A Primer on Amazon’s New Electronic Health Record Data Mining Project

Amazon recently confirmed it has launched a project to mine data from electronic medical records, as the company pushes deeper into the health-care market. “Amazon Comprehend Medical” allows developers to process unstructured medical text and identify information such as patient diagnosis, treatments, dosages, symptoms and signs.

Why is Amazon focused on electronic health records?

The “Amazon Comprehend Medical” project is right in Amazon Web Services’ sweet spot – cloud computing; text analysis and natural language processing; and machine learning. It also aligns with how tech companies are leveraging their core competencies to compete in healthcare.

According to CNBC, Amazon looks to take on UnitedHealth Group’s Optum, which is already in this space, as well as technology rivals Apple and Google parent company Alphabet. A few examples of other electronic health record projects include:

  • Apple is partnering with hospitals and clinics to provide patients with access to their medical information on an iPhone
  • Google is working with local health systems, notably the University of California, San Francisco, to get valuable information from medical records and better predict when a patient is likely to get sick
  • Comprehend Medical is already being previewed by Roche Diagnostics, the Switzerland-headquartered pharmaceutical and diagnostics equipment company, and Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center in Seattle, which is using it to identify patients for clinical trials

Why does this news matter?

Soon, Amazon may be able to use this technology to customize projects, like the abovementioned clinical trials effort. In the medium term, this technology could become more commonly used by payors and providers to augment existing practices and workflows – hopefully with the impact of improving clinical quality and reducing cost of care.

Further Reading

Could Prime Health be on the horizon? A follow-up story from CNBC dives into the future possibilities for Amazon and other tech companies.

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