Skip to main content

Analysis

Amazon Subsidiary Carving Out Healthcare Market Niche

By Christopher Cheney  
   July 19, 2019

Amazon Web Services is focusing on services that are not at the core of healthcare organization operations such as data centers.

The biggest impact that Seattle-based Amazon Web Services makes in healthcare may receive little notice.

AWS is a separate business inside Amazon that focuses on cloud computing. AWS has more than 165 featured services including Amazon Comprehend Medical that are used by healthcare companies.

At this week's HealthLeaders Innovation Exchange, a top AWS executive said the company is primarily focused on providing services to healthcare organizations in areas outside of their core operations.

"For many healthcare organizations, you are doing things that you probably shouldn't be doing that do not help to differentiate you in the market. If you are running a data center in healthcare, a data center is probably not a core part of your business. AWS can do the undifferentiated heavy-lifting in healthcare so our customers can focus on differentiators," said Shez Partovi, MD, senior leader of global business development for healthcare, life sciences, and genomics at AWS.

Partovi gave three examples of operational areas in healthcare where AWS has supported customers:

1. Access: AWS has developed machine learning services that help its customers remove the "friction" in making a medical appointment online. For example, Zocdoc uses Amazon Rekognition to simplify insurance eligibility verification. Patients can hold up an insurance card to an iPhone, which determines health plan coverage and matches the patient to appropriate clinicians.

2. Patient activation: AWS has services that allow companies to stream IoT data on the cloud. For example, digital health companies are using services to help remotely monitor patients with asthma. Every time a patient presses the button on the inhaler, it sends a signal to the cloud.

The technology has three primary benefits: helping to boost medication adherence, alerting clinicians when patients are using their rescue inhaler at an increasing frequency and are at risk of hospital admission, and providing the capability to build personal prediction models for patients. If a patient consents to it, the prediction model is built based on GPS location, with includes features such as air pollution index and temperature that can be used to predict asthma-attack risk.

3. Automation: AWS is working with customers to develop predictive analytics to forecast medical-related events. For example, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is using AWS machine learning services to develop technology that can predict operating room cancellations and no-show rates at medical clinics.

Making a splash
 

While most of AWS' healthcare team is focused on undifferentiated services, the company also is resolving vexing problems, Partovi said. "About 90% to 95% of what we build is driven by what customers tell us matters. The other 5% to 10% of the time, we invent solutions on our customers' behalf."

For example, a cancer research center approached AWS with a challenge—finding a way to quickly read through patient charts to see who was eligible to participate in clinical trials.

"AWS invented on their behalf," Partovi said.

"We created a service called Amazon Comprehend Medical . It's like when you would read a book in high school and highlight key words. Amazon Comprehend Medical can read medical notes and extract key concepts, entities, and relationships, and it is HIPAA compliant. This means that it can quickly identify protected health information (PHI), such as name, age, and medical record number, and can be used to create applications that securely process, maintain, and transmit PHI. So, it can help providers better determine whether you have a condition, or whether you are taking a medication at a particular dosage, or some other key information. It generates discrete data that can be matched to inclusion or exclusion criteria."

Amazon Comprehend Medical also generated front-page media coverage, he said. "That was a groundbreaking machine learning service. But we didn't do it to be splashy. We did it because a customer came to us and needed to solve a problem."

The Innovation Exchange is one of six healthcare thought-leadership and networking events that HealthLeaders holds annually. While the events are invitation-only, qualified healthcare executives, director-level and above, will be considered. To inquire about the HealthLeaders Exchange program, email us at exchange@healthleadersmedia.com.

Photo credit: Pictured above: Shez Partovi, MD, senior leader of global business development for healthcare, life sciences, and genomics at AWS. (Photo: David Hartig)

Christopher Cheney is the senior clinical care​ editor at HealthLeaders.


KEY TAKEAWAYS

Amazon Web Services specializes in cloud computing.

The company's strategy is to do heavy lifting in tangential business areas so healthcare customers can focus on areas that are market differentiators.

Amazon Web Services is making a splash in the healthcare sector by inventing solutions for customers.


Get the latest on healthcare leadership in your inbox.