Microsoft, Providence Tie-up Focuses on Cloud Tech in Healthcare

Microsoft, long known for its Windows operating system and prowess in the world of enterprise software, is among the computing and software giants companies making inroads in the healthcare industry. One of Microsoft’s (NASDAQ: MSFT) latest efforts to innovate at the intersection of technology and healthcare is a partnership with Providence St. Joseph Health aimed at developing software products and services that might improve outcomes for patients and lower costs.

The tie-up will draw on Microsoft’s chops in AI and cloud technologies—in particular, the company’s Azure software suite—as well as the experience and expertise of clinicians and other staff at Providence.

Renton, WA-based Providence’s network of hospitals and clinics employs 25,000 physicians and 38,000 nurses who care for an estimated 2.1 million patients. In other words, it’s a massive test bed for new technologies.

Microsoft and Providence did not include financial terms in a news release announcing the agreement. However, they said Providence will use Microsoft Azure as the healthcare provider’s “preferred cloud platform,” in addition to Providence employees’ continued use of other Microsoft software products.

“Our ambition is to accelerate Providence St. Joseph Health’s digital transformation and to build new innovations together that are designed to improve healthcare delivery and outcomes,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella says in a prepared statement.

The announcement comes as other tech heavyweights, including Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) and Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL), have introduced services and unveiled partnerships of their own focused on healthcare data-sharing and cost control.

The organizations say they’ll work together to accelerate the healthcare industry’s adoption of standards governing interoperability, a term that refers to the exchange of patient data between computer systems at different hospitals and clinics. One standard that has generated buzz is Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR); Apple is among the firms developing technologies that use the FHIR standard to allow patients to securely access health data from their healthcare providers and other sources.

Providence has shown it has ambitions in digital health innovations on several fronts. It invests in healthcare technology startups through its venture capital arm, Providence Ventures. Additionally, the healthcare organization has acquired a handful of healthcare technology and services companies, including Medicast, Lumedic, and Bluetree Network.

It’s not the only healthcare provider investing in technologies and forming partnerships with tech firms. For example, Boston Children’s Hospital runs a digital health accelerator and has collaborated with the likes of IBM (NYSE: IBM) and venture fund Rock Health.

Jeff Buchanan is the editor of Xconomy Seattle. Email: jbuchanan@xconomy.com Follow @_jeffbuchanan

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