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Microsoft’s digital India vision

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A scientist works in a Microsoft-led project on Genome scequencing at St Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Courtesy: St Jude Children’s Research Hospital

Microsoft’s culture strongly reflects the growth mindset when it comes to technological developments. So, tell me how important is it to plan a proper growth strategy for a company this huge? How does this help Microsoft to keep growth pace and how does this foster innovation within the organisation?

Microsoft’ mission is to empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more. We are committed to accelerating healthcare innovation through the power of cloud computing Artificial Intelligence (AI) and. By working side-by-side with the healthcare industry’s most pioneering players, we are bringing Microsoft’s capabilities in groundbreaking research and product development to help healthcare providers, biotech companies and organisations around the world use technology to innovate.

How does Microsoft look at growth in Indian healthcare?

While it has made great progress, India’s healthcare sector still faces many challenges to effectively serve its population. Due to advancements in the medical field, there is an increase in life expectancies which results in the rise of aging population and there is a dramatic increase in Non-Communicable Diseases (Chronic Diseases). Hence, new models of care are required, largely to address the increased number of chronic diseases in our modern society. There is a need to innovate newer models of preventive care rather than curative. Online appointments, patient portals, mobile apps, tele-health – existing open data and social analytics can hugely transform the digital experience of a patient. There should be an increased focus on clinical excellence and health outcomes, and having digitised data can hugely help achieve that.

Microsoft is helping healthcare organisations (both public and private providers) in India adopt technologies like the cloud, IoT, advanced analytics, mixed reality, and AI, as the industry seeks to counter increasing costs of delivering services and meet the growing demand for better experience from patients.

  •  Cloud – Through the cloud, Microsoft aims to transform the investment model and move capex costs to opex, allowing hospitals and governments to use the upfront investments in healthcare.
  1. Fortis Healthcare have been leveraging Azure Infrastructure as a service to manage its infrastructure and services in order to make the systems more agile. In a span of eight months, with support from Microsoft, Fortis moved all their applications, ranging from Hospital Information System (HIS) to Oracle Financials, Oracle Supply Chain, application servers, intranet, and more to Azure. Today, Fortis hospitals are on Microsoft Azure.
  2. Max Healthcare is transforming patient care by leveraging Microsoft CRM Dynamics CRM online, a comprehensive solution which helped them manage leads and contact center engagement, and enhance customer engagement.
  3. Finecure Pharmaceuticals has adopted Microsoft Office 365 which helped it streamline key business processes, improve productivity and enhance collaboration. Protection of IP, insights from data analytics, and deeper customer engagement have helped it grow revenues 30 per cent every year in the last three years.
  • Analytics – Healthcare, more than any other industry, throws up huge amounts of data – both structured and unstructured data. Microsoft is trying to help organisations transform this data using AI and machine learning into information that can be consumed easily and which can facilitate better decision-making.
  1. Narayana Health is leveraging Microsoft BI to unify data across all units, enabling faster decision making. Its dashboards provide a complete view for business users involving the most important metrics in real time, at one place, and across all devices. Narayana Health is currently working on leveraging Microsoft BI’s predictive intelligence capabilities, which will be a key component in their analytics vertical.
  2. Microsoft has partnered with Apollo Hospitals to use AI for early detection of cardiac diseases. The partnership between Microsoft and Apollo will enable to develop and deploy new machine learning models to predict patient risk for heart disease and assists doctors on treatment plans.
  3. Microsoft Intelligent Network for Eyecare (MINE) – The Government of Telangana for its Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakram adopted the Microsoft Intelligent Network for Eye care (MINE), an AI platform to reduce avoidable blindness. Microsoft India, in collaboration with LV Prasad Eye Institute, launched MINE in December 2016.
  • Remote healthcare – Microsoft is trying to create solutions that involve providing geographical freedom to healthcare delivery which in turn can facilitate new models that we have only dreamt of. This will revolutionise healthcare and address important issues like accessibility and preventive care/ wellness.
  1. Apollo Hospitals with its tele-health division and powered by technology from HealthNet Global had setup tele-clinics across India. The tele-clinics support a range of services including outpatient (OP) consultation, basic lab diagnosis, drug/ contraceptive dispensing, distribution of health education material and counselling for all communicable and non-communicable diseases. For this purpose, Apollo had used Microsoft Kaizala to source operational data from its remote clinics and to analyse it in real time. As a result, Apollo has gained visibility and control over its remote clinics and the management is able to make faster administrative decisions.
  2. 99Dots is a technology-enabled project that focusses on medication adherence for anti-tuberculosis drugs. 99Dots enables patients receive a series of daily reminders (via SMS and automated calls). Missed doses trigger SMS notifications to care providers, who follow up with personal, phone-based counselling.
  • IoT – This industry also deals with a variety of medical equipment, devices, homecare equipment, wearables, etc. Because of which Microsoft is using IOT to help improve efficiency, enable innovation and drive transformation.
  1. Forus Health in partnership with Microsoft is integrating AI-based retinal imaging APIs into Forus Health’s 3Nethra devices using Microsoft Azure IoT Suite and Azure IOT Edge, which delivers the cloud intelligence locally and closer to the eye.
  • Mixed reality – We believe that everyone, regardless of device or application, can realise the promise of mixed reality. Through our vision and contributions from our partners, we are making this possible with cutting-edge devices and technologies that can engage users and help them reach new dimensions of understanding.
  1. Holo Eye Anatomy, a collaborative project by LV Prasad Eye Institute, Cyient and Microsoft India, is world’s first application of mixed reality in eye care education. The app was developed for Microsoft HoloLens to create an immersive experience where users can visualise the eye and its anatomical breakdown as 3D holograms in space. The perspective of the 3D models and the interaction from the user lends a rich learning experience and creates a whole new approach to teaching medicine.

