Tech Overlook

How AI and Teams are benefitting the littlest of patients


Smiling woman with arms raised surrounded by people
Felicitas Hanne raises her arms in delight, surrounded by some of the members of the Microsoft Germany team that developed solutions for Kinderhaus AtemReich. Photo: Microsoft

So last summer, when Hanne attended Microsoft Germany’s #Hackfest2018 in Munich, a two-day Microsoft employee hackathon to help customers, partners and nonprofit organizations, she wasn’t sure what to expect.

At that time, “It was my great hope that Microsoft would help me to expand and improve my work with Microsoft Access database,” she says.

But as Hanne spoke to the Microsoft employees about Kinderhaus AtemReich, “We listened really carefully to what she was saying about the children, and I think half of our colleagues had tears in their eyes,” says Volker Strasser, a Microsoft digital adviser who normally works with large companies. Moved by the children’s challenges and those faced by Kinderhaus AtemReich, he became the project lead for the effort.

Andre Kiehne, executive sponsor of the project and a member of the Microsoft Germany leadership team, also remembers talking to Hanne that first time. It was an “emotional moment,” he says. His twin daughters were born 13 years ago in the same children’s hospital where the idea for Kinderhaus AtemReich was raised, and around the same time. His girls were premature babies and faced some medical problems in their first weeks – “they are completely healthy now,” he says – but the worry he faced remains a fresh memory.

The night the hackfest ended, Strasser remembers being unable to sleep “as thoughts circled my mind as to how we’d help Kinderhaus succeed, how we could bring these ideas to life, and how we’d scale those ideas more broadly” for other potential and much-needed Kinderhaus AtemReichs in his country.

Mug shot of Volker Strasser
Volker Strasser

At 3 a.m., he got out of bed and started drafting a plan that would ultimately include bringing machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI), Microsoft Teams and a modern recruiting strategy to Kinderhaus AtemReich.

For the next year, the team met for a project call every Monday at 8 a.m. – “We put that meeting on Monday at that time because we wanted to start the week with the most important thing, Kinderhaus AtemReich,” Strasser says.

Hanne had no idea she would wind up with a dedicated army of 50 Microsoft volunteers and partners who, over the past year, have not only provided Kinderhaus AtemReich with a digital transformation, but who also spend their own time at the facility, about 5 miles from Microsoft’s Munich office, doing everything from helping clean out the cellar to tending the garden.

The technology solutions being put into place fit “the needs of AtemReich to get closer to the goal of more staff time with the children,” and less on paperwork, says Hanne. “That is what touches me most of all. This incredible combination of Microsoft and partner team members’ empathy, passion, know-how and time for our children can hardly be put into words because it is so great.”

Among the changes that have come to Kinderhaus AtemReich: shifting from a laborious, often manual, medical record-keeping system that only kept track of a child’s vital signs to a system that compiles information – such as heart rate, oxygen, breathing rhythm, blood pressure – from the children’s medical devices and uses machine learning, AI, IoT and Azure tools to produce data and analysis to see if there are safety or medically related problems or trends that should be addressed.

“Before, we just copied the data from the monitors onto paper. But we were not able to evaluate or compare the incredible amounts of data provided by our devices,” Hanne says. “Now we can evaluate and analyze data. This allows us to discover patterns in children and makes it possible to react faster than we could before.”



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