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Amazon's Dr. Angela Shippy wants to help AI transform the healthcare system

As artificial intelligence and machine learning roll out across virtually every sector of the economy, helping fuel the stock market to record highs, the biggest tech companies are racing to bring those efficiencies over to healthcare, a sector that spent $4.5 trillion in 2022.

Dr. Angela Shippy, a medical doctor turned executive at Amazon (AMZN) Web Services, is leading the charge for the world's biggest cloud provider. At Houston Medical Center, where Shippy previously saw patients, she now meets with hospital executives to discuss how tech can be incorporated into patient care.

“I have the opportunity to really bridge that gap between what's happening day-to-day within healthcare organizations and technology that can help them really transform and really find the solutions to any pain points that they have,” Shippy said.

(L-R) An Amazon Echo Spot, an Amazon Echo Plus 1st Generation, an Amazon Echo Button and an Amazon Echo Dot 4th Generation sit among the smart devices being studied at the lab of Associate Professor of Computer Science and Executive Director of the Cybersecurity and Privacy Institute at Northeastern University David Choffnes at the Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Complex at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., October 14, 2021. Picture taken October 14, 2021. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
An Amazon Echo Spot sits among the smart devices being studied in a lab at Northeastern University in Boston, Mass., on Oct. 14, 2021. (REUTERS/Brian Snyder) (REUTERS / Reuters)

Shippy works directly with at least 700 healthcare providers across the country to expand their use of AWS-backed technology.

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Among the tools are AI-powered rooms that transcribe conversations and take notes for doctors, Echo Dot devices that patients can use to order things like ice, and even virtual intensive care services, which decrease burnout in providers by allowing them to focus on patient care.

“If we can take away those tiny administrative burdensome tasks and allow [care providers] to do what they truly love, then we know we're making it a better experience for them, and we're making it a better experience for the patient as well because they're in control,” Shippy said.

AWS is not alone in this effort. Amazon, Microsoft (MSFT), Alphabet (GOOG, GOOGL), and Meta (META) said this earnings season they are investing another $16 billion in AI this year, a 31% increase from last year.

Steve Young having his first jab at the University College London Hospital (UCLH) in London, for an international clinical trial testing a novel cancer immunotherapy which may prevent skin cancer from recurring. The mRNA-based technology in this study is aimed at people who have already had high-risk melanomas removed. Picture date: Thursday April 11, 2024. (Photo by Jordan Pettitt/PA Images via Getty Images)
Steve Young having his first jab at the University College London Hospital (UCLH) in London, for an international clinical trial testing a novel cancer immunotherapy on April 11, 2024. (Jordan Pettitt/PA Images via Getty Images) (Jordan Pettitt - PA Images via Getty Images)

Although more than half of hospitals' total operating revenue goes toward labor, the field remains challenged by labor shortages and increased patient volumes. Shippy aims to address these issues by deploying devices like Amazon Alexa to empower patients to make requests like turning a light on and off while reducing pressure on staff.

Because of her previous work as a healthcare provider, Shippy is uniquely positioned as fluent in both the medical and tech worlds. Prior to joining AWS, she was the chief medical and quality officer at the Memorial Hermann Health System, where she used her affinity for technology to develop a COVID-19 dashboard at the height of the pandemic.

"I saw the power of technology, and how it would be used to transform healthcare," Shippy said. "And that's really what made coming to a role like this at AWS possible for me because I saw what that transformation could really lead to."

New technology allows doctors and care providers to interact with a virtual reality 3D heart. (Yahoo Finance)
New technology allows doctors and care providers to interact with a virtual reality 3D heart. (Yahoo Finance)

One example of that transformation is a virtual reality headset that projects 3D images. The AWS executive donned the headset, which allowed her to flip and turn the three-dimensional beating heart of a hypothetical patient. “This patient is having a heart attack,” Shippy explained to Yahoo Finance.

The 3D virtual heart is among the more futuristic tools in the hospital, but Shippy sees value in tools across the spectrum of technology. That vision and her experience during the pandemic informed her decision to move from health to tech — a leap of faith for a doctor who decided her career path at just 9 years old.

“When ... somebody like me at 9 years old says, 'I want be a doctor. I want to help people,' that never goes away,” Shippy said. “Being from an underrepresented community or being in a community where maybe healthcare isn't like what you've seen in the Texas Medical Center today, we want to close those gaps.”

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