How Big Tech Companies Are Competing for Control of the Healthcare Industry

Major tech giants like Apple, Google, Amazon, and even Uber are getting into the healthcare business. With billions of dollars at their disposal, these companies are used to disrupting traditional industries, and now they’ve set their sights on healthcare.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering healthcare makes up 17.9% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product. U.S. healthcare spending rose to $3.5 trillion or $10,739 per capita in 2017 and shows no signs of slowing down. For many tech companies, investing in healthcare services looks like a safe bet. Everyone needs medical care at some point in their lives, and these companies are looking to cash in sooner rather than later. Find out how some of the largest companies in the world are competing for control of the healthcare industry.

Medical Records on Demand

Patients often lack access to their medical records, especially if they’re in the hands of multiple facilities or healthcare organizations. This makes it difficult for consumers to keep track of their healthcare past, present, and future.

Considering tech companies often deal in big data, it’s no surprise that major players like Amazon and Apple are looking to simplify this process. Apple recently updated its Health app to include medical records from 39 different hospitals. Consumers can then access their medical records on their smartphones and other mobile devices.

The company also received FDA clearance for a new EKG feature for its line of Apple Watches, which would give consumers the ability to monitor their heart 24/7, but some have warned that a portable, consumer-owned heart monitor could lead to a surge in false positives, sending healthy consumers to the doctor’s office for no reason.

Amazon is also getting into the medical records business. The company recently unveiled plans to sell a software that would read and interpret these records for consumers, making it easier for individuals to manage their health. The software will also make suggestions in terms of improving treatment and helping consumers save money on their healthcare costs. This may change the way consumers interact with the healthcare system.

Ecommerce and Pharmaceuticals

The high cost of prescription medications has been a hotly contested issue over the years. The U.S. is on track to spend $360 billion on prescription drugs this year alone.

Amazon purchased the online pharmacy company PillPack last June, leaving some to wonder if Amazon will emerge as a new pharmacy benefit manager (PBM). If more consumers start shopping for prescription drugs on Amazon.com, it would give the company increasing leverage when negotiating with drug manufacturers.

Millions of consumers already depend on Amazon for their fast fulfillment services, including two-day and even same-day shipping, and affordable online shopping. It’s not much of a stretch to imagine consumers buying their medications online using the same e-commerce store they use to buy pretty much everything else. Amazon also owns Whole Foods, which means consumers could easily pick up their medications at their local grocery store.

Getting a Ride to the Hospital or Doctor’s Office

Uber has disrupted the ride-sharing market and now the company plans to do the same thing to the medical transportation industry. The company recently launched a new app called Uber Health, which lets providers secure rides for patients and caregivers.

Getting to and from the doctor’s office can be a challenge for many patients, especially if they’re dealing with a chronic disease. Ambulances often cost thousands of dollars and aren’t covered by insurance. Taking the bus or public transportation can also lead to the spread of disease. Having patients take an Uber to the hospital or doctor’s office may relieve these concerns. Yet, Uber doesn’t have a stellar reputation when it comes to wheelchair accessibility. To assist patients, Uber drivers may have to start functioning as healthcare aids in addition to escorting individuals to and from the hospital.

AI-Powered Healthcare

Google, which uses artificial intelligence in its search algorithm, has started leveraging the same technology in the healthcare industry. The company recently released a new Google Brain project that uses AI-powered speech to help providers take notes when consulting with a patient. The app picks up on and records keywords to help doctors keep track of this information.

The company has also partnered with Gilead, a major pharmaceutical manufacturer, to develop algorithms that can predict heart disease based on a patient’s eye movements. Google is also investing in senior healthcare technology, including automatic sensors that help seniors move around in the middle of the night and those that can detect dehydration. As the baby boomers continue to age, senior healthcare technology will likely increase in popularity in the years to come.

While many of these initiatives and trends are still a long way off, they highlight how the healthcare industry will likely change in the near future. More consumers are warming up to telehealth and virtual care, and major tech companies are looking to take control of this burgeoning market. Stay tuned as we continue to follow the rise of tech-centered healthcare.

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