AWS, UC Davis Health tackle digital health equity

The news: UC Davis Health launched a first-of-its-kind Health Cloud Innovation Center powered fully by Amazon Web Services (AWS).

  • The center will allow providers, patients, developers, and students to create and validate solutions that promote digital health equity.

More on this: AWS’ Cloud Innovation Center Program (CIC) enables public sector entities to develop and test innovations using AWS’ tech.

  • AWS has 13 CICs globally, but its new partnership with UC Davis is the first instance AWS’ CIC program is being implemented at an academic medical center.

Why it matters: The pandemic laid bare the deeply entrenched health inequities that exist in the US—and while digital health tools aim to solve health inequities, the tech isn’t necessarily accessible for everyone.

  • Digital health can make healthcare more equitable by boosting access through convenience.
  • For example, telehealth options crush geographic barriers and eliminate wait times between scheduling and attending appointments by letting patients access care on-demand in many cases.

During the pandemic alone, increased access to telehealth allowed more people than ever to access mental healthcare:

  • From March to May 2020, 97% of people who accessed mental health services never had a mental health claim before, per Cigna’s analysis.

But factors like health insurance coverage for virtual care or broadband access make the promise of digital health out of reach for many:

  • A 2020 study found that at least 1 in 4 US adults may not have digital literacy skills, access to the internet, or devices required to participate in virtual care.

The bigger picture: The healthcare cloud market is growing quickly—and AWS seems to be leading the charge.

  • Healthcare cloud spending is projected to reach $19.71 billion by 2023, per Insider Intelligence.
  • AWS has the top spot in the global cloud market, while players like Microsoft and Google trail behind it, per Gartner’s research.
  • Moreover, AWS has linked up with prominent partners like Olive, GE Healthcare, and Salesforce, which provide tools like remote monitoring tech that are valuable for health systems.

Health systems will increasingly invest in cloud after realizing the long-term benefits amid digital health transformation—like cheaply and efficiently storing and sharing large amounts of health data.

  • Cloud providers like Microsoft, Google, and Amazon have recognized this value to plunge even deeper into healthcare.
  • For example, Kaiser Permanente tapped Microsoft to bolster its cloud infrastructure for its 12.4 million+ patients, and Mayo Clinic and Ascension health systems have signed multiyear contracts with Google Cloud.