AWS Launches Amazon Comprehend Medical, Offering NLP Specific to Healthcare

AWS has just announced the launch of Amazon Comprehend Medical, a version of Amazon Comprehend specific to the needs healthcare customers.

Last year, Amazon launched Comprehend, a NLP service for “language detection, entity categorization, sentiment analysis, and key phrase extraction.” However, Amazon says that, “Given the very specific nature of clinical documents, healthcare customers have asked us to build them a version of Amazon Comprehend tailored to their unique needs.”

Amazon says that Amazon Comprehend Medical adds the following to the standard Comprehend service:

  • Support for entity extraction and entity traits on a vast vocabulary of medical terms: anatomy, conditions, procedures, medications, abbreviations, etc.
  • An entity extraction API (detect_entities) trained on these categories and their subtypes.
  • A Protected Health Information extraction API (detect_phi) able to locate contact details, medical record numbers, etc.

Amazon’s Julien Simon provides the following example of how Amazon Comprehend Medical works. First, let’s take the following input text to start.

Here’s how Amazon Comprehend Medical processes the document: “Entities are extracted and highlighted: we see personal information in orange, medication in red, anatomy in purple and medical conditions in green.”

“Personal Identifiable Information is correctly picked up. This is particularly important for researchers who need to anonymize documents before exchanging or publishing them. Also, ‘rash’ and ‘sleeping trouble’ are correctly detected as medical conditions diagnosed by the doctor (‘Dx’ is shorthand for ‘diagnosis’). Medications are detected as well,” Simon says.

Simon goes on to explain how AMC can figure out abbreviations specific to physician terminology and is able to correctly understand complex relationships.

Overall, Amazon Comprehend Medical offers healthcare providers and related professionals more reasons to adopt AWS as their cloud service provider. Amazon is investing heavily in intelligent applications to help make health care professionals more efficient.

The launch of Amazon Comprehend Medical is the latest in a string of healthcare-related initiatives at Amazon.

Above Images: AWS

Amazon’s New PillPack Branding: “Earth’s Most Customer Centric Pharmacy.” Where Will PillPack Go From Here?

It’s been about two months since Amazon’s acquisition of PillPack closed. Amazon paid about $750 million (net of cash) for the online pharmacy business.

On Amazon’s 3Q earnings call in October, Amazon SVP and CFO Brian Olsavsky said of PillPack, “Right now our focus is on learning from them and innovating with them on how best to meet customer needs over time.”

How might PillPack be evolving now that it’s a part of Amazon?

New Branding

One, Amazon has created some new brand positioning for PillPack.  In job descriptions, PillPack is now referring to itself as, “Earth’s most customer centric Pharmacy.” It’s a variation on Amazon’s own brand strategy.

Amazon has been using the “customer-centric” branding since it launched in 1995, when it said its mission is “to be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online, and endeavors to offer its customers the lowest possible prices.”

New Licenses

Two, Amazon may be planning to begin testing expanded PillPack services for employees. Currently, PillPack has licenses to ship to every customer in the US except Hawaii, but it only has 5 mail-order prescription facilities (compared to 26 for Caremark, 18 for Optum, and 15 for Express Scripts), per HealthData Management. If it’s going to expand to serve a Prime-sized audience, PillPack is going to need more facilities.

Which means it’s going to need more licenses for those facilities as well. PillPack has applied “for a string of new pharmacy licenses, primarily to ship drugs to customers from its Phoenix facility. The licenses in Washington, New Mexico and Indiana were spotted this week by analysts at financial services firm Jefferies,” per CNBC.

Because Amazon has tested other new products and services with employees, it’s possible the Washington license reveals an intent to have more capacity to test PillPack’s capabilities with a larger number of Amazon employees, which could be a prelude to subsequent larger expansions. Amazon said last week that it has 45,000 employees in Seattle. Adding new licenses to the Phoenix facility could increase PillPack’s potential Washington-serving capacity.

