What hospitals need to know about AWS's healthcare AI

Amazon Web Services is joining Microsoft and Google in the increasingly crowded healthcare AI market; hospital IT leaders told Becker's that the move opens up new innovation possibilities for healthcare.

Shafiq Rab, MD, CIO and chief digital officer at Boston-based Tufts Medicine, an AWS partner, said the competition will push tech disruptors to create the best possible product for clinicians. 

"AWS is a good company. They have entered the race and started a competition. Now, other people have to step up," said Dr. Rab. 

The company's newly launched AWS HealthScribe tool uses both speech recognition and generative AI to create a summary of patient and clinician conversations that can be uploaded to the EHR. Dr. Rab stressed that EHR integration will be key for AWS's success. 

"The fact of the matter is that this will only succeed if it's totally integrated with the workflow and the processes of physicians and nurses, and how they partner with the EHR giants, such as Epic, Cerner, Meditech, GE HealthCare and Athenahealth," said Dr. Rab. 

As an AWS partner institution, Dr. Rab had an opportunity to preview the tool and described it as "pretty slick." However, when it comes to the broader healthcare AI competition, Dr. Rab warned that it could be tough on newcomers. 

"I think Nuance (a software and conversational AI company owned by Microsoft) has an edge because they have been deployed for a long time," said Dr. Rab.

Tufts first partnered with AWS in July 2022. The health system moved its entire digital ecosystem, including its Epic EHR, to AWS Cloud in 71 hours. Dr. Rab said that by the end of the year, the health system would be "totally out of the data center business."

In June 2022, Sacramento, Calif.-based UC Davis Health partnered with AWS on a new innovation center. More than a year into the project, Ashish Atreja, MD, UC Davis' CIO and chief digital officer, said that efforts are bearing fruit. 

"Our partnership with AWS has led to five successful cloud innovation challenges, including closing the data literacy gap by training clinicians and students on data science pipeline," said Dr. Atreja. 

As hospitals face a financial crunch, AWS tools could unlock cloud savings and administrative savings with HealthScribe. According to Dr. Rab, Tufts "increased storage but decreased cost by 60 percent" through AWS.

Dr. Atreja is among the many excited by the possibility of using AI to free clinicians from administrative work and reduce burnout. 

"Clinician burnout is one of our biggest challenges and tools like AI can help us bring the joy back to medicine by automating burdensome documentation. UC Davis Health is creating a collective with other leading healthcare organizations so we can all work together and validate new generative AI tools and be able to fast-track AI-powered transformation in a safe and ethical manner," said Dr. Atreja.

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