Azure Healthcare APIs Previewed for Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare Service

Microsoft is bolstering data integration support for its Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare service with revamped APIs at the preview stage.

The current Azure API for Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resource (FHIR) is getting support for additional data types and it's being renamed as "Azure Healthcare APIs," Microsoft announced this week. FHIR is a standard that defines how healthcare information can be exchanged among different computer systems, regardless of how that information is stored.

Azure Healthcare APIs is the "evolved version" of Azure API for FHIR. It provides pipelines for managing protected health information (PHI) data at scale, explained Heather Jordan Cartwright, vice president of Microsoft's Health and Life Sciences group, in the announcement.

"Anyone working with health data can leverage the Healthcare APIs to bring disparate sets of PHI together and connect it end-to-end with tools for machine learning, analytics, and AI," Cartwright said.

Using Azure Healthcare APIs, data get ingested and transformed from a healthcare provider's systems of record, Cartwright explained. The data are unified to create a longitudinal patient record. This record is based on real-time data, collected and persisted in a consistent way using common health data standards for multiple health data types.

The health data types include:

  • Structured inputs, such as clinical records in HL7 or C-CDA, data from medical devices, services such as HealthKit and Google Fit, or genomics databases.
  • Unstructured data, which can be mapped to natural language processing algorithms, such as TextAnalytics for Health, to annotate data from clinical notes or text documents and structure it in FHIR, so it can be viewed alongside structured clinical data.
  • Imaging data in Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine (DICOM) formats, which can be ingested through an API gateway, from which DICOMCast technology can extract relevant metadata from images and map it to patient records in FHIR.
  • Biometric data from devices, which can be ingested through Microsoft's Azure IoT Connector for FHIR and can provide information on health trends to care teams to allow for timely interventions and remote care.

Customers using the earlier Azure API for FHIR can continue using it without disruption to service or change in pricing structure, Microsoft indicated on its Web site.

Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare is Redmond's first industry-specific cloud program. In 2019, Microsoft became the first cloud services provider with a fully managed service for ingesting, persisting and managing structured healthcare data in the native FHIR format.

More information about the Azure Healthcare APIs, currently at preview, is available here.

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at [email protected].


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