For many of us, life begins in the hospital—and so does our health data. Health organizations worldwide are amassing more information than ever before from millions of patients throughout their lifetimes. Wrangling massive volumes of health data—from smart devices, medical devices, electronic medical records and community health systems—is no small task, but cloud computing offers researchers a promising way to tap into this resource to achieve meaningful medical progress and improved patient outcomes. Microsoft for Healthcare aims to do just that: harness the power of data to reimagine healthcare, improve the health of the population, and, ultimately, help save lives.
Zeroing in on clues
One of the most promising examples of this is in our collaboration with Seattle Children’s Research Institute. We are working together to find clues to a persistent and tragic medical mystery that hits close to home: Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Every year, more than 3,500 infants die of SIDS-related causes in the United States. One of these children was the son of John Kahan, my colleague and Microsoft’s chief data analytics officer. John has made it his mission for no parent to lose a child to SIDS, and with his data science team at Microsoft and our friends at Seattle Children’s, they are working toward that goal in earnest.
The team started with publicly available data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on 26 million births and deaths, and along with other data sets, studied 90 columns of data about every child born in the U.S. over a six-year period. Through this data science effort done in the cloud on Microsoft Azure, they discovered several correlations that showed statistical increases in SIDS. They then brought those findings to Seattle Children’s Research Institute, one of the world leaders in pediatric genomics and brain research— and lucky for us, right in our backyard.
Since then, we’ve been working together to expand the effort and the science, creating a collaborative genomics database for Seattle Children’s and the top SIDS medical researchers worldwide, and a world-class team of Microsoft data scientists. Together, we recently published our first manuscript from this collaboration in the peer-reviewed medical journal, Pediatrics, in which we used advanced modelling techniques to analyze the relationship between maternal smoking during pregnancy and SIDS-related deaths. Going forward, the hope is to use sequenced whole genomes as an additional data set along with the CDC data and other information in Microsoft Azure, helping to identify SIDS risk factors and, ultimately, ways to help prevent SIDS.
Similarly, we’ve been able to assist pediatric cancer researchers. Working with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and our partner DNAnexus, we’ve been thrilled to be a part of the creation of the St. Jude Cloud—a cloud-based data-sharing and collaboration environment based on Microsoft Azure that contains an extensive public repository of pediatric cancer genomics data. St. Jude Cloud stores and shares thousands of cancer patient samples mapped against the human genome template, enabling researchers around the world to access and exchange data on a global basis. Researchers from more than 450 institutions across 16 countries now have immediate access to data that previously could take weeks to download, as well as access to complex computational analysis pipelines. The availability of this data could lead to progress in eradicating childhood cancer.
Clues like these seed future research, turning mere hints into new medical and biological knowledge, diagnostics, or therapeutics. Like John Kahan, many of our data scientists have been touched personally by medical or health issues and are exceptionally motivated to help solve these puzzles.
Collaborations like those with Seattle Children’s and St. Jude are just the beginning. Our technology is in virtually every healthcare organization in the world, from a nurse-led clinic in Kenya to larger organizations like Kaiser Permanente in the United States and NHS Glasgow and Clyde in the United Kingdom, putting us in a unique position to build and expand solutions with cloud computing and AI.
For us, reimagining healthcare starts with finding well-defined and well-scoped problems, then bringing together the best minds from a diverse set of disciplines and people—computer science, AI and data science, bioscience and medical—to solve them.
By analyzing masses of data with trusted cloud computing, one health concern at a time, we have a chance to extract new knowledge that could make a positive difference—empowering healthcare teams, improving operational outcomes and care coordination, and personalizing care.
Join us in reimagining healthcare. To learn more about harnessing the power of health data with cloud computing, take a look at our new e-book A New Framework for Healthcare in a Digital World. For a deeper dive on Microsoft Genomics visit here.
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