Amazon’s foray in healthcare.. again!

Dave Lee writing a puff piece for Financial Times:

The company is in the process of unveiling a flurry of consumer-facing healthcare services, such as an online pharmacy and telehealth. At the same time, it is steadily developing its capabilities with AWS — an effort to create a new operating system for care that ranges from managing healthcare records to applying AI to predict when a person may become ill.

But at the same time, new trends are emerging. Devices that track our health are becoming smarter and more widely used. Improved and cheaper connectivity has made remote care not only possible but, for a growing number, a preference. Artificial intelligence, aided by the crunching of big data, has opened greater avenues for creating new treatments or care plans.

I can understand how starry eyed journalists witness the “technological revolution”. They paint the companies as crusaders, bringing in the “revolution”. However, they fail to acknowledge that it is a gradual privacy creep. Amazon’s previous foray, Haven, didn’t take off as expected and was shut down- the reasons were never offered in public. It could be an announcement to test the waters and witness what sort of regulatory scrutiny could come.

I believe the traditional strength of Amazon is voice assistants – they have pushed through “Alexa” with “skills” – something like “browser extensions:. It is a smart move – Amazon provides the “plumbing”, gets insight into how the skills are developing, and can choose to shut off the API access if any skill becomes a threat to its business. It is the classic platform approach. Legislation is less inclined to understand the ramifications.

Amazon will continuously flirt with the “sums and parts of the business”.

Here’s something that pushes my platform theory further:

In search of more applications to integrate, later this month Amazon will unveil 10 start-ups that form the first cohort in its AWS healthcare incubator program, a four-week intensive course intended to help prepare established but relatively small health tech companies for listing on AWS.

“It’s like the App Store,” the AWS employee explains. “They review the stability of your application, make sure you’re not doing anything illegal, meeting all the regulations.”

Among those enrolled to take part, according to three people with knowledge of the programme, are Pieces, a Texas-based company that uses AI to predict a patient’s condition over time. Another, Gyant, is a digital assistant designed to reduce the load on hospital call centres by directing patients to a chatbot instead. And Giblib — a start-up which produces Netflix-quality videos and virtual reality experiences for doctors. The clips contribute to the minimum requirements demanded by states in order for a practitioner to renew his or her licence.

Amazon’s incubator programs are designed to get insight into how adaptation takes place across the business lines. They will remain on the fringes. Can Google or Microsoft win here? They might offer “discounts” by subsidising cloud with other parts of business. Amazon and Microsoft are also locked in litigation for the DoD contract (I presume “Project Jedi”).

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