The evolution of healthcare is seeing the wider use of artificial intelligence to connect phones and computers with doctors and nurses.
These tools are redirecting the efforts of clinicians through the spreading use of online and shared applications for phones and tablets to help provide better treatment. Patients are getting better access to their records. They can connect with doctors and nurses via remote visits and can tie-in medical services to fitness and well being.
Microsoft Corp. is entering this field using its Azure cloud computing platform. While Microsoft is best known for its Office suite of business software, cloud computing is driving its growth. Cloud computing offers businesses a way to store and access information on remote servers, allowing many users in different places to share the information.
Microsoft is the world’s largest software company, best known for its Windows operating system, which runs about 90% of the world’s personal computers and its Office suite of applications. Microsoft also owns LinkedIn, Skype and markets the Xbox gaming system.
It followed the broader market lower over Christmas, but has rebounded nicely. The shares are up 12.09% year-to-date and the dividend pays $1.84 per share and yields 1.61% at current prices.
The P/E ratio of 26.42 is high, but acceptable in view of its potential.
Microsoft was one of 2018s best stock performers. At several points its market capitalization surpassed Apple and Amazon as the world’s most valuable company.
For the quarter ended Dec. 31, 2018 revenue rose to US $32.47 billion and net income to $8.4 billion. Both were more than 10% higher, year-over-year. Sales of Azure, its main cloud computing platform, were 76 percent higher.
Azure is the key to Microsoft’s future and the company is exploring ways to expand its use. One area is healthcare which lags other industries in moving data to internet-based storage. Health records are often stored piecemeal in different databases that can’t share information easily.
In one partnership, Microsoft is working with Walgreens Boots Alliance to connect patient records via Azure with doctors, nurses and pharmacists. As an example, consider a patient with recent hip surgery. The tools allow a family doctor to see the surgical record. The doctor can share the records with a physiotherapist or make the records and drug treatment options available to Walgreens. The patient can ask questions. The interface is via an app using text, speech or email.
Microsoft is using AI software that learns medical terms and understands syntax, grammar and the different way people speak.
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