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Microsoft Launches Cloud-Based Data Platform for Health Care

As part of its broader Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare program, Microsoft this week announced the general availability of Azure Health Data Services, a platform for managing and analyzing various forms of patient data.

The Azure Health Data Services platform-as-a-service (PaaS) helps organizations manage disparate forms of protected health information (PHI) across multiple data stores, letting them work with -- and make sense of -- patient data using less time and resources.

"Different types of health data are stored in siloed formats and databases -- structured data like medications and patient attributes in pharma or EHR databases, CT scans in DICOM format, radiology reports as unstructured text, and medical device data in a separate data estate. By the time all the data is finally organized for use, the information is stale," explained Heather Jordan Cartwright, vice president of Health and Life Sciences at Microsoft, in a blog post Tuesday. "With Azure Health Data Service, queries like these can be filled in minutes and the data can be connected to the places you need."

The service uses an API called Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) that's designed to facilitate data-sharing between different types of health care systems, and bring interoperability to varying types of data sourced from multiple sources.

"You can view structured, unstructured, and imaging data together for a holistic, real-time view -- in just minutes," Jordan Cartwright said, adding that users can "search and query across your data using a unified [FHIR] structure and deploy a suite of services to connect it rapidly to the technology you need."

Microsoft also touted the service's integration with Azure's intelligence capabilities, particularly analytics, deep learning and AI -- all tools they can leverage to process their PHI data with a few clicks. For instance, users can "push PHI data to Azure Synapse Analytics using the Synapse Link for FHIR, where you can send it to Microsoft Power BI for data visualization, or to Microsoft Teams and Microsoft Dynamics 365 for operational and engagement tools."

Jordan Cartwright said Microsoft developed Azure Health Data Services after consulting with partners and customers in the health care industry. "The foundation of Azure Health Data Services is about removing barriers to working with health data," she said. "It starts with giving organizations trusted security that allows you to apply the security, access, and control you need for PHI so everyone in your organization can move faster."

More information on Azure Health Data Services, including pricing, is available here.

About the Author

Gladys Rama (@GladysRama3) is the editorial director of Converge360.

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