Increasing Capacity, Decreasing Delivery Times

Big picture, we would expect Amazon to invest in new facilities to accelerate PillPack’s capacity increase. In conjunction with expanded licensing, which we would expand PillPack to continue to seek on an ongoing basis, this should allow Amazon to increase its geographical reach and shorten delivery times for its pharmaceutical services. Amazon may be holding off on integrating PillPack with Prime until PillPack is ready (for “Prime” time).

There’s also the question of whether or how much Amazon might be able to integrate pharmacies into physical retail environments. Right now, Amazon is doing a number of small-format urban and suburban experiments, including Amazon Go, Amazon 4-star, and Amazon Books. The largest retail format Amazon owns is its network of 480 Whole Foods Market grocery stores. Unlike other grocery stores, Whole Foods don’t have in-store pharmacies. Amazon already uses Whole Foods stores somewhat like mini distribution centers for groceries. We could see a possible world where every major metro area has a PillPack warehouse.

Long Term Direction

Because a core use case for PillPack is better chronic disease management, rush delivery may not be as crucial for customers who take multiple medications on an ongoing basis. Rather, PillPack may just be a part of a suite of Amazon health care products and services.

In addition to prescription medications, Amazon could also offer insurance. Amazon has also begun the process of applying to sell health and life insurance in India. It is also rumored to be exploring the insurance markets in the USUK, and other countries as well. While Amazon does not offer consumer insurance directly as of now, it has consumer data that theoretically could help it to assess risk and lower fraud rates.

Amazon has also formed a much-publicized Boston-based health care “non-profit-seeking” joint venture with Berkshire Hathaway and JP Morgan and hired a CEO, surgeon and public health leader Atul Gawande. Gawande has yet to announce more details on the initiative’s direction or strategy, other than that he wants it to, “Take some of the middlemen out of the system.” It’s possible that this joint venture could play a direct role in health care provision.

Finally, Amazon also continues to build out its portfolio of private label and exclusive brand OTC products. Two weeks ago, Primary Health (Aurohealth) became the fourth Amazon Exclusive OTC medicines brand we have found, joining Basic Care (Perrigo), SoundHealth (Bestco), and Wellness Basics (PL Developments), in addition to a new Amazon Exclusive brand of home blood monitors called Choice that recently launched.

Jeff Bezos took a “build the primitives” approach to architecting AWS’s fundamental product strategy. Perhaps he might do the same in health care.

Aurohealth Launches Primary Health, An Amazon-Exclusive OTC Pharmaceuticals Brand

Aurohealth, a maker of generic store brand pharmaceuticals, has quietly launched a new Amazon Exclusive OTC pharmaceuticals brand called Primary Health, we have found. It’s the latest in a series of new health care brands to be created exclusively for Amazon as the company seeks to further expand its pharmaceutical efforts.

Aurohealth is a division of Hyderabad-based Aurobindo Pharma, which reported revenues of USD $2.6 billion last year.

Primary Health becomes the fourth Amazon Exclusive OTC medicines brand we have found, joining Basic Care (Perrigo), SoundHealth (Bestco), and Wellness Basics (PL Developments). Last week, a new Amazon Exclusive brand of home blood monitors called Choice launched. Just a few weeks ago, Amazon closed its acquisition of online pharmacy Pillpack, for which it said it paid $753 million net of cash. Amazon is also ramping up its B2B healthcare sales efforts, which it says is seeing “rocket ship” growth.

We are seeing 4 Primary Health products that have launched thus far:

  1. Primary Health Maximum Strength Mucus Relief DM (guaifenesin and dextromethorphan tablets, generic version of Maximum Strength Mucinex DM)
  2. Primary Health Mucus Relief DM (guaifenesin and dextromethorphan tablets, generic version of Mucinex DM)
  3. Primary Health Acid Reducer (esomeprazole magnesium capsules, generic version of Nexium 24 HR)
  4. Primary Health Acid Reducer (omeprazole magnesium tablets, generic version of Prilosec OTC)

These have all launched with Vine reviews rating the products 4 to 4.5 stars.

Given Amazon’s rapidly expanding healthcare efforts, there is much speculation about where the company might go next.

