Healthcare organisations have had a lot to contend with, in the last 18 months. The Coronavirus pandemic and its lingering impacts have evidently shifted consumer demands towards fast and convenient services. Existing Healthcare players are being forced to accelerate their digital transformation efforts dramatically. The record levels of funding within the digital health space are testament to this transformation.
In addition to the wide array of emerging and high-growth digital health companies in the healthcare space, Big Tech continues to make moves. Many of these well-known companies are actively involved in the healthcare market currently and already have a track record of disrupting major industries like retail and telecommunications. They also have the significant resources needed to transform the world of healthcare.
The likes of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft are all marching forward. The question remains is this change for the better?
Amazon signed deals with several enterprises for its on-demand health service Amazon Care and launched AmazonDx.com to the public. It also signed a 5-year partnership with National Safety Council to establish new research, technology, and processes to combat musculoskeletal disorders, a leading cause of workplace injuries. However, their partnership with Berkshire Hathaway, and JPMorgan Chase ultimately failed.
Apple announced several updates to its Health app that will allow patients to analyse trends for a wider range of personal health data and share their self-generated health data with doctors, family, and friends. They also launched new Fitness+ programs for pregnant women and seniors, groups often overlooked in fitness. Details about the company's ambitions to launch a digital primary care service were also leaked last month. They recently formed a partnership with biosensor company Rockley Photonics which reignited rumours that Apple is exploring non-invasive blood glucose and blood pressure monitoring for a future Apple Watch.
Facebook has partnered this last quarter with several technology, healthcare, and academic institutions to establish the Alliance for Advancing Health Online, which aims to improve public understanding of how social media and behavioural science can be used to help community healthcare. Facebook also partnered with the government of India to roll out a Vaccine Finder tool through its app.
Google launched its first medical device, Derm Assist, an AI-powered smartphone app that helps dermatologists diagnose skin conditions. They also struck a deal with HCA Healthcare to use patients' records to develop algorithms that could help improve operating efficiency, monitor patients, and guide doctors' decisions.
Microsoft acquired AI firm Nuance Communications for $19.7B and developed partnerships with UK robotic surgery startup CMR Surgical on a health data storage proof-of-concept trial. They also collaborated with AXA to launch a digital health platform accessible to AXA's customers across Europe.
There clearly have been some exciting partnerships announced and a significant amount of resources invested. Big Tech companies will need to rely on partnerships across the healthcare industry, while at the same time winning the trust of patients and satisfying regulators.
The Tech Giants' further penetration into healthcare is, in some cases, troubling existing players. These legacy players need to know exactly what their strategies look like, and what they stand to lose and gain.
Amazon's existing prescription delivery play has traditional pharmacies looking for ways to retain their customer base, for instance. It's easy to feel that the world of healthcare as we know it is at risk with these upcoming changes. There is also a worry by consumers' lack of trust in tech companies handling their health information. Google's partnership last year with Ascension Health in the US highlights the risks.
In terms of recruitment, Big Tech have been aggressively hiring healthcare specialists over recent years. With its latest push into healthcare, they have focussed on physicians and clinicians, for example, each major player now has a Chief Medical Officer. By investing in this area significantly, area they have demonstrated their levels of commitment.
In addition, Big Tech have focused heavily on senior "business" recruitment. They have been staffing their strategic and commercial teams by hiring aggressively from Life Science strategy consulting houses (MBB, etc.) as well as from across the Life Sciences industry. In Europe and the US, the market has become increasingly candidate-driven, as a result, Startups are often finding it increasingly difficult to compete with the resources Big Tech has to offer.
It is evident, that Big Tech are increasing their presence across the Healthcare market. There is a mixture of fear, reluctance to change, as well as a growing excitement over what happens next – it will certainly be an interesting ride.