Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare is expanding its portfolio of data services for the healthcare and life sciences industries.

Azure Healthcare APIs, formerly named the Azure API for FHIR, allows users to input health data and map it to the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resource (FHIR), allowing the information to be easily searched and shared or managed with machine learning and artificial intelligence.

Customers can use Azure to map data from structured inputs like health records, medical devices and genomics databases, as well as unstructured data from physicians’ notes or other documents. Imaging metadata could also be ingested and put into patients’ medical records.

“The Azure Healthcare API starts with empowering health workloads. No matter what type of data you bring in, the healthcare APIs make it easy to bring these diverse data sets together. In just minutes, you can ingest multiple data types, whether it is structured data from clinical records, genomics datasets or high-frequency data streams from IoT devices…

“By giving you tools to bring that data in in an organized way, you are set up to run rapidly and enable things in the cloud with your real-world data,” Heather Cartwright, vice president of health and life sciences at Microsoft, said during a recent HIMSS webinar. 

WHY IT MATTERS

Microsoft’s Azure API for FHIR launched in 2019 to help health systems and medical-device startups move their data to the cloud.

“As we see the ever-emerging power of artificial intelligence and machine learning in healthcare, some of the research that’s starting to utilize the data in different ways, and the insights we’re gaining from the healthcare data as it moves into more consistent formats, the reality of what the cloud can do … is becoming very apparent,” Cartwright told MobiHealthNews at the time.

Interoperability and data sharing have create a persistent problem for the healthcare industry. In 2019, a report from Royal Philips found the lack of patient data sharing hurt quality outcomes and innovation. The survey found that 80% of respondents said they shared records with others in their facility, but only 32% shared data outside of their center.

But that trend may be improving. A report by the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives and KLAS Research asked healthcare organizations how well their electronic health record vendors support sharing data with other vendors, on a scale of one to nine. In 2020, organizations rated that data sharing capability at a 6.4, compared with 5.0 in 2017.

THE LARGER TREND

Apple has been working to expand health data sharing with patients and providers. In June, the company announced it would allow consumers to share data they’d generated on their phones, like mobility trends and cardiac data, with their EHR.

But even this feature will work at launch by integrating with a specific list of EHRs: Cerner, Allscripts, athenahealth, CPSI, Meditech Expanse and Dr. Chrono.

The announcement built on their 2018 rollout of Health Records on iOS, which could aggregate data from users’ Health apps with EHR information from participating hospitals.