- Microsoft has integrated its healthcare-specific cloud offering with Cerner's electronic health record, the software giant's latest integration with a major EHR vendor, Chief Medical Officer David Rhew said at the HLTH conference on Tuesday.
- Microsoft launched the service, called Cloud for Healthcare, last year to link its existing products like the Azure cloud platform and telecommunications platform Teams it says will help providers with virtual visits, care management and patient engagement through apps.
- Also Tuesday, the computing company announced new capabilities in patient engagement, additional resources for frontline workers and data capabilities in Cloud for Healthcare it said were in response to customer feedback during COVID-19.
Healthcare organizations scrambled to build out their virtual products during the pandemic, seeking digital pathways to stay connected to their patient base and retain revenue. Microsoft said its customers say they want to continue accelerate their digital agendas to meet patient and employer client needs, which resulted in the new cloud capabilities — especially in virtual care.
"When the pandemic hit we realized we needed to focus on areas of greatest concern," Rhew said. "That clearly was an area we started spending more time on."
Even as COVID-19 ebbs in the U.S., many industry players are continuing to push towards a hybrid care model linking digital and physical delivery of care. Gartner predicts by 2022 about a third of outpatient encounters will be virtual, representing 15% of revenue.
With its health-focused software, Microsoft is looking to capitalize on healthcare organizations looking to invest in virtual care capabilities for the long-term.
At its launch, Cloud for Healthcare product included Microsoft 365, Dynamics, Power Platform and Azure aimed at managing patients and staff, deploying resources and promoting data insights, along with Azure's IoT, to upload continuous monitoring data collected by patients' medical devices directly to the cloud.
Microsoft has spent the past 17 months or so since the initial offering rounding out the product. Tuesday's update includes, for example, a new waiting room where clients can personalize the virtual experience with their own logo, messaging and real-time visit notifications.
Additionally, Microsoft has extended its EHR connection to include Cerner's EHR, allowing doctors to access the platform with no download of additional software or switch to another portal. Customers already had access in the platform to the tech giant's other partners within the ecosystem, including Epic, Allscripts, GE Healthcare and Nuance, that can provide more specialized services.
Having an interoperable offering with access to a broad suite of partners is key to Microsoft's strategy in healthcare, according to Rhew.
"That’s a really essential part of our approach," the CMO said.
The cloud offering is now more broadly available to customers in Europe, Asia and Australia, Microsoft also said Tuesday.
Cloud offerings targeting specific verticals has continued to be a major trend among providers like Microsoft, Google and Amazon, especially in the data-rich healthcare environment.
In 2019, Walgreens, Providence and Humana reached data-storage agreements with Microsoft; EHR vendor Cerner named Amazon Web Services its preferred cloud host; and Mayo Clinic inked a 10-year deal with Google.
In 2020, Google opened a new office by Mayo's main campus, increasing its investment in the partnership; while hospital behemoth HCA also linked up with Google Cloud on a new data analytics platform to support provider decision-making.