Alexa is not going to replace short-term doctors, but Amazon says artificial intelligence can help hospitals improve their efficiency.
The internet giant said Monday that its Amazon Web Services unit is working with a teaching hospital affiliated with Harvard in Boston to test how AI can simplify medical care. This is the most recent indication that major technology companies such as Amazon and Google are expanding their reach in the US $ 3.5 billion health care market in the United States.
All sectors involved in AI
The technology sector has high hopes that powerful computing tools can improve diagnosis and treatment, but the first projects of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center with Amazon.com Inc. are less related to sophisticated therapies and more with daily tasks such as programming patients, which improves efficiency and reduces costs.
“They are identifying the right problems where machine learning can really help” said Taha Kass-Hout, senior leader in health care and artificial intelligence at Amazon.
AI and health
The Seattle-based technology giant awarded the teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School a grant worth up to US $ 2 million to experiment with machine learning and AI. It is a new indication of the desire of Amazon and its competitors to grow in the medical sector in the United States, full of inefficiencies, where high costs affect the budgets of families, employers and governments.
“We’re going to see more and more technology companies trying to explore different ways of partnering with health care because there are so many unused and underutilized markets where they can grow” said Alisa Chestler, attorney at Baker Donelson who focuses on medical care. and technology. Chestler is not involved in the project.
Companies are investing in AI
It is difficult to calculate how much large companies are investing in their own artificial intelligence projects focused on health, but the interest of private investors is increasing. According to the research firm CB Insights, capital financing for artificial intelligence companies in health care reached US $ 2.4 billion in 2018, 78 percent more than the previous year.
Beth Israel Deaconess, a 673-bed medical center with a network of other hospitals and clinics in the Boston metropolitan area, began buying Amazon’s cloud services in 2016. The goal was to ensure that hospital data were available in If a catastrophe affected external security servers, said John Halamka, executive director of the Health Technology Exploration Center at Beth Israel Lahey Health.
When the data was moved to the Amazon cloud, Halamka said, hospital executives began asking if the technology could automate heavy manual labor. Amazon’s tools now help Beth Israel Deaconess to reserve operating room hours more accurately and to predict when patients are likely to miss appointments with the most requested specialists. The software can also help find the necessary documents, such as patient consent forms, in a scanned document stack before surgery and alert staff if something is missing or incomplete.
How this is helping
The approach has already helped Beth Israel Deaconess expand the capacity of its 41 operating rooms, Halamka said.
For example, for patients who need appendectomies, one hour of surgery is usually scheduled. But young and healthy people often need less time.
“If I look at a million patients like you and discover that we only need 25 minutes, would not that be better for society? Because at present the operating room is the most expensive place in a hospital”said Halamka.