Healthcare Newcomers Will Keep Disruption Going Strong

Healthcare has gone through tremendous changes in recent years. Electronic health records, health informatics, the value-based payment system and more have made today’s healthcare landscape almost unrecognizable from what it was 20 or 30 years ago.

The industry’s disruption should continue due to the many players from outside healthcare with plans to enter the field.

Amazon Making Waves

E-commerce giant Amazon has created the greatest anticipation for its healthcare plans, no small feat considering Apple, Google, Microsoft and other formidable business peers also are entering or have already entered the healthcare field. A survey by healthcare market research firm Reaction Data found that close to two-thirds of healthcare executives believed Amazon will have the greatest impact on the field.

Potential factors behind this early dominance are that Amazon has established an enormous market of customers and perhaps, just as importantly, is brand-agnostic, and so won’t challenge the loyalties of customers faithful to Apple, Google or Microsoft, according to one survey respondent.

Amazon is already selling medical supplies and equipment to clinics and hospitals. It has partnered with Berkshire Hathaway and J.P. Morgan to create a new health insurance plan for its employees. Also, it recently purchased online pharmacist PillPack, a move CNBC called “the strongest indication yet” of Amazon’s determination to become part of the healthcare industry.

Other Potential Disruptors

More eyes may be on Amazon in the battle for a piece of the healthcare market, but its competitors aren’t sitting still.

Apple expects to have an ECG (electrocardiogram) app available for its new Apple Watch Series 4 before the end of the year. Apple Watch already features software platforms such as ResearchKit, which links users with studies of health conditions, the Financial Times reports. Earlier this year, the tech giant announced it was opening healthcare clinics for its employees.

Google, which turned 20 this year, is also vigorously pursuing a place in the healthcare market, having the biggest impact, according to Becker’s Hospital Review, in areas including:

  • Online search: “health cards,” the blue panels that appear on the right side of the screen when searching a medical condition
  • Artificial intelligence: an AI algorithm that may be able to predict heart attacks or strokes
  • Genomics research: Google Genomics allows health organizations to store, process and share a petabyte, equal to one million gigabytes, of genomic information
  • Consumer health: Google Fit, which encourages users who don’t exercise regularly to incorporate small but healthy changes into their routines, was developed with the American Heart Association and the World Health Organization

Microsoft filed 73 healthcare-related patents between 2013 and 2017, most focused on artificial intelligence and patient monitoring. Its Healthcare NExT is an umbrella program for the company’s healthcare AI and cloud computing projects. Microsoft President Brad Smith has emerged as a vocal proponent of cybersecurity preparedness, and the U.S. National Health Service has enlisted Microsoft to improve its security in the wake of 2017’s WannaCry ransomware attacks that forced NHS to cancel more than 20,000 appointments. Microsoft is also active in the telehealth field, partnering with broadband wireless provider Radwin to find ways to bridge the rural broadband gap, bringing the internet to underserved areas and also addressing the physician shortage in some rural areas through telehealth solutions.

Amazon, Apple, Google and Microsoft are the major tech players moving into healthcare, but there are plenty of other names on the move as well: Pricewaterhousecoopers found that 84% of Fortune’s Top 50 companies have a presence in the healthcare field. Healthcare industry disruption, whether by multinational corporations or tiny start-ups, shows no sign of slowing down.

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