IT Pro is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

Amazon launches big data service focused on health care

Data lake promises to keep health care organizations' information secure

Amazon has launched another business venture, this time pushing into the health care and life sciences sectors. The company announced a preview of HealthLake, a big data service housed in its Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud.

Announced at Amazon's AWS re:Invent conference, the service will help companies in the health care and pharmaceutical sectors analyze medical data trends.

HealthLake is a data lake tailored to health applications. Data lakes store structured data, like financial records and contact information, alongside unstructured data, like Word documents, PDFs, and images, indexing it all so big data applications can mine that information. 

HealthLake consumes information, ranging from diagnoses, medications, doctors' notes, and medical imaging reports to insurance claims. Many of these are in non-standard formats, and some are handwritten, but Amazon uses machine learning to mine the text.

The service interprets handwritten text and makes it readable, along with digital documents. It then uses natural language processing to identify and index distinct pieces of health care information, tagging it with metadata to make it searchable. This includes chronological metadata, enabling data scientists to create a timeline of medical events.

Amazon wants health care companies to use this information for big data analytics. That includes making predictions about individual patients, such as when a person with diabetes is likely to develop high blood pressure based on parameters, including their age, gender, and lifestyle. It will also help analyze larger trend data across populations for applications ranging from health insurance to epidemiology.

The system stores all this information in the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) format from medical data standards nonprofit organization Health Level Seven. It enables health providers to share data, Amazon explained.

The system supports data privacy and security standards created under the 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) imposes penalties of up to almost $60,000 per violation with an annual cap of $1,786,000.

Insecure medical document storage has been a thorny issue in the US. In September 2019, investigative nonprofit journalism team organization ProPublica uncovered medical images and health records for over five million US patients publicly exposed on 187 servers.

This is Amazon's second major health-care-related move in a few weeks. In mid-November, it announced Amazon Pharmacy, an online store enabling people to buy prescription medicines via the Amazon App using their health insurance. 

In 2019, it launched its Amazon Care health insurance initiative, targeting its own employees. This service offers telemedicine services to participants using a mobile app.

Featured Resources

Join the 90% of enterprises accelerating to the cloud

Business transformation through digital modernisation

Free Download

Delivering on demand: Momentum builds toward flexible IT

A modern digital workplace strategy

Free download

Modernise the workforce experience

Actionable insights and an optimised experience for both IT and end users

Free Download

The digital workplace roadmap

A leader's guide to strategy and success

Free Download

Recommended

Protecting healthcare from cybercrime
Whitepaper

Protecting healthcare from cybercrime

25 May 2022
Amazon signs launch deals with Arianespace, Blue Origin and United Launch Alliance for Project Kuiper
broadband

Amazon signs launch deals with Arianespace, Blue Origin and United Launch Alliance for Project Kuiper

6 Apr 2022
AWS to invest £1.8bn in UK data centres and other cloud infrastructure
Cloud

AWS to invest £1.8bn in UK data centres and other cloud infrastructure

18 Mar 2022
AWS launches carbon tracking tool for its cloud customers
cloud computing

AWS launches carbon tracking tool for its cloud customers

2 Mar 2022

Most Popular

Universities are fighting a cyber security war on multiple fronts
cyber security

Universities are fighting a cyber security war on multiple fronts

4 Jul 2022
Hackers claim to steal personal data of over a billion people in China
data breaches

Hackers claim to steal personal data of over a billion people in China

4 Jul 2022
Latest LockBit ransomware strain 'strikingly similar' to BlackMatter
ransomware

Latest LockBit ransomware strain 'strikingly similar' to BlackMatter

4 Jul 2022