Microsoft and partners combine the cloud, AI, research and industry expertise to focus on transforming health care

By Peter Lee as written on


The goal is noble: Empower people to lead healthier lives. And yet, few industries in the world face more complex problems than health care. Disparate and disconnected information systems, the uncertainties within regulatory environments around the world and the inevitable disruptions in core business models all pose perplexing and interlocking challenges.
As we look at some of the challenges in health care, a natural question we ask ourselves is, How can Microsoft bring its capabilities to bear to solve some of these problems?
It’s a big challenge. But we believe technology – specifically the cloud, AI and collaboration and business optimization tools – will be central to health care transformation.
Making a difference in health care will require all that Microsoft can bring, fused with the industry expertise and experience from our partners: leading health care organizations and the companies that serve them.
We are incredibly energized about the opportunities to make a difference in health care. We’ve been listening carefully to our customers and partners within the health care sector, and we’ve heard their message: Let’s work together, innovate together and create solutions that can empower people to lead healthier lives.
Today, we are expanding our commitment to building a healthier future with new initiatives and solutions, making it easier for health industry partners and organizations to use intelligent technology to improve the lives of people around the world.
Healthcare NExT: Fusing research, AI and industry expertise through partners
Healthcare NExT, a new initiative to dramatically transform health care, will deeply integrate greenfield research and health technology product development, as well as establish a new model at Microsoft for strategic health industry partnerships. Through these collaborations between health care partners and Microsoft’s AI and Research organization, our goal is to enable a new wave of innovation and impact using Microsoft’s deep AI expertise and global-scale cloud.
This initiative includes investments in resources for our partners to capture new opportunities to apply AI to healthcare, such as the Microsoft AI in Health Partner Alliance, an expanding group of partners focused on advancing health technology. Alliance members will receive unique training and access to Microsoft technologies, engineering expertise and data sets.
Transforming patient and clinician empowerment with UPMC
The first planned strategic research partnership for Microsoft’s Healthcare NExT initiative is with UPMC (University of Pittsburgh Medical Center), one of the largest integrated health care delivery networks in the United States. The $13 billion Pittsburgh-based system, comprising more than 25 hospitals, a 3 million-member health plan and 3,600 physicians, will be a core partner in our efforts to improve health care delivery through a series of projects, beginning with a focus on transforming clinician empowerment and productivity. With UPMC’s long track record of clinical and commercial innovation and Microsoft’s expertise in advanced AI capabilities, the two organizations plan to work together to bring innovative new solutions to market, beginning with implementation at UPMC.
“Despite UPMC’s efforts to stay on the leading edge of technology, too often our clinicians and patients feel as though they’re serving the technology rather than the other way around. With Microsoft, we have a shared vision of empowering clinicians by reducing the burden of electronic paperwork and allowing the doctor to focus on the sacred doctor-patient relationship,” said Steven D. Shapiro, M.D., chief medical and scientific officer of UMPC and president of UPMC’s Health Services division.
Additional collaborations from Healthcare NExT include partners applying the cloud, AI and research to some of the biggest problems in health care:
