Microsoft, Epic partner to improve health care


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Joseph Bioh

Microsoft Corp. and Epic Systems Corp. are teaming up to make the logistics of health care easier, faster and cheaper.

Their plan involves the use of the Microsoft Azure OpenAI framework to add generative artificial intelligence to Epic’s electronic health care records system. The system is a comprehensive software platform that allows health care providers manage patient data and clinical workflows, as well as handle administrative tasks, such as billing and scheduling.

With generative AI, health care workers will be able to automate time-consuming tasks such as data management and history tracking, which would allow them to devote more time to patient care. Generative AIs use machine learning to produce new content, such as filling in patient information and suggesting diagnoses based on past data.

The companies also plan to add GPT-4 capability to Epic’s SlicerDicer, a self-service reporting tool that acts as an archive of sorts, but with added data exploration tools. A user can search for key words, visualize graphs and tables and more.

With AI, this could be made more conversational, with users simply asking questions and obtaining the information they need, making the process faster and more accessible. The benefits extend beyond better care, as the AI tools can help increase hospital profits and lessen the burden on health care workers.

In 2022, around half of all U.S. hospitals experienced negative margins due to “workforce shortages and increased labor expenses, as well as supply disruptions and inflationary effects,” according to Microsoft.

The use of these tools and future advancements could allow hospitals to better cope with the fluctuating labor landscape and potentially generate profits — opening the possibility for better instruments, larger capacity and improved quality of patient care.

“The urgent and critical challenges facing health care systems and their providers demand a comprehensive approach combining Azure OpenAI Service with Epic’s industry-leading technology,” Eric Boyd, who is corporate vice president of Microsoft’s AI Platform, said. “Together we can help providers deliver significant clinical and business outcomes leveraging the power of the Microsoft Cloud and Epic.”

Several doubts have been raised about the use of AI in health care, specifically pertaining to patients’ data privacy. There are doubts about the limits of an AI’s access when it comes to accessing personal data such as names, addresses and social security numbers.

Concerns regarding the ethics and biases of AI have also been raised. There are many examples of AI adopting racist and sexist beliefs and ideas. Microsoft directly addressed this issue when its AI chatbot tweeted racist remarks to the public in 2016.

Microsoft is adopting a more transparent approach this time to mitigate those issues and to provide a safe and secure experience for all parties involved.

“Microsoft is committed to creating responsible AI by design that is guided by a core set of principles: fairness, reliability and safety, privacy and security, inclusiveness, transparency, and accountability,” Microsoft wrote in its news release.

The tech company said it hopes “to develop and deploy AI that will have a positive impact on society.”

The only way to verify these claims is for them to be put into effect.

The timeline for these implementations is currently unknown, but some of these AI applications were shown off at the 2023 HIMSS Global Health Conference in Chicago.