Is Big Tech bailing on healthcare? 9 insights from Providence digital innovation chief 

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While some have wondered if Big Tech is on its way out of healthcare — following Haven's disbanding and Google Health's recent restructuring — Providence's digital chief, Aaron Martin, said he believes tech giants expanding into the industry are here to stay. 

Mr. Martin, who serves as senior vice president and chief digital and innovation officer at Renton, Wash.-based Providence, penned a blog post Sept. 8 explaining why Big Tech isn't leaving healthcare, but rather changing its approach. 

Nine insights from Mr. Martin: 

1. Having spent nearly a decade of his career at Amazon, Mr. Martin wrote that he believes his experience working at the retail giant as well as Providence positions him uniquely to analyze Big Tech's pivots in healthcare over the past year. 

2. Mr. Martin pointed to Amazon as an example of being a "master of the pivot": "They've turned failures like the auctions platform they launched to compete with eBay in the early 2000s (yes, they had auctions) into Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA), which powers their third-party sales platform," he wrote, adding that the "business now accounts for more than half of their paid unit sales." 

3. While healthcare technology is challenging, not all the problems Big Tech is experiencing are just because "#healthcareishard," he wrote, adding that the industry has massive issues with the core platforms and technologies that health systems and payers use, which keep data siloed. 

4. Big Tech companies also experience internal challenges; many of Mr. Martin's former colleagues at these companies, he wrote, have said these organizations "have become enormous, complex, matrixed businesses themselves," and "it's harder to get hard things done in these organizations now," on top of having to manage a portfolio of businesses across many industry sectors. 

5. With these challenges in mind, Mr. Martin expects Big Tech companies to realign "and then make inroads where their strategy meshes well with their strengths." 

6. Mr. Martin said he predicts that Amazon will do well in DTC pharma, OTC and in the future, pharmacy management. Walmart, too, already is doing well in the pharmacy industry, but the jury is still out on how both retail companies will do with their care delivery initiatives. 

7. Microsoft has "wisely stuck to its core competency and strength in selling cloud services and technology," Mr. Martin wrote, but he pointed out that Amazon and Google are stiff competitors. And while Google is restructuring its health division, the company still has Verily, Fitbit and other healthcare properties. 

8. Apple, Mr. Martin said, could see continued success with its Apple Watch, which could be a great all-purpose platform for remote patient monitoring, but its current issue is that the device is only offered on iOS and is expensive, he wrote. 

9. Despite several missteps, Big Tech's expansion into healthcare is here to stay, as the opportunity is too big to miss out on, according to Mr. Martin. 

"Yes, big tech has made multiple unsuccessful forays into health care over the years, however they’ll always be back. The opportunity is just too big," he wrote. "There will also, no doubt, be several high-visibility failures in the venture-backed health tech sector as well that will lead the industry to question the viability of disruptive models, their investor’s commitment to healthcare, and more. We’ll hear again that health care is too hard."

Click here to view the full report.

 

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