New AWS NLP Service

The AWS reInvent conference in Las Vegas always results in announcements of new AWS services. This year AWS announced a new addition to their cloud-based NLP service.

Amazon Comprehend Medical – Natural Language Processing for Healthcare Customers is a service for understanding unstructured natural language medical text. From the announcement, it supports extracting entities from a vocabulary of medical terms and extracting Protected Health Information (PHI) such as addresses and medical record numbers. For a full description and code samples see the AWS blog post. Pricing is based on the usage of the service.

Apache cTakes

While this is an interesting and exciting new product, I would be remiss to not mention that this functionality is largely available in the open source application called cTakes. cTakes, or “clinical Text Analysis Knowledge Extraction System”, is an Apache project for extracting information from natural language medical record clinical text. cTakes is used by many large hospitals and referenced in many publications.

Being open source, cTakes is free to use and modify. You can deploy cTakes on-premises or in your cloud without paying any fees for usage. You only have to pay for the hardware that it is running on. Depending on your usage, the cost difference between a service like Amazon Comprehend Medical and cTakes could be significant so I recommend evaluating both if you need to process medical records.

Natural Language Processing and Information Extraction for Biomedicine