By Dr. Helia Mohammadi, Chief Data Scientist & Healthcare Industry Lead, Microsoft Canada
Next week, changemakers from across the global healthcare ecosystem will come together at HIMSS21 to engage in industry collaboration, educational programming and networking opportunities – both in-person in Las Vegas and digitally. This conference comes at a pivotal time for the healthcare sector; after 18 months of significant innovation and digital advancements, organizations are now shaping the future of healthcare where a patient-centered approach is at the core.
Enhancing patient engagement
Just as digital transformation in other industries has led to increased consumer expectations, patients now have higher expectations for their healthcare providers, the treatments they receive and their ability to monitor their own wellness. Similarly, healthcare practitioners are increasingly relying on digital solutions that empower them to stay connected with patients beyond direct interactions, help improve communications with care teams and enable collaboration more efficiently in a secure, real-time environment. These changes represent a seismic shift in how healthcare providers and patients will approach access and delivery moving forward.
By investing in digital tools and developing strategies to adapt to the current environment, the next chapter of healthcare delivery will incorporate virtual health as part of the broader omni-channel healthcare delivery model. Virtual visits will be fully integrated as a value-added service, care teams will have seamless access to critical information and data when they need it, and artificial intelligence will play an increasingly bigger role in personalized treatments.
Harnessing the power of cloud computing will be instrumental in bringing this transformational model of healthcare delivery to life. When we announced Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare in October 2020 our vision was to create a patient-centered healthcare journey. This end-to-end, industry-specific cloud solution uses data more effectively, and most importantly, it gives organizations the speed, agility, and resiliency they need to reimagine how patient care is delivered.
Innovation in action: illumiSonics
At Microsoft, we work closely with our robust ecosystem of healthcare partners who are working tirelessly to develop new solutions that complement and extend core cloud capabilities. One of our customers, illumiSonics, has been hard at work over the last few years developing a new tissue imaging technology called Photoacoustic Remote Sensing (PARS). Created in partnership with PhotoMedicine Labs at the University of Waterloo, this innovative medical imaging solution has wide-ranging applications and has the potential to fundamentally change the way people use images to diagnose tissue abnormalities and disease progression.
The images that PARS creates are incredibly high resolution and include high levels of detail on the cellular level. To process and store these images, illumiSonics adopted Microsoft Azure and immediately recognized the benefits of seamlessly deploying Azure applications with its images. The first of these new apps was created jointly by illumiSonics and Microsoft, with which remote clinicians can view PARS images and validate them through clinical study. Using a prebuilt custom vision API from Azure Cognitive Services, the app aims to help illumiSonics automatically identify multiple types of cancer cells.
This app has the potential to transform procedures for surgeons operating on cancer patients. Currently, after a surgery is complete, the biopsied tissue is sent to the pathology lab, where results can take a few days or weeks to come back. Only then do you know if the patient needs secondary surgery. Because PARS can color code imagery in much the same way a pathology lab does, there might soon come a day when surgery results are returned while the surgeon is still in the operating room, giving them the time and insight to excise an entire tumor the first time.
illumiSonics is also engaging our Research Center of Excellence on Cloud (RCEC), which helps institutions seamlessly migrate their research workloads to the cloud, scale their research, collaborate with partner organizations in a highly secure manner, and simplify their research computing needs.
Delivering better experiences, insights, and care
Healthcare is intrinsically a data-intensive industry; when organizations leverage the cloud and apply advanced analytics to massive amounts of data from internal and external sources like clinical analytics and environmental systems, they can glean deeper insights. These systems of insight are the next evolution of digital transformation – where healthcare providers can predict the future condition of individual patients based on early warning signs, recommend medications based on the successful treatment of similar patients, and determine best practices in operations management by comparing data from multiple facilities.
To effectively leverage data, it is becoming increasingly imperative that healthcare leaders use cloud technology that works on open standards like Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR). By enabling advanced interoperability and the secure exchange of protected health information (PHI), FHIR is the fuel for innovation in healthcare and life sciences. Recently, Microsoft announced the general available Azure API for FHIR in Canada, which offers a turnkey platform where healthcare providers can quickly connect existing data sources, such as electronic health record systems and research databases.
Innovation at HIMSS21
As digital transformation continues to shape the future of healthcare around the world, we look forward to connecting with and learning from the very best and brightest in the industry. As a sponsor of HIMSS Digital 2021, Microsoft is offering a series of digital first experiences that will explore new ideas and offer insights from thought leaders, including the following three items that are specific to the Canadian field.
- Key Considerations for Resilient Models of Care: Tuesday, August 10 at 10:45 AM – 11:10 AM PDT. Join our very own Julie Brill, Chief Privacy Officer and CVP for Global Privacy & Regulatory Affairs at Microsoft, and Dr. Ramin Davidoff, Co-Chief Executive Officer at The Permanente Federation, for a panel discussing key considerations for resilient models of care.
- Pre-event webinar: Learn more about harnessing health data to accelerate AI and interoperability with a pre-event webinar will be live on the HIMSS Learning Center on August 3.
For more information on the new wave of cloud innovation at HIMSS21, I encourage you to read this blog post by Tom McGuinness, Corporate Vice President, Worldwide Health, Microsoft and Jenn Roth, Global Industry Product Marketing Director-Health. https://cloudblogs.microsoft.com/industry-blog/health/2021/07/22/explore-the-new-wave-of-cloud-innovation-at-himss21/