Amazon, the $1.6 trillion shipping giant, is launching a new service to provide essential medical services through Amazon Healthcare as a national telehealth business. Anyone watching Amazon over the last few years will be well acquainted with its accelerating moves to provide the early inklings of healthcare. TEarly Amazon Healthcare efforts were announced in the TBHI Telehealth News on 6/4/2020. In that article, Amazon Health announced a pilot program offering virtual medical services to employees and their families. It then expanded the presence of Alexa voice assistant, announcing that it was making it possible for voice assistant developers to offer HIPAA-compliant services for the Alexa platform. Amazon Pharmacy, a drug-delivering business in 48 states with steep discounts for Prime members was also released in November.
Most recently Amazon has launched another business journey called Amazon HealthLake, a HIPAA-compliant service that allows healthcare providers, health insurance companies, and pharmaceutical companies to store, transform, and analyze health data at a petabyte-scale. For employers registering for the service, which has partnered with Care Medical, employees near their headquarters will get online and in-person doctor visits. Employees elsewhere will get just the virtual components. Amazon Care currently offers an app to connect employees to a medical professional for a video consultation. It also offers follow-up care in the home for patients who require it. The goal is to lower healthcare costs internally for Amazon and externally for some of the world’s most influential companies, using telehealth to meet people on their terms, with good care, wherever they are.
Amazon Care and Amazon HealthLake are just some parts of Amazon’s overall health care strategy. As described on the Amazon HealthLake website:
Amazon HealthLake removes the heavy lifting of organizing, indexing, and structuring patient information to provide a complete view of the health of individual patients and entire patient populations in a secure, compliant, and auditable manner. Using the HealthLake APIs, healthcare organizations can easily copy health data in the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) industry standard format from on-premises systems to a secure data lake in the cloud. HealthLake transforms unstructured data using specialized machine learning models, like natural language processing, to automatically extract meaningful medical information from the data and provides powerful query and search capabilities.
Organizations can use advanced analytics and ML models, such as Amazon QuickSight and Amazon SageMaker to analyze and understand relationships, identify trends, and make predictions from the newly normalized and structured data. From early detection of disease to population health trends, organizations can use Amazon HealthLake to conduct clinical data analysis powered by machine learning to improve care and reduce costs.
Data and Security
A big challenge for Amazon, a huge consumer company with tons of customer data, is ensuring that its health-care tools are compliant with privacy rules and regulations under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and when it comes to transcription, maintaining an extremely high level of accuracy to avoid problematic outcomes or potential liability.