Amazon launches HealthTech solution

Written by Peter Walker

Amazon is making moves into the HealthTech space with the launch of Amazon Comprehend Medical, a new machine learning service that allows developers to process unstructured medical text and identify information such as patient diagnosis, treatments, dosages and symptoms.

The innovation is aimed at helping health care providers, insurers, researchers and clinical trial investigators, as well as health care IT, biotech and pharmaceutical companies to improve clinical decision support, streamline clinical trials management and better address data privacy requirements.

In a statement from Amazon, Dr Taha A. Kass-Hout and Dr Matt Wood explained that the majority of health and patient data is stored as unstructured medical text, such as medical notes, prescriptions, audio interview transcripts and pathology reports.

“Identifying this information today is a manual and time consuming process, which either requires data entry by high skilled medical experts, or teams of developers writing custom code and rules to try and extract the information automatically,” they stated. “In both cases this undifferentiated heavy lifting takes material resources away from efforts to improve patient outcomes through technology.”

Comprehend Medical allows developers to identify the key common types of medical information automatically, with high accuracy, and without the need for large numbers of custom rules.

It can identify medical conditions, anatomic terms, medications, details of medical tests, treatments and procedures. Ultimately, this richness of information may be able to one day help consumers with managing their own health, including medication management, proactively scheduling care visits, or empowering them to make informed decisions about their health, according to Amazon.

The service reads unstructured text and identifies the medical information contained within it. There are no models to train and no machine learning experience is required. Through the Application Programming Interface (API), these capabilities can be integrated with existing services and health systems.

Amazon is working with Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, identifying patients for clinical trials who may benefit from specific cancer therapies.

Matthew Trunnell, chief information officer at the hospital, said: “The process of developing clinical trials and connecting them with the right patients requires research teams to sift through and label mountains of unstructured medical record data.

“Amazon Comprehend Medical will reduce this time burden from hours per record to seconds – this is a vital step toward getting researchers rapid access to the information they need when they need it so they can find actionable insights to advance lifesaving therapies for patients.”

Roche Diagnostics is also trialling the technology, to enable personalised healthcare. Anish Kejariwal, director of software engineering for Roche Diagnostics Information Solutions, commented: “Amazon Comprehend Medical provides the functionality to help us with quickly extracting and structuring information from medical documents, so that we can build a comprehensive, longitudinal view of patients, and enable both decision support and population analytics.”