Microsoft rolls out healthcare-focused chat features and AI assistants

Microsoft's update allows Teams users to integrate FHIR-enabled patient records alongside note-taking features, messaging and video conferencing. (Microsoft)

Microsoft has added a suite of healthcare industry-focused capabilities to its cloud network offerings and communication tools, including the ability to securely integrate electronic health records.

Using the Teams app, clinical and hospital staff can now access patient records alongside note-taking features, messaging and video conferencing to help coordinate care, the company said, through partnerships with interoperability providers such as Dapasoft, Datica, Infor Cloverleaf, Kno2 and Redox.

In addition, Microsoft rolled out its priority notification feature, which alerts a user to an urgent message every two minutes for up to 20 minutes—as well as the ability to delegate messages to another staff member, for example, while they are in surgery.

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Microsoft showcased the additions during the HIMSS conference this week in Orlando, Florida, and in a company blog post.

The company also made a healthcare chatbot available to the public. First introduced as a research project in 2017, the bot is an AI-powered virtual assistant that includes a symptom checker and other medical content, and can be customized to different businesses and settings.

Quest Diagnostics recently deployed a version of the bot service to assist customers find testing locations, schedule appointments and get answers to non-medical questions, while being compliant with HIPAA and GDPR privacy regulations, according to Microsoft.

Meanwhile, on the back-end, Microsoft’s cloud service Azure debuted a new interoperability tool, allowing health records to better connect with pharmacy systems, fitness devices and other platforms. Azure’s API for FHIR is currently available in public preview and an early access program.

Microsoft began pitching healthcare-focused features for its Teams app last year, including image annotation and HIPAA compliance.

Earlier this month, messaging client competitor Slack quietly updated its website to note that it too is HIPAA compliant, but so far only for file uploads in its enterprise software, and not for general chatting. That news broke as the company prepares to take itself public through a direct listing.

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