Recently Microsoft announced the renaming of its Cloud for Healthcare’s Azure API for Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resource (FHIR) to “Azure Healthcare APIs.” In addition to the renaming of the APIs, the company also expands support for healthcare data to include patient health data via FHIR, medical imaging data via DICOM – and medical device data via the Azure IoT Connector for FHIR (IoT Connector) that transforms device telemetry to FHIR observations.
In October 2019, the company released the Azure API for FHIR into general availability (GA) to allow customers to quickly ingest, persist, and manage healthcare data in the cloud. In addition, the company now renames and expands its health data services to enable exchanging multiple data types in the FHIR format. In addition, customers leverage the APIS to bring disparate sets of Protected Health Information (PHI) together and connect it end-to-end with tools for machine learning, analytics, and AI.
With Azure Healthcare APIs, customers can ingest and transform data from their systems of record, resulting in a unified longitudinal patient record with real-time data collected. Furthermore, it is persisted consistently according to common health data standards across multiple types of health data. Users of the APIs can:
- Map unstructured data to natural language processing algorithms like Text Analytics for Health to annotate data from clinical notes or text documents and structure it in FHIR to be viewed alongside structured clinical data.
- Ingest Imaging data in DICOM formats through an API gateway and DICOMCast technology will extract relevant metadata from images and map it to patient records in FHIR.
- Ingest Biometric data from devices through the Azure IoT Connector for FHIR and provide crucial information on health trends to care teams to allow timely interventions and remote care.
- Ingest, transform, and map clinical records in HL7 or C-CDA, data from medical devices, services such as HealthKit and Google Fit, or genomics databases to FHIR.
In an extensive Microsoft Tech community blog post on Azure Healthcare APIs, Linishya Vaz, senior product marketing manager, Microsoft Health, wrote:
Azure Healthcare APIs are the evolution of Azure API for FHIR, enabling you to bring more types of health data to the cloud and leverage the Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare to turn real-world data into real-world evidence that you can use to drive change resulting in improved clinical outcomes, improved operational outcomes and/or reduced cost of healthcare.
In addition, Holger Mueller, principal analyst and vice president at Constellation Research Inc., told InfoQ:
APIs are the Battleground for next-gen Apps, and whichever cloud gets enterprises to code to them has a bright future and is why MSFT is launching its healthcare APIS. First, however, enterprises need to be careful at weighing the automation advantages from APIs vs. dependencies.
The Azure Healthcare APIs are in preview and currently free of charge. Details of pricing and availability in Azure Regions are available on the pricing page. And lastly, current users of the earlier Azure API for FHIR can continue using it without disruption to service or change in the pricing structure, according to Microsoft.