Amazon Web Services to Beth Israel Deaconess: Tell us how AI can make your hospital more efficient

Online retail giant Amazon continues its push into healthcare with a $2 million investment in Boston-based Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center to test artificial intelligence, according to Bloomberg.

With the grant, the two will study how AI can simplify medical care. While there  are hopes that AI tools will one day improve diagnosis and treatment, Beth Israel Deaconess will first focus on making day-to-day tasks, such as patient scheduling, more cost-effective.

"They're identifying the right problems where machine learning truly can help," Taha Kass-Hout, senior leader for healthcare and AI at Amazon, told Bloomberg.

The 673-bed medical center purchased Amazon Web Service's cloud software in 2016. Since then, the medical center and its network of hospitals in the Boston area have seen significant improvements with operating room efficiency and scheduling, according to the report. When Beth Israel Deaconess first began using the cloud services, the goal was to ensure data would be accessible if disasters struck.

From there, Beth Israel Deaconess began experimenting with the technology, testing if the cloud could automate manual work. Today, the hospital uses the technology to book operating room times more precisely and predict when patients are more likely to miss appointments.

With 41 operating rooms, Beth Israel Deaconess has been able to expand its OR capacity and use daily.

"If I look at a million patients like you, and discover we only need 25 minutes, wouldn't that be better for society? Because now the OR is the most expensive place in a hospital." John Halamka, executive director of the Health Technology Exploration Center at Beth Israel Lahey Health, told Bloomberg.

Physicians are also getting hands-on experience using the advanced technology. With Amazon Web Services, Beth Israel Deaconess created an app that  makes reserving OR times for a physician as easy as making a restaurant reservation.

Explorations of AI uses in healthcare is booming. Equity funding for healthcare AI ventures topped $2.4 billion in 2018, a 78 percent increase compared to 2017, Bloomberg reported.

"Providers are entering into the space where they need to be much more understanding of a consumer's needs," Gurpreet Singh, a U.S. health services leader at consultant PwC, told Bloomberg. "Those are all capabilities that a tech company provides."

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