AWS Targets Storage and Speed with HealthLake Imaging

AWS took a major step to bolster its cloud value proposition with the launch of Amazon HealthLake Imaging, a new HIPAA-eligible capability that addresses some of cloud imaging’s most common pain points. We sat down with AWS AI leader, Dr. Taha Kass-Hout, at HLTH 2022 last week to explore Amazon HealthLake Imaging’s potential impact on radiology.

Amazon HealthLake Imaging allows healthcare organizations to run multiple applications from a single authoritative copy of an image’s data that’s stored in the cloud, while giving each on-site application customizable metadata-level image access (e.g., patient ID, modality), and returning specially-encoded/compressed images to facilitate faster transfer. As a result…

  • Healthcare providers can cut their image storage TCO by 40% by eliminating the storage creep that comes from saving the same images to the cloud multiple times
  • Radiologists can retrieve and load imaging data from the cloud with sub-second latencies
  • Image viewers and AI algorithms can present or analyze the contents of a DICOM study faster, because they don’t have to load unnecessary image data
  • Researchers and developers can create de-identified image copies, without copying pixel data (and having to store that extra data)
  • AI development teams can access DICOM metadata in a developer-friendly format

Although AWS already plays a major role in radiology, this is one of very few imaging-targeted launch announcements that we’ve seen from the cloud giant. It also comes one month after Google Cloud similarly made its most public cloud imaging announcement in recent memory. 

  • Considering that medical imaging is responsible for roughly 90% of healthcare data, the recent surge in cloud imaging announcements suggests that the cloud leaders are increasing their focus on imaging as a way to add, keep, and grow their healthcare cloud accounts.

The Takeaway

It’s not every day that a storage provider launches a solution specifically intended to cut their clients’ storage costs nearly in half, but this seems like a logical move for AWS, considering that storage costs and performance lag are two of cloud imaging’s biggest challenges. It makes even more sense considering imaging’s role in overall healthcare cloud adoption, where we are in the healthcare cloud landgrab, and the fact that Amazon’s core principals start with “Customer Obsessed.”

Google Launches Cloud Medical Imaging Suite

Google announced what might be its biggest, or at least most public, push into medical imaging AI with the launch of its new Google Cloud Medical Imaging Suite.

The Suite directly targets organizations who are developing imaging AI models and performing advanced image-based analytics, while also looking to improve Google’s positioning in the healthcare cloud race.

The Medical Imaging Suite is (logically) centered around Google Cloud’s image storage and Healthcare API, which combine with its DICOMweb-based data exchange and automated DICOM de-identification tech to create a cloud-based AI development environment. Meanwhile, its “Suite” title is earned through integrations with an array of Google and partner solutions:

  • NVIDIA’s annotation tools (including its MONAI toolkit) to help automate image labeling
  • Google’s BigQuery and Looker solutions to search and analyze imaging data, and create training datasets
  • Google’s Vertex AI environment to accelerate AI pipeline development
  • NetApp’s hybrid cloud services to support on-premise-to-cloud data management
  • Google’s Anthos solution for centralized policy management and enforcement
  • Change Healthcare’s cloud-native enterprise imaging PACS for clinical use

It’s possible that many of these solutions were already available to Google Cloud users, and it appears that AWS and Azure have a similar list of imaging capabilities/partners, so this announcement might prove to be more technologically significant if it leads to Google Cloud creating a differentiated and/or seamlessly-integrated suite going forward.

However, the announcement’s marketing impact was immediate, as press articles and social media conversations largely celebrated Google Cloud’s new role in solving imaging’s interoperability and AI development problems. It’s been a while since we’ve seen AWS or Azure gain imaging headlines or public praise like that, and they’re the healthcare cloud market share leaders.

The Takeaway

Although some might debate whether the Medical Imaging Suite’s features are all that new, last week’s launch certainly reaffirms Google Cloud’s commitment to medical imaging (with an AI development angle), and suggests that we might see more imaging-targeted efforts from them going forward.

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