Written by Cally Chan, General Manager of Microsoft Hong Kong and Macau
The response to the COVID-19 pandemic is stretching healthcare systems around the world. The infrastructure and supply chains of healthcare providers are being challenged, and our healthcare front-liners work tirelessly to provide treatment and support in a time of unprecedented demand for patient care. And if there is one question on the minds of those of the pandemic’s front-line it is most likely: “Can we do more with less?”
It is crucial to speed up routine tasks and services, especially during this time when a growing number of patients and limited resources can quickly overwhelm staff. We have seen how collaboration with customers and partners has taken on a speed and agility that we have not encountered before and how new cloud-based solutions, often leveraging Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning, can do much to augment the work of doctors, nurses and first responders.
AI and machine learning can greatly assist front-liners and alleviate the stress on our healthcare systems. Since the beginning of March, health organizations have created 1,600 COVID-19 self-assessment bots with the Microsoft Healthcare bot service that help respond to inquiries and free up health care workers. This has served over 31 million individuals across 23 countries to date. More than ever, it is crucial that patient needs are met despite limited resources, to ensure the well-being of our communities and technology can support that.
Ensuring accessibility to health care in safe conditions through remote care
In the past few months many people have avoided going to hospital or going out all, as the city combats the COVID-19 pandemic. This has led to challenges for patients suffering from chronic diseases as they need visit the hospital regularly for checkups and treatment.
As a strong believer in the power of technology to empower organizations and individuals to achieve more, Microsoft Hong Kong worked with healthcare service provider UMP to enable remote consultation services and streamline booking processes, ensuring the delivery of timely and quality healthcare services to people in need.
UMP leveraged Microsoft Teams and its Booking function to enable patients to book appointments, receive treatment, and seamlessly make payments through a convenient mobile app. Patients would be able to view all UMP doctors’ schedule via Teams, making it easier for patients to book a virtual or face-to-face consultation, as well as shorten waiting time at the clinic. Patients can also have their prescription delivered after their virtual consultation.
Similarly, CUHK Medical Clinic also adopted Microsoft Teams to enable remote consultation services, providing greater convenience and peace of mind to elderly and chronic patients as they can do their regular checkups in a safe environment during the pandemic.
Gearing up for the battle ahead
In the short span of time since the emergence of COVID-19, we have already seen significant changes in the way that healthcare is delivered. Undoubtedly, the pandemic will have a profound impact on the whole industry for years to come.
I cannot agree more with Dr. Rhew, who emphasized that, “a safer return to the workplace will require a lot of changes in how businesses will be run. Every organization must adjust, and Microsoft has the ability to support them.”
As efforts to battle the pandemic continue, we are hopeful that technology will continue to play a meaningful role in equipping healthcare experts with the tools they need for meaningful patient care and contributing toward research for a cure.
As part of our efforts, Microsoft has mobilized an AI for Health initiative with US$20 million dedicated to help on the front lines of research, where our data scientists can best contribute: data and insights; treatment and diagnostics; allocation of resources; dissemination of accurate information; and scientific research.
We will also be offering Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare, our first industry-specific cloud offering, in October. This will help bring together capabilities for customers and partners to enrich patient engagement, connect caregiving teams and improve operational efficiencies. Ultimately, to address the most pressing challenges the industry is facing today.
We will also continue to work with our partners to effectively address the challenges of this global crisis and support our customers in building their resilience and agility so they can continue to provide so much needed care for the communities.
We are committed to working together to empower health care organizations in the fight against the adverse effects of the pandemic and in the long run, support their pivot toward better experiences, better insights and better care.
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