Cerner taps Amazon Web Services to ramp up healthcare AI capabilities, predictive technology

Cerner CEO Brent Shafer giving keynote speech on a stage
Cerner CEO Brent Shafer speaks at a recent Cerner Health Conference in Kansas City, Missouri. (Cerner)

Health IT company Cerner is deepening its partnership with Amazon Web Services to build new prediction tools and a virtual medical scribe for healthcare providers.

Cerner named AWS its preferred cloud provider in July. At the AWS re:Invent conference in Las Vegas this week, Cerner expanded that partnership by naming AWS its preferred cloud, artificial intelligence and machine learning provider.

"For 40 years, Cerner ushered in health care’s digital age by moving medical data from paper charts and manila folders into electronic health records,” Cerner CEO and chairman of the board Brent Shafer said during the AWS re:Invent conference Monday.

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Cerner's work with AWS will put the company at the "leading edge of cognitive data," Shafer said.

"Where we’re headed is taking the digital age to a new level to reduce costs, providing more insights into diseases, and giving clinicians back valuable time," he said.

RELATED: Cerner, Amazon Web Services partner on new cloud-based cognitive health platform

The Kansas City, Missouri-based company will use AWS’ broad portfolio of services, including machine learning, analytics and internet of things, to help create the "next chapter of healthcare’s digital age," company executives said, which will focus on advancing the patient care experience, improving the health of populations and reducing the per capita cost of healthcare.

As part of the multiyear agreement, Cerner will migrate its core applications to AWS and will standardize its artificial intelligence and machine learning workloads on the public cloud.

Using AWS' capabilities, Cerner is developing a new platform called the Cerner Machine Learning Ecosystem to help data scientists build and deploy machine learning models for healthcare applications at scale, the company said. The goal is to uncover predictive and digital diagnostic insights that will offer earlier health interventions.

One potential use case: Developers will be able to create chatbots that give patients access to their personal health records and answer patients' questions about medication, diagnoses and medical conditions.

The health IT company is focused on developing predictive technology to help organizations prevent hospital readmissions and reduce healthcare waste. To do this, the company is leveraging de-identified patient data to help make early determinations of what is causing return hospitalizations.

RELATED: Microsoft, Humana ink 7-year strategic partnership to leverage cloud, AI and voice technologies

The company already is working with a post-acute healthcare provider on a project to identify patients at risk of hospital readmission using machine learning applied to historical data migrated to the AWS cloud.

The collaboration is part of a growing trend of healthcare providers, payers and technology vendors migrating to cloud platforms offered by big tech giants. Mayo Clinic has entered into a 10-year strategic partnership with Google to use the tech giant's cloud platform to accelerate innovation through digital technologies. Insurance giant Humana and Microsoft announced a seven-year strategic partnership to use cloud and artificial intelligence technologies to build predictive solutions and intelligent automation to support Humana members and their care teams.

These technology partnerships raise some thorny issues around connections to patients' health data. Google is facing significant blowback, including scrutiny from regulators and lawmakers, following news that it is collecting personal health information on millions of patients in a partnership with Ascension.

Cerner also wants to use machine learning and voice tools to automate medical documentation and clerical work for doctors. 

RELATED: Amazon Web Services launches Transcribe Medical speech recognition service for clinicians

At the conference Sunday, AWS announced the launch of Amazon Transcribe Medical as a speech recognition service for clinical documentation. Cerner plans to use Amazon Transcribe Medical's transcription application programming interface to develop a digital voice scribe. That voice toll will "automatically listen to clinician-patient interactions and unobtrusively capture the dialogue in text form," Jacob Geers, solutions strategist at Cerner, said in an AWS press release. "From there, our solution will intelligently translate the concepts for entry into the codified component in the Cerner EHR (electronic health record) system," he said.

The digitization of healthcare has inadvertently caused an increase in documentation for physicians, according to Shafer.

"Working with AWS will allow us to capture doctor-patient interaction and integrate it directly into the electronic workflow of the physician. This new advancement will help doctors and providers spend less time filling out forms and more quality time with their patients," he said.

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