Is this the beginning of real disruption in healthcare?
81% of c-level executives of healthcare providers agree that Google, Amazon and Apple will be the most ‘disruptive’ tech forces in healthcare, according to a Reaction Data report. While the entry of these tech giants into the sector may not be relished by some hospital leaders, physicians and health tech vendors, it’s likely to be welcomed by many consumers, especially those under 40.
Google, for example, is applying its artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities to detect disease and identify effective disease/lifestyle management, combatting cancer, heart disease, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis among others. It is considering AI products such as Google Home to explore the feasibility of patient-facing health assessments and has partnered with Johnson & Johnson to build a surgery platform that brings together robotics, data analytics and visualization.
Amazon too has started to insert itself into the market, setting up partnerships with organizations to reduce the cost of employee healthcare by providing a technological platform for administering healthcare. Longer term, the company could enter the healthcare distribution chain by selling medical devices and, perhaps eventually, becoming an online pharmacy.
Apple is also stealing a march, and recently unveiled a Health Records app for collecting personal data related to health and wellbeing categories such as allergies, lab results, medications, conditions, and vital signs – even if the data comes from different sources. There’s plenty of potential for other tailored apps, such as medication tracking or diabetes management, delivering even more personalized experiences using all the biometric data that citizens collect on their personal devices.
Some naysayers feel it is not possible for outsiders, no matter how large and accomplished, to make a big dent in this $3 trillion industry. There are complex interactions between insurers, consumers and health providers that don’t occur in other sectors. There are also billion-dollar EHR vendors and thousands of other incumbent healthcare technology companies with specialized knowledge, experience and multi-year contracts.
Still, patients are fed up with rising costs, clunky access to caregivers, few patient care improvements, unhelpful portals, and a severe lack of interoperability that translates into duplicate testing, repeatedly filling out the same old paper forms and, worst case, critical delays in receiving the right medical care.
These are the same consumers who are accustomed to instantly and easily doing almost anything online – banking, shopping, bill-paying, researching, reading, news-checking, making reservations and getting auto-routed to destinations. While today’s multitude of digital business and social conveniences are an extraordinary new phenomenon to pre-millennials (roughly those over 40), they are a given for anyone younger.
Taking the next step
These younger generations expect and demand fast, sophisticated online services and products, and guess who is already providing it to them? Google, Amazon and Apple. Yet who is running the majority of traditional healthcare organizations and vendors? Pre-millennials. Many, including C-suite hospital leaders, have trouble just keeping up with their smartphone upgrades. Their millennial children are using Apple Pay for mocha lattes. Some major hospital systems – including the best of the best – are already taking due note of the potential sea change ahead and signing on for Apple’s Health Records solution.
Instead of shrugging off the idea that one of these consumer-led companies could start reshaping healthcare delivery, why not get inspired? Maybe a good start would be a little IT re-prioritization with a significant investment in patient experience and the pesky problem of interoperability.