Microsoft launches new EHR-integrated virtual care capabilities—but interoperability is still lagging behind

The news: Microsoft revealed new virtual care capabilities that let greater electronic health record (EHR) integration via both Epic’s and Cerner’s EHR systems and allow clinicians to easily navigate telehealth visits.

How it works: Microsoft 365 and Teams software will be used to improve the connectedness of shared devices (including both Android and iOS devices), enhance workforce communication via Microsoft 365’s Admin Center, and improve virtual visit scheduling, notifications, documentation, and charting.

Why isn't Microsoft trying to build its own EHR capabilities like Google's CareStudio? Microsoft is playing to its strengths with its cloud software Azure to make data exchange quicker and more seamless.

Building out a new EHR system would be too complex considering all the different healthcare specialties and segments of the healthcare value chain it would have to consider.

  • Epic and Cerner have already mastered this and dominate the EHR market, so it makes more sense for Microsoft to be more of a middleman that’s facilitating interoperability.

The bigger picture: Even with new software add-ons, interoperability won’t work if healthcare organizations don’t comply with new interoperability standards.

FHIR standards allow patients to choose how they access their EHR (via MyChart, Apple Health Records, etc.) without prior provider approval.

  • While this is great for patient access, it also opens up cybersecurity threats and data privacy concerns since health apps aren’t held to the same patient data protections as healthcare organizations.
  • For example, the number of health apps that integrate with certified EHRs increased 20% since last year, per recent research by the ONC—but only 22% of these EHR-integrated apps actually support FHIR standards.
  • So, until health apps and provider organizations are both on the same page on interoperability standards, efforts like Microsoft’s might not be able to be used to its fullest potential.

Correction: This article was updated on October 21 to rectify misattributions to Microsoft 365 and Google's CareStudio.