Amazon has formed a Boston-based health care “non-profit-seeking” joint venture with Berkshire Hathaway and JP Morgan and hired a CEO, surgeon and public health leader Atul Gawande. Gawande has yet to announce more details on the initiative’s direction or strategy, other than that he wants it to, “Take some of the middlemen out of the system.”

Amazon is in the process of rolling out Amazon Go automated grocery and convenience stores in urban areas. Were Amazon to start using those stores to distribute pharmaceutical products, it could affect current leading retail pharmacies like CVS, Walgreens, Walmart, grocery pharmacies, and others. (Aurohealth also appears to make products for CVS, as some CVS brand products share customer service phone numbers with Primary Health brand products.)

Amazon has also begun the process of applying to sell health and life insurance in India. It is also rumored to be exploring the insurance markets in the USUK, and other countries as well. While Amazon does not offer consumer insurance directly as of now, it has consumer data that could theoretically help it to assess risk and lower fraud rates.

As for Primary Health, we would generally expect Aurohealth and Amazon to roll out additional products over the coming weeks and months. We have reached out to Aurohealth for comment about the company’s plans for its Primary Health brand and will update this if we receive a response. Aurohealth shares an address with AuroMedics Pharma, which is listed as the owner of the Primary Health trademark filing.

Like other Amazon Exclusive brands, Primary Health products are now being promoted in Amazon search results as “Top Rated from Our Brands”. As part of its Amazon Accelerator program to grow its portfolio of private brands, Amazon is offering marketing services like these promotional placements to help give Amazon Exclusive brands a boost. Amazon Exclusive brands “receive a suite of marketing support executed by our Amazon merchandising team. Products with high ratings and reviews can receive additional placements across Amazon.com,” Amazon says.

GNC Launches 2nd Amazon Exclusive Brand, “Informed Nutrition by GNC”

One month ago, GNC, one of the largest retailers of vitamins, supplements, and other health and nutrition products, quietly launched a new Amazon Exclusive brand called CHALLENGE by GNC.

GNC has not made any announcements about the new strategy or launch of the new brand that we have seen. However, today we are observing the launch of a second Amazon Exclusive brand called Informed Nutrition by GNC.

We are seeing 3 Informed Nutrition by GNC products that have launched thus far:

  1. Informed Nutrition by GNC Women’s Smartsource Multivitamin
  2. Informed Nutrition by GNC Women’s Smartsource 50-Plus Multivitamin
  3. Informed Nutrition by GNC Concentrated Fish Oil

These are all launching with Vine reviews rating the products 4 to 4.5 stars. We would generally expect GNC and Amazon to roll out additional products under the brand over the coming weeks and months.

GNC, which has seen declining revenues over the past two years from $2.68 billion in 2015 to $2.45 billion in 2017, operates over 8,000 stores around the world and over 3,000 in the United States. Amidst changing retail trends, GNC announced earlier this year that it intended to close approximately 200 stores in 2018.

Nevertheless, GNC is looking to discover if going the Amazon Exclusive route offers a growth opportunity. If GNC launching one Amazon Exclusive brand was an example, then two may not be a trend yet, but it’s heading in that direction.

We expect to see more of these kinds of moves in the coming months, as Amazon is looking to increase the volume of exclusive brands on its platform. As part of its Amazon Accelerator program to grow its portfolio of private brands, Amazon is offering marketing services such as promotional placements in search results to help give Amazon Exclusive brands a boost. Amazon Exclusive brands “receive a suite of marketing support executed by our Amazon merchandising team. Products with high ratings and reviews can receive additional placements across Amazon.com,” Amazon says.

Amazon offers private label vitamins under its Amazon Elements, Solimo, and Revly brands, and private label nutritional supplements under its OWN PWR and Solimo brands. In addition, it sells vitamins and supplements under several Amazon Exclusive brands.

Adenna Launches SimplySafe, A New Amazon Exclusive B2B Health & Safety Products Brand

Adenna, a California-based producer of hand protection and healthcare products for businesses, has launched SimplySafe, a new Amazon Exclusive brand.

