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December 3, 2019

Amazon Uses ML to Transcribe Medical Speech

George Leopold

Medical applications are emerging as an attractive market for AI developers pitching machine learning solutions that also meet strict regulatory requirements for protecting patient privacy.

This week, for example, Nvidia (NASDAQ: NVDA) added a secure learning tool to its Clara AI platform aimed at medical imaging. Amazon followed with a speech recognition system that allows developers to add transcription services to medical apps.

Along with eligibility under HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, the service known as Amazon Transcribe Medical also responds to an electronic health records law called the HITECH Act. The 2009 law requires physicians to provide detailed data entries in patient records. That requirement has added to clinicians’ workloads, often reducing the amount of time spent with patients.

Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) notes that current dictation software is unable to process natural language. For example, users have to specify punctuation when dictating medical notes. Meanwhile, manual transcription services often take several days to turn around electronic health notes.

Hence, Amazon is pitching its medical transcriber as a way to reduce workloads while still complying with data privacy regulations. A streaming API integrates into an automatic speech recognition application that works with a microphone-equipped device.

The service applies machine learning to customize natural language processing for medical speech used by primary care physicians. The scalable service also can transcribe doctor-patient consultations.

In order to comply with HIPAA and other data privacy rules, the medical transcription service eliminates the need for server provisioning or management. Instead, the public API allows users to send an audio stream to the service via a secure WebSocket connection. A transcription is returned in real time.

Amazon noted that the medical transcriber is covered under terms of its HIPAA eligibility that allow cloud vendors to process, store and transmit protected health information. Healthcare providers using the transcription service are required to contract with Amazon Web Services to secure health data.

HIPAA rules also require that healthcare providers encrypt health information at rest and in transit when using cloud services. In order to comply with medical data regulations, AWS said it does not access patient data to improve its machine learning and other cloud services.

Amazon cited a list of developers adding speech-to-text capabilities to medical applications used to transcribe doctor-patient consultations, review recorded calls from patients about drug side effects and improving hospital workflows.

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