Amazon has long been diversifying its interests, so it’s not a big surprise they’ve stepped into the world of healthcare. In addition to their other initiatives, Amazon has made some new announcements about their partnership with Berkshire-Hathaway and JP Morgan -- we still don’t know much, except for a name, Haven, and that it will be focusing on their own employees first, and working with data, primary care, and insurance to reduce costs and innovate within the space.
After years of disrupting and transforming other industries, it’s now healthcare’s turn to be ambitiously re-envisioned. Thus far, Amazon has touched many aspects and elements of the trillion-dollar industry. So, what does this mean for medical technology and the ultimate future of healthcare and its data?
Let’s explore how Amazon is changing the way technology and medicine intersect.
Alexa Plays Doctor
Millions of people are already in love with the digital assistant Alexa. Next up, Alexa is working to identify your illness by the change in voice, according to a patent they filed. Alexa may detect that you have a sore throat then offer medicine suggestions or a chicken soup recipe. Beyond just sniffles and coughs, Amazon plans to have Alexa be able to discern more things, including emotional states, with the ability to detect happiness, sadness, anger, or fear.
Alexa will also be able to understand the tone of your voice, perceiving if you are sleepy or hungry. Alexa would also be able to know where you are based on background noise, your accent, age, and gender.
With this data, Amazon then has the ability to communicate with users to respond to their physical and emotional feelings with relevance around where you are and who you are. The company has already partnered with the UK’s National Health Service to diagnose symptoms for medical conditions via Alexa.
The ability to expand the capabilities for Alexa fit what most users like so much about the platform, convenience. If Alexa can provide details about a patient’s symptoms and a probable diagnosis with treatment instructions, it shortens the cycle of how we interact with healthcare to get a resolution for our health issues.
For example, if Alexa can identify symptoms of a patient in pain and communicate a likely conclusion concerning the issue, then the patient would know to go to an urgent care versus an ER with considerable savings for all when ER care is avoided.
This innovation makes the process more efficient for providers and patients while reducing costs associated with treatment for patients and their insurance companies.
Mining Patient Data for the Greater Good
Amazon also has embarked on a way to analyze patient data. This valuable information has the opportunity to generate insights that could revolutionize diagnosis.
Most health and patient data is currently stored as unstructured, which means it requires manual entry or custom code to reformat it. Amazon announced its project to mine data from electronic medical records (EMRs) in 2018, with its Amazon Comprehend Medical, a HIPAA-eligible machine learning service. The platform “allows developers to process unstructured medical text and identify information such as patient diagnosis, treatments, dosages, symptoms, and signs.”
The purpose of the project is to benefit all stakeholders in the circle of healthcare, including patients, clinicians, insurers, pharma, and researchers. While the impact to patients and clinicians is obvious, pharma and researchers could realize efficiencies in designing and executing clinical trials through the use of this application of Big Data.
What’s unique about Amazon’s involvement in data mining is the strength of its core competencies in hosting and processing data given its multi-billion dollar cloud hosting services, Amazon Web Services.
With Amazon Comprehend Medical, developers can automatically detect medical information in the data sets. It doesn’t require complex processes to obtain the data. The service then “reads” the data to find what’s important while also redacting personal healthcare information (PHI).
The platform is already in use through a partnership with Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Comprehend Medical is assisting with the identification of patients for a clinical trial who may benefit from alternative therapies. The service evaluated millions of pieces of data quickly and accurately to find the right subjects, a process that could have taken weeks.
Ultimately, Amazon and its partners have stated a commitment to improving patient care with technology and to impacting any area of healthcare that can gain from it. The company entered the space with the goal of speeding up the process of drawing conclusions from large sets of healthcare data.
Amazon’s Possible Vision for Healthcare
The common themes of Amazon’s investments in healthcare are centered around convenience, efficiency, and speeding up processes. If you think of these three things and apply them to the process of how a person engages with the healthcare industry, you’ll see there is much opportunity for Amazon to transform the process with its technology.
For example, Alexa hears that your voice is hoarse and detects other symptoms. Then, you have a consultation with a doctor virtually, so you don’t have to leave the house and possibly infect others. The doctor orders you a home health test for the flu. If you test positive then the doctor submits a prescription to an online pharmacy that has them delivered to you that day (facilitated by Amazon Prime, no doubt).
Amazon has a hand in every step here, as they have purchased a home health testing company and an online pharmacy, PillPack. The data from this patient could then be added back to information to be mined that can influence how easily the next person is diagnosed. From end-to-end, Amazon has the potential to become one of the biggest players in an industry that is ripe for disruption.
One reason Amazon’s disruption may be more likely to succeed where other Big Tech entrants have floundered (think Microsoft, Motorola, Google, and even Apple), is that the processes being targeted ultimately impact and benefit the consumer or patient. Given how consumer expectations and preferences have evolved related to retail and related purchases, this is a very compelling bet on Amazon’s part.
Amazon’s Disruption: What It Means for Healthcare Sales
As a professional that sells to the healthcare industry, Amazon’s entry into the market could open up new possibilities. One way to succeed here is to try to align to the disruption Amazon is creating. How do your products or services fit into Amazon’s vision for innovating within the healthcare industry? Another is to study how your brand fits in with this new model of healthcare with the patient experience as a guiding focus.
You can also appreciate the quest of Amazon in data mining and probably have thought about how your company can use data to prospect better. At Carevoyance, we provide you with comprehensive intelligence helping you find the best prospects with strategic targeting. Learn more by browsing our solutions for healthcare sales and marketing leaders.
About the Author
Carevoyance contributor Beth Osborne is a professional writer and content marketer with multiple years of experience in healthcare IT marketing. Learn more about her by visiting her website.