Will Microsoft Massively Improve Healthcare?

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This week I took a briefing from Microsoft on their Cloud For Healthcare effort, and I was impressed. The solution appeared significantly better than the one the medical facility I use has implemented. But at the end of the presentation, Microsoft showcased a large number, over 55 by my count, of partners, most of which were huge companies. The one that caught my eye was IBM, which brought back one of the earliest briefings I took with the IBM Watson team.

Let’s talk about Healthcare, AI, and how to do Partnerships right this week.

IBM Watson Medical

IBM focused Watson on the medical market early on, and I got a chance to talk to one of the doctors who helped train this early version of the offering. He shared the story of a patent who had difficulty diagnosing illness and how he spent years researching, finally figuring out what was wrong with the poor woman. 

When he later put her symptoms into the then newly trained Watson platform, it identified the illness along with a short prioritized list of other possibilities in a matter of minutes. Granted, it likely still would have taken a few days to identify which illness she had. But going from years to days or possibly hours to correct what was an excruciating condition would have been a massive reduction in pain and cost for the patent. 

To benefit us, Watson needs a far friendlier front end, and it has to maintain focus. 

Microsoft Cloud For Healthcare

What Microsoft Cloud For Healthcare does is apply one of Microsoft’s unique skills they developed after they were forced to do something they didn’t initially want to do, interoperate well. 

The European Commission forced the company to interoperate.  After some initial resistance, Microsoft decided that if they were going to interoperate, they’d be the best at it. That transformed the company, and they embraced concepts like Open Source and platforms like Linux aggressively. As a result, they are both healthier and better liked than they were before this pivot. 

But this skill was uniquely beneficial to their Healthcare effort, which focuses on taking the massive variety of systems that manage health information and get them to interoperate so that doctors and patients can more easily and quickly get to the critical information they need. But a significant component of the solution is an AI integration that helps both the patent and the practitioner identify and understand the illness better, resulting in potentially lower medical costs and improved outcomes. 

The real power of this solution isn’t the Microsoft core elements or even the Azure back end. The massive number of partners include IBM, coupled with Microsoft’s better partnering and collaboration skills.  The combined brain trust on this project, particularly the IBM component, can redefine medical care concerning patient and doctor information access and decision quality. 

The Value of Partnership

It strikes me that there is a lesson here both broadly for technology and 2020 in general. We can get far more done in saving lives and making progress if we collaborate on common goals as Microsoft and IBM are showcasing along with the other partners on this critical effort. 

By working together as real partners and peers, the partnership surrounding this medical effort could go a long way to improving healthcare quality and lowering its cost.  That’s likely something all of us can get behind this very high anxiety week. 



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