Home » Blog Articles » Denied Claims » The Growing Presence of Big Tech in Healthcare

An earlier ABCS RCM article explored the recent trend of big technology corporations entering the healthcare industry. Big tech companies are traditionally known for everything from software, hardware, internet applications and social media platforms. However, they are now looking to expand beyond these industry sectors.

Change in healthcare is not a new concept. Societal demands, new demographic patterns and economic demands are often the primary drivers behind these changes. Currently, healthcare innovation is one of the crucial growth sectors in the economy, with many U.S. states competing to become the next healthcare/technology hub.

Over the last decade, tech giants have been expanding their presence in the healthcare sector. Some of this expansion is a natural fit, due to concerns about data security, the promise of blockchain technology as well as the growing demand for new medical specialties like clinic informatics. Many of the big technology companies are well positioned to play a larger role in the medical industry.

These companies have financially done well in recent years with the total combined revenue of Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Alphabet, (Google’s parent company), generating $166.9 billion in the third quarter of 2018. This breaks down to $55.64 billion per month in combined revenue. It is an understatement to say that they are well positioned to enter the healthcare marketplace.

Some people display a certain exuberance about technology in the healthcare industry, as if it is a silver bullet for every problem or inefficiency. There is a notion in modern technological circles that small changes will add up and create bigger changes at a later point. New emergent innovations will generate exponential growth due to the law of accelerating returns. One reason that some industry observers give for this accelerating change in the system is the expansion of artificial intelligence in healthcare.

An optimistic model of a technology laden-future has patients continuously self-monitoring themselves, which reduces doctor and hospital visits. Would this small technologically induced change totally disrupt the healthcare system? Could these minor changes mean that healthcare providers have more free time?

As one recent article has suggested, what if the use of better patient self-monitoring devices and systems could encourage insurance companies to “begin offering reduced premiums to patients who invest in their own preventative care?” This could disrupt the healthcare industry in such a way that focusing on “wellness gained emphasis over sickness.” Yet, some physicians and other health professionals are apprehension about the rate of technological change and the promise of medical innovations.  

Over 90 percent of U. S. health systems have been computerized during the past decade. Healthcare professionals have often been told that computer technology would make their work environment greener, faster and better. But this does not always feel like the case.

Instead of the technology working for the demands of people, there is a feeling that people have to work for the demands of the technology. A 2016 study found that physicians spent about two hours doing computer work for every hour spent face to face with their patient. In the examination room, physicians devoted half of their patient time facing the screen to do electronic tasks.

Whether patients and physicians are ready, the major technology companies are already trying to disrupt the U.S. healthcare industry.

The tech giant Amazon recently purchased the online pharmacy PillPack. Through this purchase, Amazon has gained access to the pharmacy industry. There is also speculation that Amazon will move to sell prescription drugs through its online platform and provide medical services to its own employees. Amazon has started selling private-label, over-the-counter medical products and medications. The tech giant has also started offering Medicaid recipients discounted access to its Prime subscription service.

Another way to gain access to the healthcare industry is to strategically partner with a well-known healthcare company. One example of this is Microsoft Corporation joining forces with Walgreens Boots Alliance. Microsoft is better known for computer software, consumer electronics and personal computers; while Walgreens is the second largest pharmaceutical store chain in the U.S.

Microsoft is pushing beyond just offering data access, digital storage and computer processing. The tech company’s expertise is in adapting the cloud to specific commercial applications for a wider array of businesses. They now want to create and offer healthcare-focused applications to healthcare industry.

According to Walgreens press release, the two companies plan to develop new health care delivery models, technology and retail innovations to advance and improve the future of healthcare. The companies will combine the power of Microsoft’s cloud technology and AI platform, healthcare investments, and new retail solutions with Walgreen’s customer reach, convenient locations, outpatient healthcare services and industry expertise to make healthcare delivery more personal, affordable and accessible.

Microsoft and Walgreens plan to work together in order to create more seamless connections between consumers, healthcare providers, pharmaceutical manufacturers and insurance payers. The hope is that better coordination between all of these interests will lower healthcare costs and improve access to affordable care.

Other examples of technology companies partnering with healthcare firms includes the research and development company Calico partnering with biotech firms C4 Therapeutics and later with AbbVie pharmaceuticals. Calico is an Alphabet (Google) funded medical company which is researching everything from Parkinson disease to cancer. At the same time, Google medical subsidiary has formed a wide variety of partnerships with numerous academic institutions.

Throughout the healthcare industry, sponsorships between traditional medical organizations and large technology corporations have developed. For example, in 2018, the American Medical Association announced the winners of its AMA Health Care Interoperability and Innovation Challenge.

The goal of the challenge was to use patient-generated health data to improve clinical outcomes, create better physician workflows or reduce healthcare costs. A total of Thirty-six software developers and technology companies submitted healthcare solutions to the challenge. The three winning digital health companies were located in Florida, Nebraska and Israel.

Interestingly, the AMA’s challenge was sponsored by Google Cloud, with the top three winners paid in Google Cloud Credits. However, the unmentioned overall winner of this challenge is Google (Alphabet).

The tech giant already leads the industry in online advertising (PPC) and search engine use. Events like these actually help companies like Google expand its technological capabilities and discover new ways to organize and manage healthcare data. Advanced data analytics and machine learning is seen as viable method to discover patterns and trends while reducing the overall healthcare expenses.

Big tech companies like Apple have partnered with numerous hospitals and health systems in order to implement the company’s Apple Health Records system. The company states that their new platform makes it easier for patients to see and save their personal health records.

Even newer technology-based firms like Uber and Lyft are promoting non-emergency medical transportation services as a way to shuttle patients to and from medical appointments in partnership with healthcare providers and insurance payers.

The stated goal of this disruption is to alter the American healthcare system. Specific goals include improving the patient’s experience, simplifying healthcare, adding more transparency and reducing overall cost. The other unstated, but very pressing, goal is to generate a profit by capturing a piece of the industry that, by 2017, employees the most American workers.

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Advanced Billing & Consulting Services (ABCS RCM) is a revenue cycle management company that provides services to a variety of healthcare specialties. For addition information about this topic or general questions about healthcare revenue cycle management, please contact us. Besides offering medical billing services, ABCS RCM, also offers experienced credentialing services, website design/SEO and workforce management tools (SaaS) for I-DD agencies.

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