Amazon confirmed on Tuesday that it's launched a project to mine data from electronic medical records, as the company pushes deeper into the health-care market.
Coinciding with the Amazon Web Services re:Invent conference in Las Vegas this week, the company introduced Amazon Comprehend Medical, which "allows developers to process unstructured medical text and identify information such as patient diagnosis, treatments, dosages, symptoms and signs, and more," according to a blog post.
The announcement follows a CNBC report in June that Amazon had spent several years working on an effort, internally dubbed Hera, to make better use of digitized medical data, capturing information that a physician may miss and helping remove inaccuracies. At that time, Amazon was targeting insurance companies as potential customers, pitching them on a product that could fill in gaps in data when doctors neglect to fully document a patient's medical visit.
The company's senior leader in health care and artificial intelligence, Taha Kass-Hout, told the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday that internal tests showed that the software performed as good or better than other published efforts to extract data on patients' medical conditions, lab orders and procedures.
The company also confirmed that it's teaming up with Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle to apply machine learning to its data sets in a bid to prevent and cure cancers. Amazon said it's working with the health center to evaluate "millions of clinical notes to extract and index medical conditions," and it pointed to other partners, including pharmaceutical giant Roche.
It looks unlikely at this point that Amazon will compete directly with medical records companies like AllScripts and Cerner, as there are plenty of money-making opportunities to work with those vendors and provide services like population health and clinical trial support.