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Amazon HealthLake Is GA Under New ‘AWS for Health’ Banner

‘Cloud providers developing industry-specific solutions is a positive, logical next step in the digital transformation to cloud, especially for healthcare, which has traditionally been behind other industries when it comes to technology and is frequently limited by legacy systems and their constraints,’ says Aater Suleman, vice president of cloud transformation at NTT DATA Services.

Amazon Web Services has launched a service for handling large-scale health data under the new banner of “AWS for Health,” as cloud providers continue in the race to provide customers industry-specific solutions targeting vertical markets.

Amazon HealthLake, launched in preview in December and now generally available, is a Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR)-enabled data store. Healthcare and life sciences organizations can use the HIPAA-eligible service to store, transform, query and analyze health data at scale in the cloud.

Amazon HealthLake uses natural language processing models to help organizations understand and extract medical information from structured and unstructured data in different silos and formats, including clinical notes, lab reports, insurance claims, medical images, recorded conversations and time-series data. It indexes and stores the information chronologically in a centralized AWS data lake. Customers can then easily search their now-structured data and apply advanced analytics and machine learning models to glean insights from it.

Cloud providers developing industry-specific solutions is a positive, logical next step in the digital transformation to cloud, especially for healthcare, which has traditionally been behind other industries when it comes to technology and is frequently limited by legacy systems and their constraints, according to Aater Suleman, vice president of cloud transformation at NTT DATA Services, an AWS Premier Consulting Partner and Plano, Texas-based digital business and IT services provider.

“Solutions like Amazon HealthLake address industry-specific needs and meet HIPAA and other privacy requirements, which allows organizations to move to advanced solutions faster, driving business value and population health decisions,” Suleman said. “Within healthcare specifically, organizations have a myriad of structured and unstructured data that can be an important source of data to drive greater hospital efficiency and healthcare outcomes. For example, we recently worked with a regional Blue Cross Blue Shield to create an AWS data lake solution to help them address these very issues. AWS HealthLake could have helped streamline the process, getting them to an advanced solution faster.”

Amazon HealthLake currently is available in AWS’ U.S. East (northern Virginia), U.S. East (Ohio) and U.S. West (Oregon) cloud regions.

AWS is releasing the service as part of AWS for Health, its new initiative to group together and provide cloud-based services and solutions – its own and those of AWS Partner Network members – targeting healthcare, biopharmaceutical and genomics customers to improve their business and patient outcomes.

One size does not fit all, even for cloud, said Jennifer Curry, executive vice president of product and technology at AWS Select Consulting Partner INAP, a data center and cloud solutions provider based in Reston, Va.

“There are industries with unique requirements, whether they be compliance or latency, and applications that work better on bare metal versus a virtual environment,” Curry said. “These targeted solutions will make it quicker and easier for these industries to push their cloud transformation forward.”

AWS previously launched AWS for Media and Entertainment in April and AWS for Industrial in December. Microsoft, meanwhile, this week announced the Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability after previously launching industry-specific clouds for retail, healthcare, manufacturing, financial services and nonprofits. And Google Cloud, under CEO Thomas Kurian, has been focusing on providing industry-specific solutions in six target markets: financial services, health care, manufacturing and industrial, the public sector, retail, and media, telecommunications and entertainment.

AWS customers want solutions that are optimized for the characteristics and the requirements of the industry that they work in, AWS channel chief Doug Yeum told CRN.

“We’ve identified 16 solution areas within health, and we are including partners —both SIs and ISVs — into those solutions areas,” said Yeum, head of AWS’ worldwide channels and alliances. “We have a total of 150-plus solutions that we’ll be launching with our partners as part of that launch.”

Feedback from launch partners for AWS for Media and Entertainment indicates it has been “very impactful” for their businesses, enabling them to approach their customers more holistically and leverage AWS services along with their own solutions for different use cases, according to Yeum.

“Many of our partners, but especially our largest global SI partners — like Accenture, Deloitte, Capgemini, Cognizant and companies like TCS (Tata Consultancy Services) and Infosys — they all have industry solutions that in the past were running on prem,” Yeum said. “Their sales priority has always been an industry-based, go-to-market motion. We’ve invested into those partners to help those partners take the solutions, modernize them on AWS, and then now we’re taking that solution together to the market. These industry solutions are becoming very, very important as enterprises accelerate their adoption of the cloud. They’re looking at their partners and saying, ‘Hey, bring us a solution that we can quickly implement, without having to build everything from scratch.’”

It’s important to have leading cloud providers developing industry-specific solutions that address specific business needs for scale, operations, security and compliance, according to Mike Fouts, vice president of Americas partner sales at Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Citrix, a digital workspace technology company and AWS Advanced Technology Partner.

“In a year that tested the healthcare community, we saw time and time again how critical it is for our partners to help provide technology solutions that allow clinicians to focus on providing care for their patients, rather than on the technology,” Fouts said.

The cloud has matured to a point where the infrastructure itself is very robust and secure, and there are many service offerings from a raw compute and storage perspective, but now cloud companies need to provide more value, so they can continue to compete for customers, said Craig McQueen, vice president of innovation at AWS Advanced Consulting Partner Softchoice, a technology services and solutions provider based in Toronto, Canada.

“And the way to provide more value is to have the solutions closer to the industry needs, so it’s a lot less work for anybody in that particular industry to develop on it,” McQueen said. “Healthcare solutions make a ton of sense. Healthcare is very rich with respect to data, but it needs a very strong computing capability to really provide some value from it. You have to process a lot of data to really get those insights, so it lends itself naturally to a cloud computing solution where there’s a very elastic amount of compute available that can scale according to the need.”

McQueen expects industry-specific solutions to accelerate industry advances.

“To date, computing has been a bit siloed from the technology advances in a subject domain,” he said. “For instance…there’s been a lot of on-premise processing of data for healthcare, but now there’s a mutual benefit between the cloud computing advances and the advances of being able to...cheaply, obtain data about people and then process it. Ultimately it will lead to more personalized health care, because we’ll be able to really cheaply understand somebody’s own individual health situation, and because there’s all that data that ultimately will be processed.”

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