Amazon Launches Service That Mines Medical Data, Improves Security has been eyeing the healthcare market for several months now and its latest effort to disrupt the industry comes in the form of a new service that lets developers scour unstructured medical text for information to improve the care of patients.

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Dubbed Amazon Comprehend Medical, the new service is aimed at helping health care providers, insurers, researchers and clinical trial investigators improve clinical decision support, enhance clinical trials and better protect the privacy and health information of patients.  The HIPAA-eligible machine learning service scours the unstructured text to identify patient diagnosis, treatments, dosages, symptoms and a host of other data.

As it stands now, Amazon said most health and patient data is stored as unstructured medical text including medical notes, prescriptions, audio interview transcripts and pathology, and radiology reports. Pinpointing the information is manual and time-consuming, requiring the need for data entry by medical experts or teams of developers that are tasked with writing custom code and rules to glean the information automatically. That interjects risks as humans can make mistakes.  

Amazon’s Comprehend Medical takes the heavy lifting out of the process, enabling developers to identify common types of medical information automatically without having to create a large number of in-house rules. “Comprehend Medical can identify medical conditions, anatomic terms, medications, details of medical tests, treatments and procedures,” wrote Dr. Taha A. Kass-Hout and Dr. Matt Wood of Amazon in a blog post announcing the new service. “Ultimately, this richness of information may be able to one day help consumers with managing their own health, including medication management, proactively scheduling care visits, or empowering them to make informed decisions about their health and eligibility.”

Amazon also thinks its service will enhance the security of patients data since there are no servers to manage. The developers provide the unstructured medical text to Amazon and it reads the text and returns the identified medical information. None of the data processed by the service is stored or used for training.

In conjunction with the launch of Comprehend Medical, Amazon announced it is working closely with Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center to help them identify patients for clinical trials who may benefit from specific therapies. Amazon said it was able to evaluate millions of clinical notes to extract and index medical conditions, medication, choice of cancer therapeutic options, which resulted in a reduction in the time it takes to process each document from hours to seconds.  “Curing cancer is, inherently, an issue of time,” said Matthew Trunnell, Chief Information Officer, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Amazon’s announcement. “For cancer patients and the researchers dedicated to curing them, time is the limiting resource. This is a vital step toward getting researchers rapid access to the information they need when they need it so they can find actionable insights to advance life-saving therapies for patients.”