Tell us how much Microsoft invests in innovation in terms of funds, employees and research?Which technologies in healthcare is Microsoft betting on and why?

At Microsoft, researchers are harnessing the explosion of digital data and computational power with advanced algorithms to enable collaborative and natural interactions between people and machines. Researchers are applying computer science expertise to enable data-driven healthcare, enhance wellness and accelerate progress in life sciences. Technologies like AI and machine learning are letting us take exponential leaps in research to understand biology at molecular and cellular levels. In its work to deploy AI everywhere, Microsoft is taking a thoughtful and trusted approach – designing AI innovations that extend and empower human capabilities in all aspects of life, while keeping people in control.

As mentioned above, Technologies like advanced analytics, machine learning, robotics, holographic computing, and bots are re-designing every aspect of how people live, communicate, work, and learn.

What are the strategies adopted by the company that makes it stand out? Give us areas that the company has focussed to achieve its goals in India?

India is a strategic market for Microsoft and our plans are anchored in India’s development and growth. We have been functioning as a key contributor towards a truly Digital India for nearly three decades, focussing on digital economy, digital inclusion, cybersecurity, healthcare and skilling and education, among others.

Today, challenges for health organisations in trying to improve patient experiences and outcomes include manpower shortages, rising costs, and increased patient needs. Clinicians and care teams are yearning to swivel their chairs from the computer and pay more attention to the patient, yet they spend two-thirds of their time interacting with burdensome IT systems. We believe with better tools for information sharing and coordination, health organisations can be more efficient, effective, and productive.

Microsoft’s approach is to use our platforms and services that lay the trusted foundation for solutions that improve patient and employee experiences, empower researchers, and enhance products and services. These fall in the areas of:

  1. Health payors – Solutions built using operational analytics capabilities can identify trends and patterns that identify areas of high performance, helping Payors determine best practices to increase efficiency, minimise waste, and optimise resource allocation.
  2. Health providers – The Microsoft Cloud empowers organisations of all sizes to re-envision the way they bring together people, data, and processes that better engage patients and customers, empower care teams and employees, optimise clinical and operational effectiveness, and digitally transform health.
  3. Pharmaceutical companies – By providing customer and product analytics solutions, Microsoft is helping these companies gain a deep understanding of their customers to help ensure brand loyalty.
  4. Public Health & Human/ Social Services – Microsoft platforms and services help agencies tackle public health issues, so they can better communicate and collaborate with constituents, monitor and address health trends, and enable care that improves overall population wellness.

What are the learning lessons?

Though the industry is on a verge of transformation there are still some challenges which need to be addressed. Health organisations need to remove guesswork and inefficiencies from operations, such as resource allocation and fraud detection. As customers across the healthcare system want lower costs, pharmaceuticals need ways to present convincing evidence that new treatments are worth the premium necessary to sustain profitability. Lastly, educate the public, improve health infrastructure, and increase efficiencies to provide broader access to care and reduce preventable illness in the communities they serve. This situation can be improved by partnering with academia, industry, organisations, foundations, hospitals and government agencies to achieve profound and lasting impacts on human health. Additionally, digital transformation using emerging technologies will be the catalyst for the industry to step into the future.

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