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L-R: Peter Lee, Joshua Mandel and Jim Weinstein of Microsoft Healthcare. (Microsoft Photo / Dan DeLong)

Like many large tech players, Microsoft has been steadily increasing its healthcare work over the past few years. Today, that work took a step forward with the announcement of Microsoft Healthcare, a new group that formalizes the company’s work, and the addition of two health leaders to the new group.

The group is the result of Healthcare NExT, a company-wide initiative established last February to pursue healthcare projects in partnership with companies already working in the space. Microsoft employees who had been working on Healthcare NExT will now be unified under the Microsoft Healthcare banner, which is nested inside Microsoft’s AI and Research division.

Microsoft Healthcare will integrate Healthcare NExT’s research-focused work, “with an added focus of creating strategic partnerships, and driving the cross-company strategy for healthcare and life sciences,” CVP of Microsoft Research and AI Peter Lee said in a blog post. Lee is also the head of Microsoft Healthcare NExT.

The new group and two new hires come shortly after the departure of Chris Jones, a longtime Microsoft product development leader who had been working on Healthcare NExT since its inception.

Jim Weinstein, the former CEO of New Hampshire’s Dartmouth–Hitchcock Medical Center, will hold an important role at the head of the group. He will serve as VP of Microsoft Healthcare and head of innovation and health equity and will work alongside Lee on its strategy.

Researcher and former Google Life Sciences IT ecosystems lead Joshua Mandel joins the company as Microsoft Healthcare’s Chief Architect. His role will be to “lay the groundwork for an open cloud architecture to unlock the value of healthcare for the entire health ecosystem,” Lee wrote.

“Jim and Josh join us at an exciting time, as healthcare processes undergo a digital transformation,” Lee said. “Unfortunately, even with advances in data protection and governance, healthcare data is not easily accessible by the researchers and doctors who need it to help us all realize the potential.”

He painted a future where healthcare data is easily accessible through secure, cloud-based patient profiles, driving new innovations and improvements to help alleviate a burdened, and at times inefficient, system.

“We think that together, we can solve these problems,” Lee said. “We are taking concrete steps with an initial ‘blueprint‘ intended to standardize the process for the compliant, privacy-preserving movement of a patient’s personal health information to the cloud and the automated tracking of its exposure to machine learning and data science, for example to support external audit.”

In addition to this standardization work, Microsoft Healthcare NExT has established a number of industry partnerships to pursue innovative projects. That includes a unique partnership with Adaptive Biotechnologies that aims to create a universal blood test diagnostic that uses machine learning to scan a patient’s immune system for hundreds of diseases at once.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to correct the description of and link to Jim Weinstein’s work. He is the former CEO of Dartmouth–Hitchcock Medical Center.

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