taking inspiration from industry leaders

To support this thesis, we built Health Data Services Partner Alliances team. Our charter is to listen to industry leaders like Tom Arneman at EPAM, BJ Moore at Providence, and the broader trusted advisors across the Microsoft health and life sciences partnership ecosystem. This industry driven feedback challenged us to deliver interoperable, FHIR enabled services and partner led solutions. Partners like Redox, Onyx, 3Cloud, EPAM, SAS, Efferent, Teladoc and ZS Services have been instrumental in providing direct user feedback.

These solutions are coming to life with our mutual customers across the provider, payer and pharma industries. Together we are delivering diversified solutions across the HLS continuum that includes users like translational oncology clinical trial coordinators to care providers remotely accessing their patients. We have worked closely to evolve features with early movers that have deep expertise in multi-modal interoperability deployments, FHIR resource creation, MedTech eventing features for remote patient monitoring, and DICOM for imaging. Now we are scaling these managed services with global partners, their large enterprise HLS practices and industry leading ISV solutions. We are deploying a breadth motion and application toolset that will make it simpler for our partners to build new transactional and analytic SMART on FHIR and other applications on top of Azure Health Data Services.

These partners are the cornerstone of building solutions for the greatest challenges we see today and foresee in years to come. At Microsoft we focus on aligning with them on a defined customer and business opportunity, we then commit resources and appropriate enablement to deliver timely and measurable business value. When we execute in this way, our likelihood of optimized collaboration, product; market fit, market adoption, and long-term partnership is much greater.

Azure Health Data Services is built with the goal of enabling our customers to be able to do more with their health data. We want our partners to be able to provide them solutions to do so—solutions optimized for Azure, Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare and Azure Health Data Services which can help them transform patient experience, discover new insights, and accelerate innovation.

Learn more

1EPAM Debuts New Cloud-Powered Digital Clinical Trials Platform.

®FHIR is a registered trademark of Health Level Seven International, registered in the U.S. Trademark Office and are used with their permission.

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