Amazon’s latest step in using technology to make healthcare more effective is simple: A voice-technology service that enables medical providers to spend more time with patients.

The service, called Amazon Transcribe Medical, enables doctors to quickly dictate their notes into accurate speech in real time without human help. Unlike some services, the physicians can speak normally while dictating without having to add such directions as “comma,” or “full stop.”

“Our overarching goal is to free up the doctor, so they have more attention going to where it should be directed,” Matt Wood, vice president of artificial intelligence at Amazon Web Services, told CNBC. “And that’s to the patient.”

Amazon is one of several of the world’s biggest technology companies spending billions of dollars chasing the $7-plus trillion healthcare market. Amazon, Apple and Alphabet are each testing ways to integrate tech into the field to make care easier, more effective and more affordable for patients and medical providers. Other tech companies, including Microsoft and Uber, are also investing in the space.

In fact, Microsoft and Alphabet’s Google are pursuing services similar to Amazon’s. Microsoft is working with Nuance Communications to create a service that will enable ambient sensing and conversational artificial intelligence to take care of some administrative tasks provide clinical documentation that writes itself. Google is piloting a similar program with Stanford University.

Amazon has made a handful of large, public healthcare plays to expand access to care. 

Several have drawn on the company’s existing strengths in logistics and retail. Last year, The company bought PillPack, a prescription drug delivery service, for $753 million in 2018 with the  idea of persuading the almost one in two Americans who take prescription drugs to buy more of them online. If successful, Amazon may do to pharmacy chains CVS and Walgreens what the company did to large brick-and-mortar booksellers.

Even AS Amazon gets deeper into healthcare its own treatment of workers is facing increased scrutiny. The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the federal agency responsible for workplace safety, issued a warning letter in August that detailed six times at an Amazon facility in New Jersey in which injured workers weren’t provided proper care. An investigation by The Intercept and Type Investigations found multiple instances in which employees of the company’s in-house medical unit were pressured to sweep injuries and medical issues under the rug at the expense of employee health. Amazon declined to reply to The Intercept about its story.

  • Amazon is trying to become a major distributor of hospital supplies, and has an app for some Amazon workers that provides health services by video and chat. It has also partnered with JPMorgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway for a venture to lower costs and improve health insurance for the companies’ combined 1.2 million employees.
  • Transcribe Medical debuted at this week’s Re:Invent conference that Amazon Web Services is holding in Las Vegas. The HIPAA-eligible service is limited to physicians using the AWS Cloud.
  • Amazon is also rolling out a medication management feature for Alexa owners. People can use Alexa to set up medication reminders and request voice refills using their prescription information.