Tech giants have disrupted nearly every industry, but there’s still one massive stronghold that’s yet to give way to the disruptive power of Big Tech: healthcare. You can’t blame them for trying. How often in a generation is there a multi-trillion dollar industry still poised for change on an industrial-revolution scale? The desire to “fix” healthcare and its longstanding access, costs, and experience challenges is perhaps one of the most uncontroversial ideas in our country’s discourse today. But the inertia of how healthcare got where it is today is the very reason Big Tech can’t seem to crack the nut.
Deep pockets, top talent, and extensive reach alone aren’t enough to meaningfully change an industry that’s approaching 20 percent of the U.S. GDP. The attempts have been many from Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JP Morgan’s Haven to IBM Watson. Even giants like Apple, Microsoft, and Salesforce have had limited success. And now, Google Health’s recent dismantling is a final proof point for reporters and industry analysts alike that “Big Tech is not coming for healthcare.”
Too often Big Tech is overly fixated on building aspirational solutions for the future without being grounded in the reality of now. They have a great vision of where the industry ought to be, but fail to connect those solutions to the systems that are in place today.
That puts the onus on the healthcare industry to build the bridge to Big Tech’s promised future, which costs money, time, and expertise that the industry cannot spare. Healthcare is an industry where lives are at stake, which is why it reacts to this type of disruption like a rejected organ transplant.
That doesn’t mean the forces of technology that have upended every other industry, such as mobile, cloud, AI, and automation, won’t eventually change healthcare. But so far there have just been pockets of innovation.
Additionally, and critically, Big Tech companies are not, at their core, healthcare companies. Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Salesforce -- they all have massive cash-generating businesses that make up the bulk of their revenue and profit. Healthcare projects at these companies must fight for priority against these long-standing profit centers. They often lose.
Healthcare doesn’t reward dabblers. The complexities of healthcare’s challenges require an organization’s full attention. Slowly chipping away at niche use cases with innovations in pockets only adds to the fragmentation of technology and experience that already exists. It’s a vicious cycle: Fragmentation itself is the fundamental problem impeding healthcare from taking advantage of all these technological advances that could deliver the modern healthcare experience that clinicians and patients alike deserve. Rather than disruption, real change in healthcare will come from creative partnerships and collaboration between tech and the traditional health system.
In founding Commure, Hemant Taneja believed in “blending Silicon Valley’s software-driven, change the world mentality with the experience, empathy, and vision of healthcare”. By uniting the worlds of health and tech, we can help our brightest minds do the best work of their lives and usher in a new era of consumer-centric, data-driven, cloud-based healthcare that bends the cost curve and delights patients and clinicians alike.
If that sounds like a mission you want to be a part of, check out our open roles.
Howard Grant, JD, MD, Retired CEO Lahey Clinic and Health System Former CMO Geisinger Health