Amazon Web Services Offers Subscription Access To Third-Party Data

Amazon Web Services has announced the launch of a new service designed to allow its customers – including healthcare organizations – to find, subscribe to and use third-party data.

Healthcare members already involved with the new AWS Data Exchange include Change Healthcare, which processes and anonymizes more than 14 billion healthcare transactions and $1 trillion in claims each year. Its roster also includes Deloitte, whose ConvergeHealth Miner platform helps life sciences and healthcare organizations move toward more personalized medicine by offering cloud-based analytics, knowledge management and collaboration tools.

Data Exchange customers will be able to use its API or console to pull data to which they subscribe directly into Amazon’s Simple Storage Service. Each time data providers publish a new revision of their data, the platform will notify all subscribers, allowing customers to automatically suck new revisions into data lakes, applications, analytics and machine-learning models running on AWS.

In addition to giving customers access to outside data, AWS Data Exchange is also designed to help data providers package, license and deliver their own data products to AWS customers. Qualified data providers will be able to publish free or paid products under the terms of use they provide, as well as making private, customized offers to specific customers.

AWS predicts that one major use to which healthcare professionals will put Data Exchange options is to subscribe to aggregated data from historical clinical trials to speed up their research activities. Of course, there are many other ways providers will be able to put such a service to work, such as, using it to digest patient data from HIEs or fellow members of a health system.

Such data could come from both Cerner and Epic as well. They have already made some effort to put themselves at the center of their customers’ health data sharing efforts.

Cerner, for example, recently announced that it was launching a new initiative, the Cerner Learning Health Network, intended to automate data collection from EHRs and multiple additional sources. Epic, for its part, is talking about building “One Virtual System Worldwide” making de-identified data from all of Epic’s EHR installs available for sharing.

Now, the question is whether the regulatory scrutiny Google’s Project Nightingale recently got intimidates potential participants. As some readers may know, the Wall Street Journal recently broke a story reporting that the HHS Office for Civil Rights is investigating the search giant, as it seems to be concerned that the health data aggregation the partners are conducting could pose privacy risks.

In its release describing the Data Exchange, AWS takes pains to note that it isn’t ignoring data privacy concerns that come with such a venture. The release says that the Data Exchange prohibits sharing sensitive personal data or any personal data not already legally and publicly available. This begs the question of whether non-personal data that’s already publicly available means that the AWS Data Exchange isn’t really useful after all. Time will tell.

If the Google investigation churns up any substantive privacy concerns, Amazon’s effort could face unwelcome scrutiny too.  The next few months should shed more light on how OCR sees such efforts, which could end up dictating how such ventures are structured for the foreseeable future.