Microsoft backs AI in healthcare with a $40 million program

AI for Health will help treat and understand diseases.

Microsoft's deepening health tech strategy now includes a significant commitment to AI. The company is starting a $40 million AI for Health program that should help researchers and key organizations improve the quality of life for people around the planet. The five-year initiative will use AI to improve diagnosis, prevention and treatment, as you might have expected, but it'll also be used for global-scale health insights and to improve access to healthcare in areas where it's often costly or hard to find.

The money will go toward a mix of nonprofits, researchers, industry pros and governments, giving partners access to AI and cloud tools, Microsoft data scientists and "select" cash grants. Existing projects aim to improve the understanding of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, boost efforts to fight leprosy, upgrade tools to limit preventable blindness and widen access to cancer information. Microsoft is also growing its cooperation with BRAC, PATH and St. Jude Children's Research Hospital to accelerate developments in areas like maternal mortality, tuberculosis and childhood cancer.

As the company pointed out, some of this work could be vital. Healthcare workers are frequently overwhelmed by the sheer number of patients they need to deal with, but AI is seldom there to help out. Just three percent of AI pros work in health organizations, Microsoft said. While $40 million isn't a massive amount of funding given the scale of healthcare issues around the globe, it could still help doctors treat more patients and upgrade the quality of care.

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