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By Monica E. Oss

Last fall at The 2017 OPEN MINDS Technology & Informatics Institute, Andrew Wright, the Vice President, Digital Medicine for Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, identified Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook as organizations in the tech sector poised to change health care, in his opening keynote, Remaking Health Care With Wearable Technology & Digital Health-A View To The Future. In just a few short months, these companies are well on their way to changing not only how health care operates, but erasing old assumptions about what kind of organizations can deliver “best value” health care.

Since the start of the New Year, these “tech disruptors” have been busy.


Facebook founded its Facebook AI Research lab (FAIR) in 2013, and has spent the intervening years developing artificial intelligence. They announced earlier this year FAIR is changing management and adding more staff, including IBM’s former chief scientist for big data, Jérôme Pesenti, who was hired as vice president of artificial intelligence (see The Head Of Facebook’s AI Research Is Stepping Into A New Role As It Shakes Up Management and Facebook Hires The Scientist Who Helped Build IBM Watson To Lead A.I. Expansion). Facebook has also announced online tools via Facebook Live and Messenger to support consumers who may be suicidal (see Facebook Uses AI Tools For Suicide Prevention).


Apple announced this spring that it will launch two primary care clinics near Apple’s headquarters in Santa Clara County, California. These clinics, branded AC Wellness Centers, will serve only Apple employees and their families and will provide team-based care focused on delivering a concierge-like health care experience (see Apple Launches Employee Medical Clinics). UnitedHealthcare also recently announced that it’s adopting the Apple Watch to its UnitedHealthcare Motion program, which gives consumers monetary rewards for achieving daily health goals (see UnitedHealthcare Adds The Apple Watch To Its Fitness-Tracking Reward Program). Apple has also recently debuted the latest version of its Health Records iPhone app, which collects medical data, and informs consumers whenever their data has been successfully updated (see Apple Debuts Medical Records On iPhone). In a related development, the company announced in January that it had entered an agreement with 13 health systems that will allow Apple to download electronic health data of consumers in those systems onto Apple devices (see Apple’s Pact with 13 Health Care Systems Might Actually Disrupt the Industry).


Google’s parent company, Alphabet, has spun off part of its urban-innovation-oriented Sidewalk Labs to create a new health care business called Cityblock, which will offer integrated primary care, behavioral health, and social service to low-income Americans living in urban areas (see Google’s Parent Company Spins Off A Health Care Business, Cityblock). And, Google’s sister company Verily is developing partnerships in health insurance field, with the goal of taking on risk for consumer populations (see Google Sister-Company Verily Is Plotting A Move Into A Fast-Growing Corner Of The Health Insurance Industry). Also in the news from Verily, Google Cloud just launched the new Cloud Healthcare API to help manage health care data (see Google Unveils New Cloud Service for Health Care).


Microsoft is partnering with Apollo Hospitals to expand the Microsoft Intelligent Network for Eyecare into an artificial intelligence-focused network in cardiology (see Microsoft, Apollo Hospitals To Employ AI For Early Detection Of Cardiac Diseases). This AI Network is part of Microsoft Healthcare NExT, which launched last year in an effort by Microsoft to speed up health care innovation with artificial intelligence and cloud computing (see In Healthcare Push, Microsoft Launches Genomics Service On Azure Cloud). Microsoft’s Azure Service Health dashboard, also part of this network, was announced as “production ready” this spring (see Microsoft Releases Azure Service Health Dashboard). In February Microsoft announced it was working on Empower MD, an artificial intelligence platform that listens to the physician-consumer conversations and makes suggestions based on “medical intelligence” captured during those conversations (see Microsoft And UPMC Unveil Virtual AI Assistant That Listens In And Takes Notes On Doctor’s Visits).


Amazon has announced that it is joining Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase & Co. in a joint venture to form an independent health care company to provide services for their United States employees, with a focus on technology solutions (see Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway & J.P. Morgan Chase To Form Independent Health Care Company). And CNBC reports that Amazon has been meeting with the AARP since 2015 to discuss collaborations for assisting aging populations (see Amazon’s secretive health team talking with AARP about making products for older people). (In the move that I thought was so crafty, earlier this month, Amazon decided to offer Medicaid recipients a discounted subscription to the company’s Amazon Prime membership—only $5.99 per month. Talk about developing name-brand recognition!)

What are the big strategic implications for specialty provider organizations serving complex consumers? I think the first is obvious—there will be new “players” in health and human services, and new players who are not like the current competition. These developments aren’t “one-offs”—these appear to be the first trickles of what will eventually become a tidal wave. When you think about strategy for sustainability, remember that even if you’re not doing business with these organizations, “when you sleep next to an elephant, you can’t help but notice when it rolls over.”

Second, data-driven decisionmaking in health care is going to become the rule. Just think about cheaper cloud-based storage, and more and faster data exchange. Executive teams should be prepared to have more data, faster—and a team with the skills to manage that data, understand its implications for consumers, and incorporate how that data into clinical and administrative decisionmaking.

Finally, customer service and consumer convenience will become a top priority. Think of the new competitive market. Smartphones let the consumer know every time their personal health record has been updated. And the same smartphone tracks consumer health metrics passively (no effort required!) and add them to their personal health record. When the consumer accesses their personal health record in the cloud, it includes data from every provider organization and health plan they are associated with, along with their own biometrics data. Their smartphone platform has artificial intelligence functions that scan their personal health record for possible health problems—and makes individualized recommendations. Based on those recommendations, the consumer can order any needed health products and services for next day delivery using their amazon prime account. This is a whole new level of consumer expectations and whole new future for health care.

For more on our recent look at the “category killers” looming over health care, check out Can You Teach A Fish To Climb A Tree?, David Versus Goliath?, and Innovation Isn’t Enough. And for more from Andrew Wright, check out Digital Tech Cutting Edge – Moving From Smartphone App To Wearable and Connecting The Dots-Sustainability & Tech Leverage.

For more on combining leadership vision, strategy, and innovation with your operations, join me on June 6 at The 2018 OPEN MINDS Strategy & Innovation Institute, for my closing plenary, “Incorporating Innovation Into Everyday Operations: A New Strategy For Sustainability.”

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