By John P. Desmond, AI Trends Editor
Google is making a more pronounced move into healthcare, leveraging its power to acquire companies and to use AI technology to disrupt the industry.
From an investment point of view, the company’s move has attracted attention. Google now has 57 digital health startups in its portfolio, according to a recent account in The Motley Fool. While the November 2019 acquisition of Fitbit generated headlines, “its investments and partnerships with healthcare service providers are more likely to be the gateway to the next big thing,” the authors stated.
The company’s investments have been focused on improving electronic health records (EHRs), diagnostic capabilities, bundling healthcare services in the cloud, and leveraging its AI expertise to advance scientific research.
Alphabet, the parent company of Google, formed a partnership with EHR provider Meditech in 2019, making its EHRs available through Google Cloud as a subscription service. This was aimed at alleviating manual tasks for clinicians, such as charting, billing, and data entry. However, the EHR market share leader Epic, abandoned a project with Google last January after a privacy concern. Epic then chose to work with Microsoft’s Azure and Amazon Web Services. “For Google to be successful in this area, it will have to shake off the data privacy stigma that seems to follow it from project to project,” the Motley Fool authors stated.
Alphabet is aiming to become a platform for developers building healthcare solutions, as well. The company’s Cloud Healthcare API allows developers to build products in the cloud that can transfer data securely across multiple sources and leverage Alphabet’s machine learning and analytics.
In research, Alphabet can demonstrate its power in AI technology. The company’s life sciences arm, Verily, initiated a project in 2017 to describe a “baseline” for human health. By creating a platform and tools—including wearables—to collect health data, the company hopes to speed up future clinical trials. In 2019, four major pharmaceutical companies signed on to utilize the work. “This makes Alphabet’s pending $2.1 billion acquisition of Fitbit much clearer,” the authors stated. Fitbit users generate health care the company can use to create a more robust model for testing and developing new drugs.
“While it may not be competing directly with legacy healthcare companies, Alphabet is slowly pulling the industry into its own circle of competence,” the authors stated. “Hosting EHRs in the cloud, offering enhanced search and predictive capabilities, and automating diagnostic capabilities creates a value proposition that cash-strapped health systems and cost-conscious insurers will find hard to ignore.”
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