Currently, the brand has one product listed for sale on Amazon: disposable gloves. The gloves have received about a dozen Vine reviews for launch. Given that Adenna makes a variety of related work protection products, we would not be surprised to see additional products come online in the coming weeks and months under the SimplySafe brand.

SimplySafe marks the fourth B2B Amazon Exclusive brand to launch to date. Simply Deliver, Simply Floors, and SupplyMaster have also recently launched to serve Amazon Business customers. (Note: we do not believe Adenna is affiliated with the owners of the Simply Deliver or Simply Floors brands, or the SimpliSafe home security brand.)

The SimplySafe gloves are showing up in Amazon’s “Top Rated from Our Brands” promotional module on search results for “disposable gloves” on Amazon.com, alongside gloves from SupplyMaster (which is an Amazon Exclusive brand from AMMEX).

Amazon is investing in the growth of its professional supply business, particularly healthcare. The company is hiring healthcare B2B sales leaders based out of its Boston office.

Amazon recently said Amazon Business has reached a $10 billion annual run rate. Industrial suppliers like Grainger, Kimberly-Clark, Ansell, and ULINE that provide related products are sure to take note of Amazon’s growing private brand efforts.

Amazon’s Pillpack Acquisition Closed in September, Price Was $753 Million+

We haven’t seen this covered prior to Amazon’s third quarter earnings call yesterday, but it’s important to note: Amazon’s acquisition of Pillpack closed in September, and Pillpack is now officially part of Amazon.

Per Brian Olsavsky, SVP and CFO of Amazon, on yesterday’s call with analysts:

Let me start with PillPack. The deal closed in September. So it wasn’t a material impact on the quarter, but we’re excited, really excited to start working with the management team there. They’re very strong. They’ve done a great job building a highly differentiated customer experience, just customer-centric like we are. And right now our focus is on learning from them and innovating with them on how best to meet customer needs over time. I’ll let Dave handle the second question.

So, as Amazon continues to expand its retail offerings to be more pharmacy-like, it is now also operating an online pharmacy.

We’ve updated the TJI Amazon Product Database accordingly.

Also, Amazon said in its 10-Q that it “acquired PillPack, Inc. (“PillPack”) for cash consideration of approximately $753 million, net of cash acquired, to expand our product and service offerings.” There was no indication of what the cash acquired total was, but the $753 million number is less than the $1 billion reported by the press at the time.

Choice, A New Amazon Exclusive Brand of Blood Monitors, Launches

Choice, a new Amazon Exclusive brand of blood monitoring devices and related accessories, has just launched. It’s the creation of Arcadia Group out of Atlanta, which previously created the ReliOn brand for Walmart.

The move is a sign of Amazon’s desires to increase its private brand coverage of health care supplies and consumer medical devices, and in general to become more pharmacy-like. A number of Amazon Exclusive brands providing OTC medicines have launched recently on Amazon, along with the growth of Amazon’s private label and exclusive brand efforts in general.

“The new Choice brand will start with a range of blood glucose monitors and blood pressure monitors both with supporting mobile apps which offer measurement tracking, data mobility and reminders,” Arcadia said in its announcement. “The brand is positioned to offer exceptional value versus what is available at traditional retail pharmacy outlets.”

“I approached Amazon because they are obviously expanding their healthcare footprint and people with diabetes could benefit by having Amazon make products and devices easier to access and more affordable. We have been in development for over a year now and plan to aggressively expand our offering the better serve people with chronic disease such as diabetes (30 million US) and hypertension (130 million US),” Arcadia CEO Bob Guest tells us.

Guest also says the Choice brand will expand into related product areas over the course of the coming year.

Amazon currently sells glucose blood monitors and testing kits from O’Well, CareTouch, Contour NEXT, KETO-MOJO, iHealth, Bayer, PTS Diagnostics, FreeStyle, Precision Xtra, and others. O’Well, Contour NEXT, KETO-MOJO, and iHealth are currently advertising with sponsored product listings within Amazon searches.

