Will Google, Microsoft, and Amazon Kill US Healthcare As We Know It?

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Swelling healthcare costs, a growing gig economy without healthcare benefits, and an aging digital-native population, have contributed to significant pressure on healthcare providers to digitize and cut costs. The NewtonX healthcare vertical has noted these changes in the industry, spotlighting efforts such as telehealth to provide affordable, convenient, digital healthcare. Recently, however, tech giants have taken matters into their own hands, with behemoths including Google, Amazon, and Microsoft facilitating the transition to digitized healthcare, and tapping into the multi-trillion dollar healthcare industry. To spotlight how the involvement of tech giants will affect the healthcare industry NewtonX conducted a quantitative and qualitative survey to executives at the healthcare verticals of the tech giants, as well as with executives at healthcare providers including CVS, Johnson & Johnson, Aetna, and Anthem.

The survey revealed that tech giants are competing against disruptive startups such as Lemonaid and Hims to offer digital-first, personalized, convenient, and affordable healthcare both through their own services and through existing healthcare giants.

The insights from this article are sourced from NewtonX surveys, panels, and expert consultations. To gain access to these services visit newtonx.com.

Playing to their strengths: What each tech giant is adding to the mix

The NewtonX healthcare vertical identified three root problems plaguing the health industry:

  • Lack of access to data across electronic health records (EMRs)
  • Lack of accessible remote care
  • Burdensome IT

Each of the tech giants we examine in this piece is tackling one or more of these problems according to the company’s unique strengths and areas of expertise.

1. Google

Alphabet, Google’s parent company, has been a long-term investor in the healthcare industry. Through its subsidiary DeepMind, the company has invested in using technology for disease detection, data generation, and disease management. For instance, recently DeepMind was able to accurately detect 50 different types of eye disease by looking at retinal scans. But perhaps Google’s bigger play lies in its investment in patient data management.

While almost 80% of doctors believe that having all patient data in one place is “critical” to their jobs, only 14% say that they can access all electronic health information across departments and care centers, even within the same hospital. Google is trying to rectify this, betting on the idea that being able to access and interpret patient data will be future of healthcare. Google acquired Apigee an API management company in 2016, in part in order to build healthcare APIs. Indeed, Apigee has already worked with Walgreens and Cleveland Clinic, among others, to help healthcare providers build bridges between data streams. Additionally, Google has G Suite for healthcare businesses, which is HIPAA compliant and provides cloud services that healthcare providers can use to share patient information.

Another notable subsidiary of Google is Verily, a research organization devoted to life sciences. Verily, in conjunction with Johnson & Johnson created Verb Surgical, a robotic surgery company that uses machine learning, robotic surgery, instrumentation, advanced visualization, and data analytics.

2. Amazon

Earlier this summer, Amazon acquired PillPack, an online pharmacy, in a move that temporarily tanked the shares of Rite Aid, Walgreens, and CVS. Leaning on its experience as a distribution platform, Amazon has also obtained licenses to distribute medical devices in almost every state in America, and has pharmacy licenses in a few states. Additionally, Amazon sells private label over-the-counter drugs through a partnership with Perrigo.

Amazon also entered into a partnership with J.P. Morgan and Berkshire Hathaway to “Revolutionize healthcare.” The partnership aims to lower healthcare costs for the companies’ millions of employees.

Finally, Amazon is using its smartspeaker, Alexa, to provide certain healthcare features. The company has a 12 person health and wellness team within its Alexa division, and once it is HIPAA compliant, will offer diabetes management and assistance for new parents and infants.

3. Microsoft

Between 2013 and 2017, Microsoft filed 73 patents related to healthcare, primarily in AI and patient monitoring capabilities. Microsoft has also invested heavily in precision medicine (medicine designed to optimize efficiency through genetic or molecular profiling) and healthcare-specific cloud computing. Microsoft’s NExT initiative has released various AI and cloud computing projects related to healthcare, including an AI-powered chatbot and health-specific platforms on Azure, Microsoft’s cloud. Several healthcare companies already use Azure, including Ochsner Health System and SnapMD. Microsoft is also working with the U.K. Department of Health and Social Care to improve the country’s health services cybersecurity.

The tech giant has also been particularly interested in genomics and precision medicine, and launched cloud processing tools for scientists researching genomics, called Microsoft Genomics. Scientists with Microsoft Research have also focused on genomics, and early this year published a study on using AI to improve gene-editing outcomes.

The giants vs. the upstarts: who will win the race for digital-first healthcare?

The healthcare industry is worth over $3 trillion. For the first time, the industry is faced with an empowered customer base that can choose to leave and opt for better options — often in the shape of disruptive telehealth and digital startups. Healthcare providers are scrambling for ways to keep their customer base happy, and tech giants will provide many of the answers, while tapping into the trillion dollar market in the process.



About Author

Germain Chastel is the CEO and Founder of NewtonX.

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