Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) isn't the only tech titan dabbling in the health care industry. Old-guard IT industry leader Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) has grown its health unit into a multi-billion-dollar business, the company's Chief Medical Officer Simon Kos told CNBC's "Beyond the Valley" podcast in an episode entitled "Your Health Could Soon Depend on Artificial Intelligence." (See also: Microsoft Surpasses Alphabet in Market Value.)
The software giant says it employs 1,100 people in health care and claims 168,000 customers in the industry.
"So we’ve got about 14,000 of them [partners] in health care around the world, and for us that means health at Microsoft is a multi-billion-dollar organization growing faster than the market," said Kos.
A Role for AI and Cloud in Modernizing Health Care
In June, Microsoft officially launched its health care unit, intended to draw on the firm's artificial intelligence and cloud capabilities to build products that modernize IT infrastructures, electronic health records (EHRs) and data analytics capabilities and foster value-based care. The move formalized Microsoft's research-focused Healthcare NExT initiative, launched in 2017, and added a new emphasis on "strategic partnerships ... and driving the cross-company strategy for healthcare and life sciences," according to a company blog post.
Microsoft's involvement in the health care space dates back years. In 2014, when the company experimented in the wearables market, it teamed up Twist BioScience on the capabilities of DNA digital data storage and partnered with University of Pittsburgh Medical Center to build AI-enabled care delivery products. The software provider also collaborated with insurer Cigna Corp. (CI) for interactive game-based health screenings.
The health care space is seen as ripe for disruption and has been a target for tech giants such as Apple Inc. (AAPL) and Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL). Shares of traditional health care providers and pharmacy chains have taken a beating on fears of Amazon's dive into the industry, as it teams up with JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) and Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRK.A) on a joint health care venture intended to reduce patient costs and improve overall efficiency. (See also: Bezos-Buffett-Dimon Health Care Company Names CEO.)