Amazon is considering a number of health care initiatives, and seems quite interested in the space more broadly. Amazon has been ramping up its B2B healthcare sales efforts, has patented Alexa technology to determine when someone has certain sicknesses based on their voice, and is part of a joint health care venture with Berkshire Hathaway and JP Morgan. Amazon closed its Pillpack acquisition in September.

As Amazon’s health care initiatives evolve, continue to follow TJI for the latest.

Amazon Issued Patent for Alexa Technology to Determine Demographics, Emotional Status, and Health Conditions from a User’s Voice (and Offer Targeted Ads)

Amazon has been issued a patent on an Alexa technology that has the ability to determine certain physical and emotional characteristics of users based on their voice input, and offer help – sometimes in the form of offers for items for sale. While the patent doesn’t mean Amazon plans to launch products with this technology, it does reflect Amazon’s thinking on Alexa’s potential.

The patent, titled “Voice-based determination of physical and emotional characteristics of users,” is number 10,096,319. The patent covers Alexa’s ability to infer certain traits about Alexa users from their voice when determining how to respond:

Traits may include physical characteristics of a user (e.g., gender, age, ethnic origin, etc.), a physical condition or state of a user (e.g., sore throat, sickness, etc.), an emotional condition or state of a user (e.g., happy, sad, tired, sleepy, excited, etc.), and other traits.

Amazon provides an illustration in the application showing what it intends to cover. In the illustration, a woman is shown to be coughing and sniffling and tells Alexa she’s hungry. The Alexa system is able to determine her “abnormal physical or emotional condition,” and asks if she would like a chicken soup recipe, which she declines. At that point, Alexa takes the initiative to offer her another remedy and says, “By the way, would you like to order cough drops with 1 hour delivery?” When the woman accepts Alexa’s offer, Alexa confirms and concludes by saying, “Feel better!”

Digging deeper into the patent reveals some interesting details. Here are some highlights based on our reading of the patent:

1. Amazon has patented the technology to determine demographic characteristics of users from their voice — including gender, age, and ethnic origin:

For example, voice features may include a gender of the user, an age or age range of the user, an ethnic origin or language accent of the user, an emotion of the user, a background noise of the environment in which the user is located, and other voice features. As a result, content presented at a device may be specific to the user that is using the device (e.g., providing a voice input, etc.), as opposed to a user associated with the device, such as an owner of the device.

2. Amazon has patented the technology to determine physical characteristics of users from their voice — including certain health conditions:

In another example, a second voice processing or signal processing algorithm may be used to process or analyze the voice data to determine a health condition or status of the user. Detectable or determinable health conditions may include, among others, default or normal, sore throat, cold, thyroid issues, sleepiness, and other health conditions. Example algorithms may analyze breath sounds of the user based at least in part on the voice data and may use a cepstral feature set using SVMs and/or neural networks.

3. Amazon has patented the technology to determine emotional status of users from their voice — including joy, fear, and stress:

The first voice processing algorithm may be used to determine an emotional state of the user. Detectable or determinable emotions may include, among others, default or normal, happiness, joy, anger, sorrow, sadness, fear, disgust, boredom, stress, and other emotional states. Emotional states or conditions may be determined based at least in part on an analysis of pitch, pulse, voicing, jittering, and/or harmonicity of a user’s voice, as determined from processing of the voice data…

If it is determined that the user has an abnormal emotional state, the device or a connected computer may select a real-time emotional state of the user. The real-time emotional state of the user may be, for example, at least one of the happiness, joy, anger, sorrow, sadness, fear, disgust, boredom, stress, or other emotional states.

4. Amazon has patented the technology to target ads to users based on what it determines is their current physical and/or emotional condition:

A current physical and/or emotional condition of the user may facilitate the ability to provide highly targeted audio content, such as audio advertisements or promotions, to the user… For example, certain content, such as content related to cough drops or flu medicine, may be targeted towards users who have sore throats… In the example of FIG. 1, the cough drops manufacturer may have targeted users with sore throats for the promotional offer that was presented to the user 130. The targeting criteria for the promotional offer, or the offer generally, may include users with sore throats or users likely to have sore throats…

Audio content targeted to sleepy and bored users may be determined based at least in part on a data tag that identifies the voice data as a sleepy and bored user. For example, a musician may want to target an audio ad for his new album to users with “boredom” and “sleepy” conditions. Audio content for presentation may be selected from the candidate content and presented to the user. For example, the voice interaction device may audibly present “here’s a joke [ . . . ] By the way, this singer just released his new album for just $1.99. Do you want to preview it?” The user may respond affirmatively or negatively as desired.

