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December 5, 2018

Tech companies are banging down the doors of the healthcare industry, infiltrating different pieces of a complicated system in an effort to inject innovation into care delivery and data storage processes.

The Council Perspective: Large tech companies like Apple, Google and Amazon, have all invested in the healthcare industry hoping to lower costs and meet consumers where they are by altering how care is distributed and delivered, how healthcare data is managed and how the prescription drug supply chain is navigated.


Tech-Focused Investments

Google and GE are currently the most active investors in healthcare startups. Since 2012, technology companies, like Apple, IBM and Intel, have participated in over 200 healthcare financing deals and spent over $4 billion on 25 healthcare acquisitions. Investments in medical devices and equipment have waned since 2012, while internet software and services along with biotechnology investments have increased.

Some technology companies, like Apple, are focusing on patients and consumers, while others, like Google, want to work more closely with hospitals and other healthcare providers. Amazon recently began to sell software that mines patient medical records for information that doctors and hospitals could use to improve treatments and reduce costs.


Consumer Access and Adoption

How are companies hoping to impact the patient-provider dynamic? We recently caught up with Nikhil Krishnan, a Senior Analyst at CB Insights who focuses on digital healthcare, to find out. When asked if tech-fueled innovation within the healthcare industry (like Apple’s healthcare app, Apple Health) will be met with education or communication-related challenges, Krishnan said, “people underestimate how educated consumers are of health data if it’s presented to them properly.” Technological efforts focused on healthcare could also allow for more collaborative decision making between patients, their care teams and/or their providers.


The Key: Data Access

Relatedly, providers currently do not have easy access to patient data. Approximately 79 percent of doctors believe that having all available patient data in one place is critical to their jobs.

Insurers like UnitedHealthcare have taken steps to make patient health data more portable and accessible. Next year, UHC intends to launch individual health records for 50 million consumers, which will (with patient consent) be compatible to share with one million different medical care providers. Its goal is to create a secure network of healthcare data so patients may have a more complete picture of their health and to strengthen the connection between UHC and the providers that work with the company in an effort to promote value-based care practices.

As various stakeholders recognize the affordances of, and develop the capabilities to create access to healthcare data, conversations and actions next year will most likely focus on:

  1. How to better organize, interpret and leverage healthcare data
  2. Policy discussions to create right conditions to access healthcare data
  3. How to engage patients in understanding their healthcare data
  4. Which stakeholders can play a role in this process