  • HealthVault Insights is a new research-based project designed to allow partners to generate new insights about patient health, drive adherence to care plans and encourage patient engagement powered by the latest scientific advances in machine learning. Tribridge and System C & Graphnet Care Alliance are building on HealthVault Insights to create innovative solutions for patient adherence to provider care plans.
  • Microsoft Genomics is making the sample-to-answer process fast and easy through an Azure-powered genome analysis pipeline and an orchestrated ecosystem of innovative partners including BC Platforms and DNAnexus.
  • Microsoft’s AI health chatbot technology is also a research-based project that will enable partners to build AI-powered conversational health care tools. MDLIVE intends to use our health bot technology to help patients self-triage inquiries before they interact with a doctor via video. Premera Blue Cross, the largest health plan in the Pacific Northwest, plans to use our health bot technology to transform how members can look up information about their health benefits. Health Navigator’s symptom checker brings best practices to other customers and partners.
  • Project InnerEye is a research-based, AI-powered software tool for radiotherapy planning. The goal of the project is to allow dosimetrists and radiation oncologists to achieve 3D contouring of patients’ planning scans in minutes rather than hours. The assistive AI technology gives experts full control of the output accuracy while enjoying high levels of consistency and potential cost savings.
Enabling 21st-century house calls powered by the Microsoft cloud
Microsoft Office 365 Virtual Health Templates provide new functionality to connect people and providers through voice, video and messaging in any interface or application, powered by Skype for Business. The open source templates make it easy for industry partners, developers and enterprises to build solutions to provide care wherever patients may be.
RingMD, Careflow, Cambio and GE Healthcare have built from Office 365 Virtual Health Templates compelling and easy to use experiences.
Addressing health care business optimization with SaaS apps
New services from our partner ecosystem, powered by the Microsoft cloud, help address business process challenges outside of the clinic. Available today is CGI ProperPay for claims analytics. ProperPay provides predictive analytics, rules management and best practices for reducing health care claims fraud, waste and abuse, a $450 billion-plus problem driving up health care costs around the globe. CGI ProperPay for claims analytics joins a growing number of business and engagement applications in the Microsoft AppSource catalog like Tribridge’s Health360 Care Coordination.
Looking to the future
With any significant advance in technology it’s important to consider the unintended consequences, as well as the benefits. At Microsoft, we’re grounding our efforts in a set of core design principles that focus on the human benefit of AI, transparency and accountability. We believe that ethics and design go hand in hand.
Further, we understand that security, privacy, and compliance remain a top priority for health organizations. Microsoft Chief Information Security Officer for Health Hector Rodriguez recently reinforced our commitment to customers highlighting key investments across these core principles of trust in technology.
At the intersection of health, technology and people lies great promise. Our mission is to empower every person and organization to achieve more, and we’re excited to meet many of you next week at HIMSS17 and continue our close partnership in health care to achieve more together. If you’re at HIMSS17 next week in Orlando, Florida, be sure to stop by our booth No. 2509 to see our solutions in action. Follow our HIMSS17 story on @Health_IT to learn more.

