Microsoft says AI and cloud computing are giving precision medicine a boost

Company highlights advancements in genomics at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, awards partnerships that are leveraging cutting-edge tech.
By Susan Morse
04:22 PM
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Microsoft says AI and cloud computing are giving precision medicine a boost

Chris Sakalosky, vice president of U.S Health and Life Sciences for Microsoft, speaking at HIMSS18 on Wednesday.

LAS VEGAS – Microsoft came to HIMSS18 with a message: Precision medicine tools aren’t that far off. In fact, from Microsoft’s perspective, they’re already here.

Peter Lee, corporate vice president for Microsoft AI and Research, highlighted advancements it is has made through a partnership with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Using the cloud computing service Microsoft Azure, researchers and clinicians received access to cloud-powered genomic processing services. 

This is important since one whole genome takes up 200 gigabytes of space, said Lee, speaking at the Microsoft booth on the crowded exhibit hall floor. 

Genome sequencing is part of the precision medicine practice at St Jude’s oncology units, according to Lee.

For scientists to make breakthroughs that could help lead to cures for pediatric cancers, researchers around the world need to be able to share and collaborate on genomic data. St. Jude is uploading anonymized genomes of their patients’ healthy and cancerous cells to public data repositories.

But genomics is just one area for Microsoft investment, both in areas of research and in day-to-day use in hospitals, that used to be considered futuristic.

“We’re going to hear about the rise of the machines,” said Chris Sakalosky, vice president of U.S Health and Life Sciences for Microsoft said at a separate presentation at the conference. “More and more (systems) are engaged with chatbots.”

AI and cloud are coming together, he said, connecting devices and systems of record like EHRs. AI is also being unlocked for population health and analytics.

This isn’t done alone, he said. “It’s about partnership.”

On Wednesday, Sakalosky announced the winners of Microsoft’s 2018 Health Innovation Awards, which celebrated these successful partnerships.

For AI and machine learning, Kaiser Permanente and KenSci won for its dashboard for improved congestive heart failure care management.

They tied in that category with Ochsner Health System, which with Epic is integrating AI into real-time clinical workflows. The Louisiana-based Ochsner Health System launched the new AI technology that sends early warning alerts by tracking and analyzing patient symptoms to predict when patients might be deteriorating. The goal is to eliminate adverse events before they happen.

UPMC and Health Catalyst won for optimizing clinical operational effectiveness with its Health Catalyst CORUS (Clinical Operations Resource Utilization System) platform. 

The cost-management system based on Microsoft technology has saved the health system millions of dollars by allowing CFOs, physicians, service line leaders, and clinical and financial analysts the ability to see the true cost of care related to patient outcomes.

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Twitter: @SusanJMorse
Email the writer: susan.morse@himssmedia.com