Again, technology companies file patents often and do not end up launching products with the patented technology. However, the fact that Amazon filed this patent reflects the potential use cases Amazon sees in Alexa’s future.

In our view, these patented technologies raise some important ethical and philosophical questions that Amazon will likely need to take a clear stance on if it intends to launch products including these features. For example, what bounds should be placed on advertising based on these factors? In which scenarios is taking these factors into account at all when determining a response unethical? Would Amazon ever make such data available to Skill developers through Alexa APIs? What are the privacy implications of these systems knowing what a user’s home life is like?

At the same time, these technologies reflect the potential for “smart assistants” like Alexa to become much more emotionally intelligent and empathetic, creating better user experiences. For example, if Alexa could determine a user was in a happy mood when asking Alexa to “play music,” Alexa could automatically infer the user’s emotional state when choosing which songs to play.

Voice interfaces create opportunities for ambient computing to become deeply integrated in our physical spaces, and this patent addresses some important aspects of what that could mean for the future of human-computer interaction and commerce.

Follow TJI as we continue to track the development of the Alexa ecosystem and what it means for hardware developers, software developers, and customers.

Amazon Launches Several Solimo Brand Private Label First Aid Products

Continuing its expansion into private label health care products, Amazon has launched several new Solimo brand first aid items.

The new items include:

Vine reviews for Solimo Hand Sanitizer are dated since September, though the rest of the items don’t have any Vine reviews. It’s possible they may in the coming weeks.

This is Amazon’s first private label hand sanitizer product. It also offers hand sanitizer from the Amazon Exclusive Mountain Falls brand, which it also labels as “Our Brand”.

Currently, hand sanitizer searches in Amazon’s US store are dominated by sponsored listings and headline search ads from Purell. Purell is the flagship brand of GOJO Industries, Inc., which is headquartered in Akron, Ohio.

Purell and Mountain Falls dominate organic search results for “hand sanitizer” on Amazon’s US store as well, with Germ-x, Babyganics, Cleanwell, and Bath and Body Works also present.

Amazon is in the process of ramping up its physical retail infrastructure as well. It’s possible that Amazon could stock those stores with first aid items, decreasing the number of trips made to traditional retail drug stores like Walgreens, Longs, Rite Aid, Walmart, Target, and many others.

Perrigo Launches Amazon Exclusive Infant Formula Brand, “Love & Care”

Perrigo, one of the largest manufacturers of private label OTC pharmaceuticals, has launched a new Amazon Exclusive infant formula brand called Love & Care.

It’s the first infant formula Amazon Exclusive brand we’ve seen. Currently, Earth’s Best (owned by Hain Celestial Group), Similac (owned by Abbott Laboratories), Enfamil (owned by Mead Johnson), and Happy Baby brand infant formulas rank the highest in Amazon US search results for infant formula. Plum Organics, Happy Baby, Love & Care, and GoodSense are the top brands advertising on those searches.

While “Love & Care” brand items are not yet showing up with the “Our Brand” label in search results, Amazon is promoting the new Love & Care brand in the baby healthcare section of its US website with ads like the following:

Perrigo has not made any announcements that we can find, and the company has not yet responded to our request for comment. We will update if they do. Vine reviews have started coming in in recent days, suggesting that Perrigo may be waiting to promote the new brand until after some initial reviews come in.

Perrigo filed for the US trademark for “Love & Care” on May 9, 2018. The company also produces the Amazon Exclusive Basic Care brand, which includes a variety of first aid health care products and OTC medicines.

Follow TJI for the latest on Amazon’s private label and exclusive brand efforts.