Amazon Web Services (AWS) is flexing its philanthropic muscle with a new programme dedicated to advancing global healthcare equity and improving medical outcomes. By offering qualified non-profits, research institutions and other organisations computing credits, technology and other supports, AWS is hoping to advance an agenda to better support underserved and underrepresented communities. The programme is directed to organisations developing Cloud-based healthcare solutions.

The AWS programme is targeted at organisations that are addressing any of three major imperatives: expanding access to health services; lessening disproportionate negative health outcomes in underrepresented communities by addressing root causes of disease and illness; and tapping into larger data sets to promote equitable care systems.

Much of the focus on health equity is related to the Covid-19 pandemic. Many of the comorbidities associated with poor Covid-19 outcomes disproportionately affected minorities and other underserved populations. A number of tech companies stepped in to try to get a better handle on data for both diagnostic and treatment purposes.

Inspired in part by work that its current clients are already doing in the healthcare space, AWS cited some prominent examples of the work its own customers are doing currently to improve outcomes. The National Health IT Collaborative for the Underserved (NHIT) rolled out its Data Fusion Centre on AWS to help overcome inter-governmental data sharing obstacles and translate Social Determinants of Health (SDoH) – or root cause – data into important insights.

Non-profit HealthImpact introduced Trust a Nurse, Ask a Nurse, a telehealth service working with community-based organisations in California to educate the under-resourced communities about Covid-19 and vaccines. The service, which also runs on AWS, provides patients with direct access to nurses for no cost to the patients.

The Chicago-based Rush University Medical Centre launched its Population Health Analytics Hub to delve into clinical and social factors that cause premature cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. The project expands on the Covid-19 analytic hub Rush built on AWS during the pandemic to integrate patient and operational data for better outcomes.

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This is not AWS’ first foray into work to help improve healthcare outcomes. Early last year, AWS created the Diagnostic Development Initiative (DDI) to help organisations expedite Covid-19 diagnostics research and development. AWS offered organisations $20m in compute credits to improve diagnostic innovation. This work continues in tandem with the new initiative.

Nor is AWS alone in its work to advance the healthcare equity agenda. Last year, rival Microsoft launched its five-year $60m philanthropic AI for Health programme to fund projects that use artificial intelligence and other technologies to improve diagnostics, treatments and general access to healthcare. Microsoft awarded more than 180 grants in the programme’s first 15 months.

And earlier this year, Google, together with a team of Fellows and the Satcher Health Leadership Institute at the Morehouse School of Medicine, introduced the Health Equity Tracker (HET), a public platform that provides a graphic representation of health inequities afflicting minority communities.