Microsoft debuts healthcare messaging features, new bot service
- Microsoft on Thursday unveiled new tools aimed at enhancing communication and collaboration between healthcare providers.
- A new capability in Microsoft Teams alerts clinicians and support staff of urgent messages every two minutes for up to 20 minutes. A second new feature allows clinicians to delegate messages to another care team member if they are in surgery or otherwise indisposed.
- The company is also making generally available its Healthcare Bot, which began as a research project in 2017, and enables users to design AI-powered virtual health assistants and chatbots. Companies using the tool to create bots include Premera, Quest Diagnostics and Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. Microsoft will showcase these and other tools at HIMSS 2019 in Orlando, Florida, next week.
Microsoft Teams can now also integrate FHIR-enabled EHR data so providers can securely check patient records on their smartphone or mobile device. The capability is enabled through partnerships with interoperability providers including Dapasoft, Datica, Infor Cloverleaf, Kno2 and Redox.
"Clinical or hospital staff can securely access patient records in the same app where they can take notes, message with other team members, and start a video meeting, all in a single place to coordinate care," Peter Lee, corporate vice president for Microsoft Healthcare, wrote in a blog on the company's website.
The Healthcare Bot can be adapted to help organizations solve specific business problems and can connect to EHRs, according to the company. Features include healthcare intelligence, medical content and terminology and a symptom checker.
Microsoft has not made as big a splash in the healthcare space as other tech giants like Google, Apple and Amazon, but it has seen an opportunity in selling tools and cloud-based technologies for hospitals and providers.
Last month, Microsoft and Walgreen Boots Alliance announced a multiyear partnership to leverage Microsoft Azure, the company's cloud and artificial intelligence platform, in new healthcare delivery models, with the aim of improving outcomes and lowering costs. Under the arrangement, Walgreens will use Azure for the bulk of its IT infrastructure, and Microsoft will extend its 365 line of subscription services to Walgreens' 380,000-plus employees.
The deal also calls for collaboration on novel health networks and care management tools using Azure and AI, and creation of joint innovation centers in key markets.
Last year saw several health-related moves, including creation of a formal healthcare business unit and a joint commitment with Google, Amazon, IBM, Oracle and Salesforce to eradicate barriers to adoption of technologies for healthcare interoperability, especially those enabled through the cloud and AI.
Microsoft also announced the availability of FHIR Server for Azure, an open source project on GitHub aimed at easing healthcare data exchange and management in the cloud.