Big tech enters the health industry; are they going to change everything?

Alphabet, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft: they are all now active, each in their own way, in the world’s most important industry, health. Here is what they are doing and what will be their impact in the sector

Published on 04 Apr 2019

Health is the most precious good for the human being, it is the pillar of welfare policies, it is an immense industry, and today it is at the centre of a great transformation in which the driver is all technological. Of course, the big tech companies put their big paw in it, or maybe even impossible to stay out of it, given the intertwining of healthcare and technology. The digital transformation opens the doors to startups, spin-offs, collaboration between large healthcare or pharma companies with technology companies; it opens the doors to new products, advanced services, greater prevention, a new service model, a different customer journey. To put it in a nutshell, large organizations consolidated in the health sector, from public to private, need technology and they need it fast: they can get it through startups, or through collaboration with technology companies. 

Last July, Business Insider published a very interesting summary table of what Alphabet, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft have to offer in healthcare, i.e. how through their assets they are helping to transform the healthcare industry into the US; the strengths and weaknesses of the industry and also the competition between them are shown. 

As can be seen, the importance of assets such as cloud technologies, artificial intelligence and technology companies’ experience in data management and analysis, along with their significant computing power, stands out. 

Data is an incredible resource towards personalized medicine, towards an improvement in access and service delivery, towards the identification of new services and preventive medicine. 

Each of the 4 companies uses its specific field of expertise to develop tools and solutions for consumers, suppliers and operators. 

Alphabet focuses on exploiting its domain in data storage and analysis, its excellence in artificial intelligence and Verily Life Sciences, a subsidiary company that aims to combine data science and healthcare for more advanced and precision medicine. 

Introducing Verily

Amazon can count on its leadership in the cloud, but above all on its capillarity, expertise, customer experience as a distribution platform strengthening its medical supplies: for Alexa, its AI-based voice assistant is developing a home healthcare concierge service. Also last July he acquired a startup, PillPack, which is an online pharmacy. 

Apple, in its typical closed ecosystem strategy, is transforming its consumer products into patient health platforms. An example? Apple Watch, which in its latest version has also been equipped with an electrocardiogram sensor. Compared to other big tech, Apple is perhaps the most ready to seize opportunities in the insurance industry, according to the Business Insider table: in fact it is quite recent the announcement of the agreement with Aetna, an American insurer, with whom it has developed an application called Attain connected to Apple Watch, which should be launched in the coming months. 

Microsoft is focusing on cloud storage and data analysis to get into precision medicine. Its vertical and targeted initiatives are Healthcare NExT (aimed at accelerating innovation in the healthcare sector through artificial intelligence and cloud computing) and Microsoft Genomics (the cloud of Microsoft Azure, declined for studies on the genomics of researchers and doctors). 

Healthcare organizations can take advantage of the opportunity offered by the entry of technology into healthcare by working with technology giants to achieve cost savings and evolution. And they can also compare themselves on a par with the tech giants, because when you look at the Business Insider table, a threat is common to Amazon, Alphabet, Apple and Microsoft: the ‘consumer trust’ or the possible lack of trust in them on the part of consumers, and when it comes to health, trust is everything. In the field of trust, traditional operators and insurance companies have an advantage that they must play well.

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