Can Amazon, Apple and Google disrupt healthcare delivery? Key thoughts from 4 health system IT execs

Large technology companies including Amazon, Apple and Google have made well-documented moves into the healthcare space.

On both the operational and clinical sides, these companies leverage big data to make processes more precise and improve decision-making accuracy. But is a bigger, more disruptive technology around the corner?

Four hospital and health system IT executives discuss how Amazon, Apple and Google could realistically affect change in healthcare, and how they are preparing for the future.

Question: How do you think Amazon, Apple and Google will change healthcare? Is disruption possible?

Lance Spranger. CIO of St. John's Health (Jackson, Wyo.): They have already started. You're seeing health executives and physicians talk about data and artificial intelligence in reviewing imaging studies. The platforms can see thousands of slices of a CT scan and determine which are normal and where to focus efforts. Artificial intelligence and machine learning is where big tech partners can work with big healthcare. It will take further innovation and partnership, but whether it's from the EHR or imaging perspective, we can use technology to drive innovation and push forward digital medicine. Health systems and physicians must change their practices or be left behind. The ones that grasp the technology and use it to their advantage will succeed; those that don't will struggle.

We have been pumping data into EHRs for years, and data management is one of the things that Amazon and Google have done well. If they host the data, they can provide us with tools to help the decision-making process, such as precision medicine. We can customize it down to the individual level. As humans, we can't work fast enough to process the data, but machines can. Let's leverage that technical ability and organize data to help us make valuable decisions.

Michelle Conger. Chief Strategy Officer at OSF HealthCare (Peoria, Ill.): These companies are coming up with care models that don't require individuals to go to a doctor's office. They will use data to better understand their customers' (who are also our patients) wants and needs so they can deliver a customized experience. I do believe that, Amazon, Apple and Google could disrupt the industry, but I actually see their entry as a call to action and perhaps a source of future partnerships. It serves as a stimulus for healthcare providers to take control of our destinies by optimizing care, adding value for patients and communities and preparing to function in a new world — one that will definitely be digital.

Vinay Vaidya, MD. Vice President and CMIO of Phoenix Children's Hospital: My view is that of cautious optimism. The optimism stems from the rapid pace of disruption and innovation that information technology has made possible in the last decade, in almost every field. I have no doubt that technology will play a pivotal role in the coming decade, more specifically through data-driven improvements such as big data, machine learning, AI, and other technologies that are transforming healthcare as we know it today.

However, healthcare is a much more complex ecosystem, with many more moving parts than most other industries. This requires a thoughtful, deliberate, and iterative approach to innovation, rather than a magical belief that simply 'Uberization' of healthcare or the next Apple watch or Google glasses could be the magic bullet that will disrupt and transform healthcare.

Sameer Badlani, MD. CIO of Fairview (Minneapolis): The tech giants are not going to replace healthcare in the way we deliver healthcare when patients are really sick, at least from what I can see. We are the organizations that people trust with their lives. Amazon isn't going to open a hospital; Google won't open a birthing center. But they both are looking for discrete opportunities to get into the healthcare cycle where their competitiveness based on analytics, technology and mindset can disrupt and provide them additional revenue. That's perfectly fine with me because it provides us with even higher impetus to do better for our consumers and self-disrupt.

They can bring a different way of thinking to healthcare — a digital transformation to reconstruct the value proposition. We are going to disrupt ourselves in that way. I think it's really important to look at the challenges from Google and Amazon as making the healthcare experience better. They are really getting into wellness and diagnostics and will likely continue to pursue different spaces in the care delivery life cycle.

In the end it's up to us to reimagine and reinvent our value proposition for our patients. Dual disruption as it's called.

To participate in future Becker's Q&As, contact Laura Dyrda at

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