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Microsoft sees opportunity in health data amid pandemic

Anjalee Khemlani
·Senior Reporter
·3 min read
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David Rhew, Microsoft’s (MSFT) chief medical officer, told Yahoo Finance that the company is working with both public and private partners on its recently launched vaccine platform for cloud and artificial intelligence.

“This vaccination process is unlike anything before. Unlike the flu shot, for instance, where sufficient numbers of vaccines are available,” Rhew said, amid reports of dosage shortages and expired, unused vaccines getting tossed.

Ideally, the medical community would be able to track each vial and its usage, and ensure that all ages, income levels and ethnic groups are able to access vaccines. That’s why the buildout of tech infrastructure for the vaccine must be robust, able to track who is receiving vaccines and determine if any focused campaigns are needed to target more uptake and distribution, he said.

“We would love to get to the point where we identify who needs it the most, and ensure outreach is done to overcome hesitancy and access barriers,” Rhew said. “We do not have any goals of reinventing the wheel here ... It has to fit into current workflows, be cost-efficient and nimble.”

The includes creating a dashboard for each clinical setting where vaccines are being administered, and ensuring numerous avenues to follow-up are available for reminding patients about second doses. The data collected can also include real-world and updated monitoring of safety data for the vaccines and targeted approaches to help overcome known health disparities among communities.

“There are multiple different, unique aspects that we are finding, unfortunately, current systems don’t have,” Rhew said.

To tackle the issues, Rhew said there’s a high level of partnership between Microsoft, EY, and Accenture (ACN). But, he said, “What we haven’t had the luxury of is time.”

There have been over 24 million cases in the U.S. (Graphic: David Foster/Yahoo Finance)
There have been over 24 million cases in the U.S. (Graphic: David Foster/Yahoo Finance)

Beyond Covid-19

During the recent 2021 JPMorgan Health Care conference, the company announced a new partnership with the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, and Verily, an Alphabet (GOOG, GOOGL) company to accelerate health and life science research through their Terra platform, to increase accessibility to more than 168,000 organizations.

“Biomedical data are being generated and digitized at a historic rate and are expected to reach dozens of exabytes by 2025 — including data from genomics, medical imaging, biometric signals and electronic health records. But making use of these important datasets remains difficult for researchers who face huge, siloed data estates, disparate tools, fragmented systems and data standards, and varying governance and security policies,” the statement said.

Gregory Moore, corporate vice president of Microsoft Health Next, said in a statement the partnership boosts the use of Azure, the company’s cloud technology.

“Through this partnership, we will apply the power of Microsoft Azure and its enterprise-grade capabilities in security and privacy, along with cutting-edge data and AI solutions like Azure Synapse Analytics, Azure Machine Learning and Azure Cognitive Services, to deliver on the vision of the Terra platform at a new level of scale,” Moore said.

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