What Have Tech Giants Done in Healthcare During the Holiday Season

The coronavirus pandemic has emphasized the need for a more organized and efficient nationwide health IT infrastructure. Despite the urgency, data is often still siloed, in part due to entrenched business interests defending turf. Tech companies see significant growth potential in healthcare, an industry that still relies on paper faxes for communicating sensitive information. However, many have faced significant controversies in how they obtain and manage patient's health data. Tech giants, such as Google, Microsoft, and Amazon have made numerous disruptive signs of progress in the healthcare field especially during  the 2020 year. Approaching the end of the Pandemic year, a few new announcements have been made which are worth checking out.

Google Cloud unveiled a new program on Nov 30th, 2020 to help payers, providers, and healthcare organizations prepare for the federal government's upcoming interoperability regulations. The goal of this new program is to help healthcare organizations free up data amongst each other and with their patients.

Microsoft and its partners are actively working with customers to deploy vaccine management solutions that enable registration capabilities for patients and providers, phased schedule for vaccinations, streamlined reporting, and management dashboarding with analytics and forecasting. These offerings are helping public health agencies and healthcare providers to deliver the COVID-19 vaccine to individuals in an efficient, equitable, and safe manner. The underlying technologies and approaches have been tested and deployed with prior COVID-19 use cases, including contact tracing, COVID-19 testing, and return-to-work and return-to-school programs. Last Friday, Microsoft posted a blog calling for strong tech partnerships in order to successfully deliver the COVID-19 vaccine.

Amazon has elbowed deeper into healthcare over the past few years, seeing significant space for disruption in the industry. A key strategic prong is healthcare cloud computing, a billion-dollar growth market. As payers and providers adopt more software-as-a-service cloud computing services to stay on top of the rising volume of patient data, running the gamut from family history to diagnoses and medications. Has most recently been marked by the e-commerce giant's launch of an online pharmacy this year. That move sent pharmacy stocks like CVS and Walgreens substantially down. Recently, Amazon launched its own telehealth service to facilitate doctor visits via video calls. Below are two Amazon highlights in December:

  • Announced last Tuesday, Dec 8th, 2020, AWS has rolled out a new data aggregation and standardization service for healthcare and life sciences organizations called Amazon HealthLake. The goal of the HIPAA-eligible tool is to make it simpler for healthcare organizations to manipulate, structure, and search their data.

  • This Wednesday, Dec 16th, 2020, Business Insider reported that Amazon is quietly building a business to offer primary healthcare services for other large employers. An extension of Amazon Care, the service will offer in-person and online doctor visits that can be scheduled through a mobile app.

It is easy to feel that the world of healthcare as we know it is in jeopardy with these upcoming changes, especially with the dearth of research on the impact of these changes on individual practices, health systems, and hospitals. But many of these innovations and initiatives can only be positive in the long-term. That is, as long as hospitals and doctors are willing to work alongside these changes.