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article imageMicrosoft launches new AI-powered healthcare services

By James Walker     Feb 28, 2018 in Technology
Microsoft has announced a set of new service launches from its Healthcare NExT research group. It includes a new platform for studying genomics data and an AI-powered assistant that can take notes during patient interviews.
Healthcare is fast becoming one of the most competitive areas of the tech industry. Microsoft launched its Healthcare NexT initiative last year with the aim of using technology to improve healthcare research and treatment. It today announced a slew of new products and services that have been developed as part of the program.
The company has released four new projects aimed primarily at front-line doctors and medical researchers. Two are software templates for its Azure cloud platform and Teams collaboration software, intended to make it quicker for healthcare providers to get started in the cloud. The other two, Microsoft Genomics and Empower MD, are new platforms that can assist doctors and medical practitioners as they analyse medical data.
Microsoft Genomics
Microsoft Genomics is a cloud service that provides a "common pipeline" for processing genomic data. Genomics is a fast-developing area of medical research and one that stands to gain the most from technological advances. Microsoft has engineered the platform to help researchers unlock new data insights more efficiently, which improves the accuracy and speed of identifying diseases and issues such as cancers.
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Genomics can ingest genomic data and then automatically filter out artifacts and noise that obscure the results. It outputs a cleaner dataset that amplifies the signals of the real insights within. This information can then be consumed by researchers or additional AI tools to improve the detection rate for genomic concerns.
Genomics is described by Microsoft as a "perfect cloud workload" because the service's analysis functions wouldn't be possible without cloud storage. The analysis of a single human genome can consume 100GB of storage space. Microsoft said human genomic data is expected to consume 40 exabytes of capacity by 2025, equivalent to around 1.5 billion CDs. Without cloud datacentres, researchers wouldn't be able to handle and process the vast amounts of data they collect.
Empower MD
Microsoft's fourth announcement today, Empower MD, shifts the focus away from research to target medical appointments. Empower MD is an AI platform which is designed for use by doctors as an always-listening digital assistant.
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During medical interviews, the AI could listen to conversations with patients and automatically provide diagnosis suggestions.
The AI is intended to simplify face-to-face medical interactions by helping doctors keep track of their notes. The service listens and observes doctors, shadowing them as they perform their tasks. When a patient arrives, the AI begins to capture and synthesise the conversation to produce written notes and treatment advice.
Microsoft said the service is compliant with privacy standards and meant to help physicians "spend more face-to-face time with patients." The company claimed that use of Empower MD could help doctors provide a more accurate diagnosis in a shorter time. The service has been developed in collaboration with UPMC.
More about Microsoft, microsoft genomics, Healthcare, healthcare tech, Ai