Dive Brief:

  • Amazon has rolled out a new data aggregation and standardization service for healthcare and life sciences organizations, the tech giant announced Tuesday.
  • The goal of the HIPAA-eligible tool, called Amazon HealthLake, is to make it simpler for healthcare organizations to manipulate, structure and search their data.
  • In other Amazon news, the e-commerce behemoth has expanded its network of health clinics for employees with four additional locations in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the company said last week.

Dive Insight:

Amazon has elbowed deeper into healthcare over the past few years, seeing significant space for disruption in the industry. A key prong of its strategy is healthcare cloud computing, a billion-dollar growth market, as payers and providers adopt more software-as-a-service cloud computing services to stay on top of the rising volume of patient data, running the gamut from family history to diagnoses and medications.

Getting this data aggregated and standardized into an analyzable format can be complex, expensive and time intensive for healthcare companies. That’s where Amazon’s cloud business, AWS, is looking to step in with HealthLake.

HealthLake pulls data from different locations, centralizes it into one data ‘lake’ and and structures it into the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources industry format to reduce the time it takes to transform data in the cloud from “weeks to minutes,” Swami Sivasubramanian, VP of Amazon Machine Learning for AWS, said in a statement.

The tool, meant for providers, health insurers and pharmaceutical companies, among others, is meant to make it easier for customers to search and manipulate their data to, for example, predict more accurate insurance premiums, track out disease progression or monitor the efficacy of clinical trials.

A number of clients have already signed onto the new service, including EHR giant Cerner, health tech company Ciox Health, life sciences player Konica Minolta Precision Medicine, and health IT provider Orion Health.

HealthLake joins AWS’ existing line of HIPAA-eligible services, including medical speech recognition tool Amazon Transcribe Medical launched late last year and Amazon Comprehend Medical, its provider-focused text analytics software. AWS has been steadily rolling out HIPAA-eligible computing tools over the past few years in a race with Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure as the cloud giants spar over market share in the nascent healthcare cloud computing space.​

Earlier this month, Google launched a program to help health systems and other healthcare companies get better insights into their data, standardize it and work on usability, before federal compliance deadlines for data sharing kick in next year. For its part, Microsoft rolled out a healthcare-specific package of services in May, linking its Azure platform and telecommunications platform Teams to help providers with virtual care, patient engagement and care management through apps.

Seattle-based Amazon has also made numerous high-profile moves in healthcare this year outside of the cloud. In July, the company announced it was building out a network of primary care clinics for its employees and their families, in partnership with medical network Crossover Health.

Following a successful pilot in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Amazon is adding four new centers to help cover its more than 20,000 employees in the region, the company said earlier this month.

Amazon has also made waves in the pharmacy space, acquiring online pharmacy PillPack for $753 million in 2018 to place it in direct competition with drugstore giants like CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid. In mid-November, Amazon announced it was rebranding its pharmacy efforts as Amazon Pharmacy and will now sell and deliver prescription drugs online, with significant discounts to Prime members.

However, experts are split on the potential ramifications of the move, with some noting it applies additional pressure on retail pharmacies, but others pointing out it doesn’t signify any immediate disruption to how the pharmacy space traditionally operates.

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