Amazon has managed to become a global giant by putting their resources in as many baskets as possible, but their newest venture is a bit unusual even by their standards. Amazon is moving into the healthcare industry. While their new business model could open up bold new opportunities for healthcare, it also opens a wealth of ethical questions about the privacy of patients.
A new report from the Wall Street Journal alleges that Amazon is getting into the business of selling medical records, and while Amazon has neither confirmed nor denied the report, it could send ripples throughout the industry. If the reports are true, the technology that Amazon uses would scan medical records for relevant information while filtering out the unnecessary data. In purely theoretical terms, it could be a huge development for the industry. Digital health records are notorious for making more work for doctors. A lack of standard practices mean that the information saved in these records are often copied and pasted over and over again and riddled with inaccuracies and redundancies. This creates an environment where doctors have more trouble treating their patients, but it’s also been identified as one of the biggest contributing factors to burnout in physicians.
Amazon isn’t the first company to make moves towards this type of technology. Algorithms that help digitize physical information are already used in a number of different fields, and both Microsoft and Apple have made moves towards digitizing physical records. But early reports suggest that Amazon has perfected machine learning techniques that can take into account the unique idiosyncrasies different doctors use in their note taking.
But if this is an avenue that Amazon is pursuing, they can expect to come up against a great deal of skepticism. The notion of digital records for patients has become so hated by doctors that many in the industry have become frustrated with the very notion of digitized information. And an inconsistent approach to digital record keeping not properly backed up by physical records has created worrying holes in the medical histories of some patients. If Amazon’s technology can live up to the hype, they could revolutionize the healthcare industry. But they have a steep hill to climb, and they’ll have to work hard to convince the doctors they need to impress that their new software represents a meaningful evolutionary step forward.