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You’ve probably heard of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, or HIPAA for short. It’s the principal law providing data privacy and security provisions for medical information in the U.S., and it’s incredibly stringent where the transmission and sharing of protected health information  — e.g., medical records — is concerned.

Amazon Web Services (AWS), Amazon’s on-demand cloud computing subsidiary, was partially HIPAA eligible — AWS customers could use Polly, SageMaker, Rekognition, and dozens of the platform’s other offerings to process health information. But Translate, Comprehend, and Transcribe remained notable holdouts — until now, that is. As of this week, companies can use PHI with all three.

“By using these services, AWS customers in the healthcare industry can leverage data insights to deliver better outcomes for providers and patients using the power of machine learning (ML),” Vasi Philomin, general manager for machine learning and AI at AWS, said. “[These additions] will allow customers to leverage … AWS ML services to better streamline customer support and improve patient engagement.”

For the uninitiated, Transcribe, Translate, and Comprehend leverage artificial intelligence (AI) to perform tasks like transcribing text from audio files, interpreting foreign languages, and extracting insights (including sentiment and key phrases) from unstructured text.


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AWS is a bit late to the game on the HIPAA front. Google Cloud has long offered HIPAA-eligible natural language services through its Cloud Natural Language, Cloud Translate, and Cloud Speech products. But it would have been foolish for Amazon to ignore the dollars and cents: The North American health care IT market was worth an estimated $31.3 billion in 2017.

Today’s announcement follows Amazon’s announcement at the July AWS Summit conference about a new Channel Synthesis tool that merges call center audio from multiple channels into a single transcription, along with new languages for Amazon Translate (Japanese, Russian, Italian, Traditional Chinese, Turkish, and Czech). Amazon Comprehend, meanwhile, saw text analysis improvements thanks to syntax identification.

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