Microsoft partners with Epic to roll out EHR cloud database solution, starting with Mount Sinai

Microsoft rolled out a new electronic health records cloud database solution, leveraging Azure Large Instances, that enables health systems to scale capacity for high-volume workloads.

In a partnership with EHR giant Epic, health systems that use Epic can now run their EHR databases on Microsoft's Azure Large Instances, the tech giant announced Thursday. The solution is capable of running up to 50 million database accesses per second.

The solution stems from Microsoft's long-standing partnership with Epic. The two have collaborated for a number of years and in April they deepened their collaboration to focus on combining the Azure OpenAI Service with Epic’s EHR software. The organizations are focused on integrating generative AI into Epic's EHR software.

Mount Sinai Health System, one of New York City’s largest academic medical systems, is the first provider to implement the new cloud solution. Through close collaboration with Accenture, Mount Sinai continues to migrate many of its workloads to Azure and now has the largest production instance of Epic running on Azure.

Azure Large Instances leverages dedicated resources, which allows Mount Sinai and other Epic clients to scale beyond the previous limits of shared public cloud infrastructure solutions, according to Microsoft.

As healthcare organizations manage an increasingly complex care landscape and challenging economic conditions, there is a growing desire to consolidate and exit on-premises data centers. Health systems also are looking to reduce the complexities of infrastructure management and control costs.

"With Epic running on Azure, we can now leverage the power of cloud to further optimize Epic operations and advance our capabilities," Kristin Myers, executive vice president, chief digital and information officer at Mount Sinai Health System, told Fierce Healthcare.

"We are able to better manage the Epic environment, easily scale and expand computing resources, enable our clinicians to access patient records from anywhere at any time, and enable improved data backup and disaster recovery mechanisms.  Furthermore, it will help accelerate innovation and integration of AI including the ability to utilize machine learning to create predictive models that are integrated in Epic to support clinical care, support real-time data updates and analytics, and better integrate AI models, algorithms, and solutions," said Myers, who also serves as Dean for Digital and Information Technology of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

The migration to Microsoft Azure enables digital transformation, accelerates AI and innovation, provides scalability and flexibility, and reduces upfront infrastructure costs, she noted.

“Going through this digital transformation requires partners who understand our health system’s mission and the criticality of patient care,” said Joseph Gimigliano, chief technology officer at Mount Sinai, said in a statement. Microsoft’s long-standing collaboration with Epic includes enabling the migration of Epic EHR environments to Azure through ongoing joint testing and engineering.

Mount Sinai is ongoing a five-year initiative to Accenture to migrate its clinical applications to the cloud including its Epic EHR system, according to a Mount Sinai press release issued last year.

Mount Sinai is focused on leveraging cloud technology and AI to explore ways to improve the workforce experience and reduce burnout for its healthcare professionals, Myers said.

"There are many opportunities to leverage ChatGPT and other generative AI to assist with clinical staff administrative activities. An example is working with Epic to enable patient inbasket capabilities by automating draft responses back to patients," she noted.

"We will also continue to integrate AI-driven clinical decision support systems to support our healthcare professionals, leverage predictive analytics to support proactive patient management and use AI to analyze Epic data to optimize hospital operations like bed allocation and resource utilization," Myers said.

Microsoft, Google and Amazon Web Services (AWS) are pushing deeper into healthcare in a battle to provide cloud computing technology to hospitals, payers and other healthcare organizations.

Microsoft announced its cloud service designed specifically for healthcare back in 2020 and has been adding new capabilities and features over the past three years as it pushes deeper into healthcare. Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare brings together existing services like chatbots, Microsoft 365, Teams and Azure.

Earlier this year, the tech giant expanded its cloud capabilities to included insurers. The new capabilities for payers include a unified member view to provide a single place to aggregate, access and utilize different types of data instead of toggling between multiple screens and systems.