4 Surprising Companies Driving Healthcare Innovation
The healthcare industry becoming more consumer focused, and consumer-focused companies are stepping in to help
Clinical innovation in healthcare has always been strong and fairly fast-moving. New treatment methods and programs are always on the horizon, and year after year we see patients realizing the benefits of medical advancements.
Innovation in the larger healthcare ecosystem, though, has moved along at a snail’s pace. Providers and payers are dealing with managing more and more risk, and developing or deploying new technology or adopting new payment models presents another layer of risk to add on. For many organizations, this means slow timelines for deploying existing technology, much less developing new technology.
This gap in healthcare technology has left an opening for some of the largest companies in technology to begin experimenting in healthcare. Most of these companies are known for consumer products or other firmly non-healthcare offerings, but have jumped on this opportunity to move the industry forward. Here are a few of the largest, and most surprising, names driving healthcare innovation today.
Amazon made huge waves when they announced their plans to begin experimenting with a new model of employee health, with its own population of employees. As a huge self-insured employer, Amazon is attempting to pioneer new and more efficient ways of managing their employees’ health, even going as far as planning to open up their own primary care clinics. This direct approach from an employer, if successful, could lead to a total transformation in the way self-insured employers approach employee health.
Aside from Amazon’s interest in employee health, Amazon has also taken steps to enrich what Alexa can do, by trying to create a ‘digital health assistant” to help people remember medicines, manage appointments, and track user-generated health data from other third party apps. Having a single “assistant” for high-risk patients could lead to a much higher level of patient compliance, when you can change appointments, order refills, and get transportation all from one place, with voice commands. This will, however, require Amazon to interface with a huge number of third parties, from practice EHRs to wearable devices. How Amazon will manage the flow of all of this data is an interesting question, and one we are excited to see more about.
Salesforce has been used by healthcare and healthcare-adjacent organizations for years, for business challenges like provider relationship management, business development, and referral tracking. However, Salesforce planted its flag as a serious clinical tool for care providers and payers in 2015 with the launch of Health Cloud.
Since then, partnerships with other trusted health tech companies, like TigerText, FormFast, and hey, Bridge Connector, have let add-on apps extend the platform even more. Since launch, Salesforce Health Cloud has become a leading tool for care management, winning the 2018 Best in KLAS award for healthcare CRM.
Salesforce has dedicated a huge amount of time, resources, and personnel into becoming a serious contender in healthcare, and with the recent launch of Health Cloud for Payers, they’ve shown ambition to innovate in every part of the industry.
Google’s parent company, Alphabet, has made huge investments in healthcare, by acquiring both innovative startups and developing technology from existing portfolio companies.
Alphabet’s portfolio is heavily invested in life sciences companies, with many focused on data-driven approaches to develop new treatment methods, often focused on genomic medicine. Google Genomics has created a platform for genomic researchers to store, organize, and derive insights from genomic information in brand new ways.
And one company you probably have heard of, 23 & Me, is an Alphabet portfolio company that is moving from delivering fun, topical ancestry into empowering people with real health insights from their own genetic makeup, helping to better understand the risks and pre-dispositions they may carry.
Alphabet has even found its way into the payer world, investing $375 million into Oscar health, the insurance company that is trying to cater to the way modern consumers communicate and get information. Oscar health has already seen its model become hugely successful in several markets, and is pushing other, more established payers, to become much more member-focused and user-friendly.
Apple has captured a massive amount of attention recently with the healthcare-focused innovations on the latest Apple Watch and iPhone, but that is just scratching the surface of Apple’s aspirations in healthcare.
Aside from consumer-focused products, Apple is working to develop an entire ecosystem in which patients have access to their own healthcare data just as easily as they would have access to their bank records. With Apple’s devices, patients can track their own health data more frequently and more visibly than ever before. That information can also be delivered to a patient’s doctors, nurses, or family members, giving everyone a much more clear and real-time idea of how someone’s health is trending.
The pace of healthcare innovation has accelerated rapidly in the last five to ten years, as provider and payers are being pressured to develop patient-focused experiences and the healthcare industry becomes much more consumerized. We are just in the beginning steps of a massive wave of technological and systemic changes, and with the largest names in technology stepping into the ecosystem, the rate of change and innovation is guaranteed to accelerate even more.