On Aug. 3, Microsoft executives announced via their blog that they are expanding their data services to the healthcare industry. In the announcement, Heather Jordan Cartwright, vice president, Microsoft Health and LifeSciences, wrote “Today Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare is expanding our portfolio of interoperability data services for the health and life sciences industry. In October 2019, Microsoft became the first cloud with a fully managed, first-party service to ingest, persist, and manage structured healthcare data in the native FHIR format with the Azure API for FHIR. Today we’re expanding our health data services to enable the exchange of multiple data types in the FHIR format.”
“For that reason, we’re renaming our services to the Azure Healthcare APIs,” she added.
Further, “Purpose-built for the unique requirements of Protected Health Information (PHI), the Azure Healthcare APIs enable customers to ingest, manage, and persist data in the Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare. 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.”
Azure Healthcare APIs enables search and customizable queries that are reported to be filled in minutes. The data is collected and preserved in a consistent way according to health data standards across multiple types of health data:
- Structured inputs like clinical records in HL7 or C-CDA, data from medical devices, services from health apps, or genomics databases, can be consumed, converted, and mapped to FHIR.
- Unstructured data can be mapped to natural language processing algorithms 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 DICOM formats can be ingested through an API gateway, and DICOMCast technology will extract relevant metadata from images and map it to patient records in FHIR.
- Biometric data from devices can be ingested through Azure IoT Connector for FHIR and can provide important information on health trends to care teams.
The announcement concludes that “As we look to the future of the health industry, enabling searchability across your systems of record is a powerful starting point, but Azure Healthcare APIs go beyond data ingestion and management to accelerate what you can do with data in the cloud. Clinical inputs can be blended with other patient-based ‘big data’ sets like social determinants of health. As real-world data plays an increasing role in health care decisions, Azure Healthcare APIs empower your data to support real-world evidence pipelines such as support for coverage decisions, clinical trials pipelines, and observational studies.”