Microsoft healthcare leader joins elite group helping the NHS improve patient care

The head of healthcare at Microsoft’s cutting-edge research lab in the UK has been chosen by the NHS to help improve patient care with data science.

Iain Buchan has been named a Senior Investigator for the NHS’s National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), joining an elite group of healthcare experts who work to “improve the nation’s health, wellbeing and prosperity”.

As an expert in using data and technology in healthcare, Buchan will also offer advice to the Department of Health’s Chief Scientific Adviser.

“I am honoured to have been selected as an NIHR Senior Investigator, bridging two areas of world-leading research: Microsoft’s intelligent cloud and NIHR’s population-embedded health science,” he said. “In my role at Microsoft, I see first-hand how the next generation of technologies could help patients, clinicians and society achieve better health and care.”

Iain Buchan

Iain Buchan

A Senior Investigator’s term can last from three to five years and is renewable for one further term.

Neither Buchan nor Microsoft will be paid for the work; NIHR will instead support the NHS and University of Manchester to collaborate with his team. He will conduct this work alongside his roles as Director of Healthcare Research for Microsoft Research in Cambridge and a member of the global leadership team of Healthcare NExT. The latter position sees him work with industry partners and other organisations to integrate research and health technology such as artificial intelligence and cloud computing into product development and healthcare services.

With Senior Investigators being chosen by the NIHR through an annual competition and review of their publications and career history, the decision to appoint Buchan cements his place as one of the leading minds in the health technology sector.

Prior to joining Microsoft, Buchan raised more than £100 million in research funding from the University of Manchester, where he led health informatics and population health, and with the Medical Research Council, where he developed a national network of health data science from the Health eResearch Centre for the Farr Institute, now Health Data Research UK.

Elderly man uses walker in hospital

Senior Investigators work to ‘improve the nation’s health, wellbeing and prosperity’

He has spent more than 25 years looking at how data can be used to improve patient care and public health, and his 15-year role at the University of Manchester allowed him to build an 80-strong health informatics research team that was internationally respected.

He takes a software engineering approach to bring health data to life, turning passive healthcare records into more interactive and helpful representations of patients, their needs and preferences.

“Conventional healthcare sees only the data from episodes of care, blind to the full journey of a patient’s health that connected technologies and better models of personal health could reveal,” he said prior to joining Microsoft. “By providing a fuller picture of patient journeys, Microsoft can help patients to self-care and communities to self-organise for better health. This high-resolution approach could provide more timely, personalised care and help target scarce clinical resources to the neediest patients – key to better value healthcare.”

“The challenge is to enrich health journeys earlier in life and at the earliest possible stages of disease, so that patients have more choices and can take greater control over their own lives. Careful harnessing of new sources of health data and AI could empower patients in this way, building smarter supply chains of healthcare around patients rather than clinics.”