UC Davis Health taps AWS to accelerate digital health innovation, with an eye toward health equity

UC Davis Health is tapping Amazon Web Services' cloud expertise to ramp up its digital health innovation, making it the first academic medical center in the world to launch a cloud innovation center with AWS.

Focused on digital health equity, the UC Davis Health cloud innovation center (CIC) will allow clinicians, patients, developers and students to exchange ideas, as well as design and prototype solutions focused on making digital health more equitable and accessible worldwide, according to the organization.

“Digital health equity has become a front-and-center issue, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said David Lubarsky, CEO of UC Davis Health, in a statement. “Many of our underserved communities have struggled even more to receive the care they need, and the digital divide has only widened. We are committed to finding innovative ways to make healthcare more accessible to every patient, no matter who they are or where they live.”

AWS' global CIC Program brings together nonprofit, education and government organizations to collaborate on solutions to address challenges and real-world problems that matter most to communities related to healthcare, smart cities, sustainability and cybersecurity. 

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“For a number of years, AWS has been accelerating innovation throughout the global healthcare industry—from powering vaccine production to advancing academic medical research, and creating a variety of solutions that drive the development of life-saving therapies,” said Kim Majerus, vice president of education, state and local government at AWS in a statement. “Our collaboration with UC Davis Health, a vast and diverse health system, brings together our commitment to improve health outcomes with an organization that is deeply invested in addressing health disparities and providing the best care to communities.”

UC Davis Health and AWS will each commit personnel to work with clinicians, students, organizations, and the community to define and source real-world challenges around digital health equity through the cloud-powered center. The teams plan to explore issues around remote patient care, discrepancies in technology used for healthcare, transportation and mental health that could be improved to better serve a diversity of patients. Projects will be driven by clinicians, patients, and the community-at-large who will submit their challenge ideas.

All the innovation challenge outputs, including the proofs of concepts, will be published as open-source for other community members to access, build upon, and implement, UC Davis and AWS executives said.

“Many clinicians and patients are mandated to use certain products and services, but they’re often left out of the decision-making process,” said Ashish Atreja, chief information officer and chief digital officer at UC Davis Health in a statement. “Our goal with the UC Davis Health CIC powered by AWS is to create a global collaborative community with a mission to leave no patient, clinician, or researcher behind in the digital transformation of healthcare.”

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The CIC is the latest initiative for UC Davis Health to advance digital medicine through its Digital CoLab (Digital Collaborative for Innovation and Validation). Digital CoLab will serve as the liaison between clinicians, researchers, students, and the community to co-ideate, co-create, co-validate, and co-transform digital health solutions. The program is the digital health innovation hub for UC Davis Health and is focused on accelerating digital health technologies to make healthcare more accessible, equitable and inclusive for everyone.

“We are committed to advancing digital-first and data-driven models of care to continue to provide exceptional patient care and experiences,” said Keisuke Nakagawa, executive director of the UC Davis Health Cloud Innovation Center and director of innovation for the Digital CoLab. “Our collaboration with Amazon Web Services will provide us with a tool to unlock the intrapreneurial spirit of our clinicians, patients and developers in the region to provide a one-of-a-kind space where people who’ve never had a voice in healthcare will be the ones driving the thinking and innovation.”

The UC Davis Health CIC will use Amazon’s Working Backwards principles and methodologies to improve health outcomes and find innovative solutions to using technology to address health disparities.

The pandemic has unveiled and exacerbated health disparities and it’s critical to prioritize underserved communities. The CIC will be focused on using technology to help address some of these pressing issues to help find solutions.

In addition, AWS recently announced a global program to support organizations working to enhance health outcomes for underserved or underrepresented communities. Over the next three years, AWS is committing $40 million in credits and technical expertise to help organizations harness the power of cloud technology to advance health equity.

Microsoft, Google and AWS are all trying to get a larger share of the lucrative cloud computing market in healthcare. Revenue from the cloud computing unit of Amazon will top $60 billion this year, according to some estimates.