Jamie-Shotton-microsoft managed solution2

Microsoft researcher Jamie Shotton honored as one of MIT Tech Review Innovators under 35

Jamie Shotton at Microsoft Research Cambridge is among the latest MIT Technology Review’s Innovators under 35, a distinction that goes to exceptionally talented young innovators whose work the editors believe has the greatest potential to transform the world. Previous winners include Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin and Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg.
Shotton was among the researchers who played a key role in bringing Kinect to market. The system has been a differentiating feature for Xbox, and it’s also been used in countless other areas, from improving healthcare to making meetings more productive. Shotton has continued to build on that work with a more recent project called Handpose, which aims to track hand motions to millimeter precision.
Find out more about Shotton and his work over on Inside Microsoft Research.
As written by Athima Chansanchai, Microsoft News Center Staff on


Can the Apple Watch Enhance Student Achievement?

A research team from Penn State University will try to find out how student learning can be enhanced by applying what's known about self-regulation and learning strategies.
by Jessica Hughes
We know wearable technology gets people moving by quantifying steps and calories burned. What's unknown, however, is whether -- or how -- wearable technology can influence other areas of behavior, like self-regulated learning.
One Penn State University faculty member is teaming with technology staff to seek answers, and to pursue wearable technology as a learning tool. The university's research team will be applying what's known about self-regulation and learning strategies to test how student achievement can be enhanced with the Apple Watch and comparing its use across other technology formats.
"The thing with wearables is that these are highly personal devices, even more personal than your smartphone," said Ben Brautigam, manager of advanced learning projects for Teaching and Learning with Technology (TLT) at Penn State University. "We can take this customized point of view to provide recommendations to students to enrich certain aspects of their learning."
The research is targeting self-regulated learning, or learning that students monitor and control through their knowledge, self-awareness skills, strategies and motivation. These are powerful tools that can change student academic achievement, according to Rayne Sperling, a self-regulation researcher and associate professor of educational psychology at Penn State.
Sperling is heading up the research, and wants to help students not only track their learning progress and remind them to study, but also present course-tailored strategies and content via mini quizzes to elevate student learning.
"I'm really excited about it because I think that there's some versatility here that we haven't seen before in this type of application," said Sperling, who is also director of undergraduate and graduate studies in educational psychology, counseling and special education.
Although there is uncharted territory, like the FitBit, the university's TLT unit plans to push data points together in interesting ways for dashboard visualizations that help students reflect on their learning progress, said Bart Pursel, who coordinates faculty programs within TLT, one of which is its fellows program.
Sperling's research joined forces with TLT when this spring she was chosen as one of five TLT Fellows. The program brings together technology staff with faculty to pursue cutting-edge technology projects, and then bring successful tech efforts to the larger Penn State community.
But even before the large-scale research begins, Sperling is planning how best to design and conduct the research, and is pinning down the right learning prompts to help students in regulating their learning.
"One way that prompts can support students’ awareness of their own learning is through modeling the types of questions students should ask themselves," Sperling explained. "Further, our scaffolds can prompt awareness of whether [the student] understands content and will also provide strategy suggestions."
The strategies Sperling will use are backed by research that prove they facilitate learning. One example is giving students in a calculus course who are studying related weight problems a specific prompt, such as a drawing strategy, and describing how it works and the best way to employ it, she said.
In addition to piloting these concepts, this summer Sperling is surveying students' existing self-regulation strategies and experimenting with the amount of learning support needed to enhance their learning.
The final scaffolds will be presented in a large-scale study to student volunteers in fall STEM courses so the team can look across technology formats and students to see what effects the formats have on self-regulated learning and student achievement, and when.
"My guess is that depending on the nature of the type of prompt or type of scaffold that we're providing for them, it's going to vary what sort of medium is going to best reach students," Sperling said.
Another important foundational issue is conducting design experiments to gauge how best to present the learning supports and to receive student feedback. With the Apple Watch, Brautigam said, there is a lot of flexibility; for instance, students can respond to prompts simply with a "yes" or "no" button, using sliders or meters to gauge their responses, or by replying with a voice message. Even if students dismiss a prompt, this still gives the research team information, he said.
"We're trying to find the simplest way possible to get a lot of information," said Brautigam.
Ideally these prompts will be managed in one place, but delivered across various formats including the Apple Watch, smartphones and the university's Web-based learning management system, as well as other wearable devices in the future, he said.
Meanwhile, Sperling's work is an extension of Brautigam's, who manages TLT's advanced learning projects group, which designs and develops new technologies and has experience building applications on Apple devices.
The self-regulation research also builds upon earlier learning analytics research conducted by TLT with input by Sperling. During that study, students tracked their individual progress and compared it to classmates' progress and behaviors, and saw behaviors correlated to higher achievement, such as regularly signing onto the university's course management system.
The new study will culminate in the ability to make predictions about which types of students are best able to use which types of technologies, and also how the tools are supporting their academic achievements, said Sperling.
Up until now, much of the academic research has been limited to other technology devices, like phones, where students were asked for motivational feedback and didn't receive specific learning tips or scaffolds, like Sperling plans to use.
In the end, the success of wearable-technology-mediated learning on a larger scale may depend on the adoption rate of the technology across the student body. But if it's anything like the iPhone, there may be something to it.
"If it does become prevalent, I think we'll have a leg up here," Brautigam said, "because we've been sort of investing in this and exploring this since the inception."
For Sperling, it will be interesting to check back on her research a year from now, she said. "It's possible that some really little prompt could change the way that [students] engage with the academic content."

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