The Rise of BigTech in Healthcare | Blog

Posted On March 11, 2019

A couple of weeks ago, my colleague and partner-in-crime, Abhishek Singh recapped his experience at HIMSS 2019, healthcare IT’s annual jamboree.

Now, I want to expand on one of them – how BigTech firms are homing in on healthcare (got to love almost-alliteration). Here are my key observations on how different BigTech firms are approaching the business of healthcare, based on what I saw and heard at HIMSS.

Google

The focus for the Mountain View-based company has been to develop a secure and compliant cloud platform, which has tools unique to the healthcare industry. It claims that the Google Cloud Healthcare API has significant momentum in the industry to really bring silos of data together. It has enabled FHIR integration as well. The general release of the platform is still sometime away though. On a lighter note, while Google is using AI to solve complex and messy problems in a range of industries, its HIMSS booth had a demo to help address the much dreaded fax plague in healthcare, allowing users to fax medical information to Google Drive, the company’s cloud storage service (as someone on Twitter pointed out), following Eric Schmidt’s observation that healthcare is still in the “stone age.”

Microsoft

The company, reinvigorated under Nadella’s leadership, is taking a smart approach to healthcare across two levers:

  • Utilizing broader technology bets with healthcare-specific use cases. It launched a service to help healthcare firms move large sets of patient data to its cloud (Azure) and connect with other systems. This is one of several attempts to connect patient health records in the cloud. It announced the availability of its healthcare chatbot in the Azure marketplace, as well as the launch of an API for FHIR in Azure
  • Leveraging a partner ecosystem. Microsoft is taking an ecosystem-based approach to accelerate healthcare adoption, using partners such as CitiusTech, DXC Technology, and Philips, to develop more cases on its technology offerings.

Oracle Health Sciences

Oracle is taking a dual approach – doubling down on a focused play in healthcare data and analytics, as well connecting with its life sciences focus – as the ecosystem converges. It announced integration between Quorum’s institutional review board (IRB) and goBalto, its recent acquisition focused on clinical trial site selection and activation. And it introduced Connected Care, a telehealth and remote patient monitoring tool initially aimed at improving stroke outcomes. Its other big focus was on Oracle ERP Cloud as the single stop solution to help unify a health system’s enterprise systems (HR, financial, supply chain) on an integrated platform.

Salesforce

Salesforce has bet big on verticalizing its CRM strengths to help deliver personalized patient experiences (CRM as the gateway to digital transformation.) It already has a bunch of use cases across the care lifecycle. Its focus is now on leveraging a partner network and adding more healthcare-centric functionality to its core set of products. For instance, it launched a feature to add social determinants of health information to patient profiles to improve outcomes. It also announced Fairview Health Services as a client deploying Health Cloud, Marketing Cloud, Heroku, and MuleSoft to centralize and manage patient touchpoints. Building from its progress at HIMSS18, where it collaborated with Cerner, Salesforce also announced new healthcare solutions using Health Cloud, built by consulting partners such as Accenture, Deloitte Consulting LLP’s Deloitte Digital, Huron, IQVIA, Silverline, Simplus and Torrent Consulting.

Uber and Lyft

Both ride sharing companies had a presence on the exhibition floor, and Lyft made a major splash and co-sponsored the opening reception as well. The common use cases they’re both addressing are around social determinants of health. An example is Lyft’s partnership with Allscripts (Lyft Concierge) to help patients get to appointments and lead healthier lives.

Ever since Amazon formally announced its move to shake things up in healthcare, the industry has been abuzz with an equal mix of anticipation and trepidation. While many are fixated on the idea that Amazon will take a Customer Experience (CX) route to healthcare, similar to its ecommerce disruption, I think this belief is misplaced. Why?

As we noted in our earlier analysis, Amazon is best placed to solve more messy problems in healthcare. Not many people realize how Amazon is already playing a role in reshaping healthcare’s supply issues. For instance, more than half of the products available on the Amazon Business platform are medical commodities such as syringes, IV bags, forceps, etc. It is targeting healthcare organization’s tail spend (typically 20 percent), which is focused on purchasing, pricing, suppliers, etc. This plays into its deep strengths in warehousing, distribution, and logistics.

At the end of the day, Amazon is just one of the growing number of technology companies looking to tap into the $3.4 trillion U.S. healthcare market. If HIMSS19 was any indication, BigTech is only going to accelerate its focus on solving key issues, with an ecosystem-driven approach. My bet for HIMSS20 is for someone showcasing curated Netflix content for improving mental health. One can always dream!

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