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Microsoft Azure Launches Healthcare API for FHIR Standard

Microsoft Azure has launched a healthcare API for the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) standard, which will enable health system interoperability and sharing data in the cloud.

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Source: Thinkstock

By Fred Donovan

- Microsoft Azure has launched a healthcare API for the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) standard, which will enable health system interoperability and sharing data in the cloud.

The FHIR API and data store allows healthcare organizations to connect securely and interact with any system that uses FHIR-based APIs, explained Heather Jordan Cartwright, general manager for Microsoft Healthcare.

For example, health records will be able to connect to collaboration tools, pharmacy systems, fitness devices, and other tools and devices more seamlessly. Data and insights from this more connected system can then be provided when and where they are needed.

Microsoft takes on the operations, maintenance, updates and compliance requirements in a platform-as-a-service offering, enabling organizations to free up their operational and development resources.

The Azure API for FHIR has the following features:

  • Provision and running in minutes
  • High performance, low latency
  • Enterprise grade, managed FHIR service
  • Role-based access control, allowing organizations to manage access to their data at scale
  • Audit log tracking for access, creation, modification, and reads within each data store
  • SMART on FHIR functionality (a set of open specifications to integrate apps with EHR, portals, health information exchanges, and other health IT systems)
  • Secure compliance in the cloud
  • Data isolated to a unique database per API instance
  • Protection of data with multi-region failover

“Azure API for FHIR is intended for customers developing solutions that integrate healthcare data from one or more systems of record. The API promotes the use of ingesting, managing, and persisting that data in native FHIR resources,” Cartwright said.

“Leveraging an open source standard (FHIR) enables interoperability for data sharing both within and outside of your ecosystem and helps accelerates the machine learning process on data is normalized in FHIR,” she added.

In addition, Microsoft unveiled new capabilities in Microsoft Teams that enable healthcare teams to communicate and collaborate in a secure hub and a healthcare bot service that helps organizations create AI-powered virtual assistants and chatbots for a variety of healthcare uses.

Regarding healthcare teams, the new priority notifications feature alerts individuals every two minutes to an urgent message on mobile devices and desktop devices until a response is received, for up to 20 minutes. Also, the message delegation feature enables the clinical staff to delegate messages to another person when they are unavailable, for example, if they are in surgery.

In addition, Microsoft is providing the ability to integrate FHIR-enabled EHR data with healthcare teams. This is done through partnerships with interoperability providers, such as Dapasoft, Datica, Infor Cloverleaf, Kno2, and Redox. Using this feature, clinical and hospital staff can access patient records securely using the same app where they take notes, message other team members, and start a video chat.

Regarding the healthcare bot service, Microsoft first introduced this as a research project in 2017. The service is intended to enable healthcare organizations to build and deploy AI-powered virtual health assistants and chatbots. It includes features such as healthcare intelligence, medical content and terminology, and a built-in symptom checker.

Organizations can adjust the bot to address their business problems and can connect to health systems such as EHRs. Bots are available or will be available soon for Premera, Quest Diagnostics, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, and Clalit Health Services.

In addition, Microsoft is expanding its presence in precision medicine. The company is investing in services and computational biology projects, such as research support tools for precision healthcare, genomics, immunomics, CRISPR, and cellular and molecular biologics.

Microsoft Genomics provides research insights to healthcare organizations like St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital through the St. Jude Cloud.

Earlier this year, Microsoft published an update to its partnership with Adaptive Biotechnologies, opening a joint research effort to immunosequence 25,000 individuals, focusing on ovarian cancer pancreatic cancer, celiac disease, type 1 diabetes, and Lyme disease.  

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