Strategists agree that big tech is disrupting healthcare, so how will clinical laboratories and anatomic pathology groups serve virtual healthcare customers?
Visionary XPRIZE founder Peter Diamandis, MD, sees big tech as “the doctor of the future.” In an interview with Fast Company promoting his new book, “The Future Is Faster Than You Think,” Diamandis, who is the Executive Chairman of the XPRIZE Foundation, said that the healthcare industry is “phenomenally broken” and that Apple, Amazon, and Google could do “a thousandfold” better job.
Diamandis, who also founded Singularity University, a global learning and innovation community that uses exponential technologies to tackle worldwide challenges, according to its website, said, “We’re going to see Apple and Amazon and Google and all the data-driven companies that are in our homes right now become our healthcare providers.”
If this prediction becomes reality, it will bring significant changes in the traditional ways that consumers and patients have selected providers and access healthcare services. In turn, this will require all clinical laboratories and pathology groups to develop business strategies in response to these developments.
Amazon Arrives in Healthcare Markets
Several widely-publicized business initiatives by Amazon, Google, and Apple substantiate these predictions. According to an Amazon blog, healthcare insurers, providers, and pharmacy benefit managers are already operating HIPAA-eligible Amazon Alexa for:
- Appointments at urgent care facilities,
- Tracking prescriptions,
- Employee wellness incentive management, and
- Care updates following hospital discharge.
For example, the My Children’s Enhanced Recovery After Cardiac Surgery (ERAS Cardiac) program at Boston Children’s Hospital uses Amazon Alexa to share updates on patients’ recovery, the blog noted.
Alexa also enables HIPAA-compliant blood glucose updates as part of the Livongo for Diabetes program. “Our members now have the ability to hear their last blood glucose check by simply asking Alexa,” said Jennifer Schneider, MD, President of Livongo, a digital health company, in a news release.
And Cigna’s “Answers By Cigna” Alexa “skill” gives members who install the option responses to 150 commonly asked health insurance questions, explained a Cigna news release.
Google Strikes Agreements with Health Systems
Meanwhile, Google has agreements with Ascension and Mayo Clinic for the use of Google’s cloud computing capability and more, Business Insider reported.
“Google plans to disrupt healthcare and use data and artificial intelligence,” Toby Cosgrove, Executive Advisor to the Google Cloud team and former Cleveland Clinic President, told B2B information platform PYMNTs.com.
PYMNTs speculated that Google, which recently acquired Fitbit, could be aiming at connecting consumers’ Fitbit fitness watch data with their electronic health records (EHRs).
Apple Works with Insurers, Integrating Health Data
In “UnitedHealthcare Offers Apple Watches to Wellness Program Participants Who Meet Fitness Goals; Clinical Laboratories Can Participate and Increase Revenues,” Dark Daily noted that by “leveraging the popularity of mobile health (mHealth) wearable devices, UnitedHealthcare (UHC) has found a new way to incentivize employees participating in the insurer’s Motion walking program.” UHC offered free Apple Watches to employees willing to meet or exceed certain fitness goals.
The Apple Watch health app also enables people to access medical laboratory test results and vaccination records, and “sync up” information with some hospitals, Business Insider explained.
Virtual Care, a Payer Priority: Survey
Should healthcare providers feel threatened by the tech giants? Not necessarily. However, employers and payers surveyed by the National Business Group on Health (NBGH), an employer advocacy organization, said they want to see more virtual care solutions, a news release stated.
“One of the challenges employers face in managing their healthcare costs is that healthcare is delivered locally, and change is not scalable. It’s a market-by-market effort,” said Brian Marcotte, President and CEO of the NBGH, in the news release. “Employers are turning to market-specific solutions to drive meaningful changes in the healthcare delivery system.
“Virtual care solutions bring healthcare to the consumer rather than the consumer to healthcare,” Marcotte continue. “They continue to gain momentum as employers seek different ways to deliver cost effective, quality healthcare while improving access and the consumer experience.”
More than 50% of employers said their top initiative for 2020 is implementing more virtual care solutions, according to NBGH’s “2020 Large Employers Health Care Strategy and Plan Design Survey.”
AI Will Affect Clinical Laboratories and Pathology Groups
Diamandis is not the only visionary predicting big tech will continue to disrupt healthcare. During a presentation at last year’s Executive War College Conference on Laboratory and Pathology Management in New Orleans, Ted Schwab, a Los Angeles-area healthcare strategist and entrepreneur, said artificial intelligence (AI) will have a growing role in the healthcare industry.
Schwab’s perspectives on healthcare’s transformation are featured in an article in The Dark Report, Dark Daily’s sister publication, titled, “Strategist Explains Key Trends in Healthcare’s Transformation.”
“If you use Google in the United States to check symptoms, you’ll get five-million to 11-million hits,” Schwab told The Dark Report. “Clearly, there’s plenty of talk about symptom checkers, and if you go online now, you’ll find 350 different electronic applications that will give you medical advice—meaning you’ll get a diagnosis over the internet. These applications are winding their way somewhere through the regulatory process.
“The FDA just released a report saying it plans to regulate internet doctors, not telehealth doctors and not virtual doctors,” he continued. “Instead, they’re going to regulate machines. This news is significant because, today, within an hour of receiving emergency care, 45% of Americans have googled their condition, so the cat is out of the bag as it pertains to us going online for our medical care.”
Be Proactive, Not Reactive, Health Leaders Say
Healthcare leaders need to work on improving access to primary care, instead of becoming defensive or reactive to tech companies, several healthcare CEOs told Becker’s Hospital Review.
Clinical laboratory leaders are advised to keep an eye on these virtual healthcare trends and be open to assisting doctors engaged in telehealth services and online diagnostic activities.
—Donna Marie Pocius
2020 Executive War College on Lab and Pathology Management – April 28-29
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