Duke Health and Microsoft partner to ‘ethically harness’ generative AI


A new five-year partnership between Duke and Microsoft includes the creation of a Duke Health AI Innovation Lab and Center of Excellence. 

As part of the new agreement, Microsoft says it will construct a secure cloud environment to train and foster a cloud-savvy IT workforce at the Durham, North Carolina-based health system, which uses Azure.

Dr. Jeffrey Ferranti, Duke Health’s senior vice president and chief digital officer, called the partnership a ‘milestone’ because it combines the organization’s expertise in data science, patient care and technology innovation with Microsoft’s healthcare and AI technologies. 

“Together, we are poised to propel Duke into the forefront of digitally-focused health systems, while simultaneously studying the reliability and safety of generative AI in healthcare,” he said in Tuesday’s announcement.

The partners said that they aim to fast-track innovation and develop AI-based solutions using Microsoft’s Azure OpenAI Service that augment healthcare experiences for providers and patients, which could include the automation of administrative tasks and expanding patient education through personalization.

“As advocates for the responsible and ethical use of AI in healthcare, we recognize AI’s immense potential to revolutionize healthcare, and remain steadfast in our commitment to ensuring Duke’s innovation in this area adheres to the highest ethical standards,” added Dr. Mary Klotman, executive vice president for health affairs at Duke University and dean of Duke University School of Medicine.


The Duke collaboration comes the same week as another Microsoft AI announcement, which will see it working with OpenAI, Google and Anthropic, an AI safety and research company, to form the Frontier Model Forum

The Forum will focus on ensuring the safe and responsible development of large-scale machine-learning models that could surpass the capabilities of current AI models. While the founding members will establish an advisory board, organize a charter and address funding and governance with a working group and executive committee, they say the need to address AI’s trustworthiness is urgent.

“This forum is well-positioned to act quickly to advance the state of AI safety,” said Anna Makanju, vice president of global affairs at OpenAI, in the announcement.

Rachini Ahmadi-Moosavi, chief analytics officer at Chapel Hill, North Carolina-based UNC Health, told Healthcare IT News earlier this month that clinicians will need to be engaged in the governance of clinical AI to avoid bias.

“The risk is much greater in the clinical space due to the direct impact on patient health and wellbeing,” she said. 

“Adoption of AI in this space must avoid previous pitfalls related to clinical bias (racial bias in transplant recommendations, gender bias in screening for liver disease, skin color bias in diagnosis, etc.); ensure that ethics are a cornerstone of care delivery; vet model inputs and reliability and thoroughly test recommendations.”


“Microsoft is excited to collaborate with Duke Health to operationalize responsible AI principles, helping to ensure that AI is deployed safely, effectively and in an unbiased and transparent manner,” said Dr. David Rhew, global chief medical officer and vice president of Healthcare at Microsoft, in a statement about the new collaboration.

“Duke Health’s commitment to delivering the next generation of medicine is unwavering,” added Dr. Craig Albanese, chief executive officer of Duke University Health System. “Through this collaboration, we aim to bring the future of healthcare into the present, crafting a new normal that is not merely innovative, but transformative.”

Andrea Fox is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Email: afox@himss.org

Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.