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Amazon plans to sell software that reads medical records

Software could help improve patient treatment and reduce costs.

Color-coded medical files
Color-coded medical files.
Getty Images

Amazon plans to begin selling software that'll mine medical records for information that can be used to improve patient treatment and reduce costs, the e-commerce giant said Tuesday.

Amazon Comprehend Medical will tap machine learning to read digitized patient records and other clinical notes, helping medical professionals identify key information contained within. Amazon Web Services has sold similar text analysis software for use in travel booking, customer support and supply-chain management, according to The Wall Street Journal, which reported on the software earlier Tuesday.

"The service will 'read' the text and then identify and return the medical information contained within it," Amazon said in a blog post Tuesday.

Machine learning is an aspect of artificial intelligence that's loosely modeled on the human brain. Once you've trained a neural network with real-world data, it can, for example, learn to spot a spam email, transcribe your spoken words into a text message or recognize a cat.

While other algorithms have been hampered by unstructured medical text, Amazon's software uses machine learning to recognize the ways doctors record their notes. Amazon said the software can extract data such as diagnosis, treatments and dosages, among other key data points.

Amazon said the software will also better address privacy and protected health information requirements.

"No data processed by the service is stored or used for training," Amazon said.

Amazon's new software is the company's latest effort to tap into the $3 billion health care industry.  Earlier this year, Amazon paid about $1 billion for PillPack, an online drug store that ships medications to people in the US in presorted dose packaging and caters to people who take multiple prescriptions a day.

Amazon isn't the only big tech company vying for a piece of the lucrative health care industry. Apple is reportedly in talks with the Department of Veterans Affairs to give military veterans portable access to their electronic medical records.

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