new - Amazon’s Healthcare Push - Moving Forward with Digital Healthcare

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recorded $3.5 trillion in National Health Expenditures (NHE) in 2017 which accounts for 17.9% of the U.S. GDP, and projected the NHE to increase at an average rate growth of 5.5% per year for the period 2017-2026 to reach $5.7 trillion by 2026.

It’s no secret that the tech giants Alphabet, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft are leveraging their own core business strengths to reinvent healthcare by developing and collaborating on new tools for patients, care providers, and insurers that will allow them to take a piece of the multi-trillion worth pie.

The e-commerce, cloud computing and AI behemoth, Amazon, has been making many endeavours to enter the healthcare industry. Throughout this article the main projects and attempts to be part of the healthcare industry will be briefly described.

Employer Health Initiative

On 30th January 2018, Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and J.P. Morgan announced a partnership to address healthcare for their U.S. employees, with the aim of improving employee satisfaction and reducing costs. The initial focus of this joint venture will be on technology solutions that will provide U.S. employees and their families with simplified, high-quality and transparent healthcare at a reasonable cost.

PillPack Acquisition

The acquisition of online pharmacy PillPack in the second half of 2018, is the most obvious sign yet of Amazon’s intent to push further into the healthcare industry. PillPack organizes and delivers packages of medications for consumers and ships prescriptions across 49 U.S. states. This strategic acquisition could allow Amazon to disrupt the pharmaceutical supply chain through a shift towards home delivery of medications.

Medical Diagnostics “At-Home Testing” And Cancer Research

According to CNBC, Amazon has explored entering into the consumer health diagnostics market, and reportedly, during the second half of 2018, the giant online retailer was in talks to acquire at-home health tests startup, Confer Health, but the talks fell apart.

Moreover, within Amazon there is a secret lab “Amazon’s Grand Challenge” led by Google Glass creator Babak Parviz, which consists of former Google X engineers and founders of various health startups. The team’s remit includes a series of bold projects involving cancer research, medical records and last-mile delivery.

Patent Filed For Alexa Voice Assistant To Detect Emotional And/Or Physical Abnormality

On 9th October 2018, Amazon filed a patent in the United States Patent and Trademark Office, with the title “Voice-based determination of physical and emotional characteristics of users”.

The patent claims “[…]applying at least one signal processing algorithm to the first voice data; determining that an emotional state of the user is abnormal; and selecting a real-time emotional state of the user […]” and “[…]applying at least one signal processing algorithm to the first voice data; determining that a physical state of the user is abnormal; and selecting a real-time physical state of the user [...]”.

This basically means that the Alexa voice assistant may determine physical and emotional changes in the user based on the voice input, as disclosed in the patent “For example, physical conditions such as sore throats and coughs may be determined based at least in part on a voice input from the user, and emotional conditions such as an excited emotional state or a sad emotional state may be determined based at least in part on voice input from a use” Alexa, will be able to detect sore throats and coughs, as well as euphoria/depression states.

Amazon Comprehend Medical

Andy Jassy, CEO of Amazon Web Services, during the AWS re:Invent Conference in Las Vegas on 27th November 2018, announced Amazon Comprehend Medical. Amazon’s project consists of a natural language processing service that facilitates the use of machine learning to extract relevant medical information from unstructured text. Amazon Comprehend Medical, allows you to quickly and accurately gather information, such as medical condition, medication, dosage, strength, and frequency from a variety of sources like doctors’ notes, clinical trial reports, and patient health records.

Amazon Comprehend Medical uses advanced machine learning models to accurately and quickly identify medical information, such as medical conditions and medications, and determines their relationship to each other, for instance, medicine dosage and strength.

Moreover, the extracted medical information and their relationships may be used to build applications for use cases like clinical decision support, revenue cycle management (medical coding), and clinical trial management.Alex Navarro

Product Lifecycle Analyst Intern