Bionic.ly put together a rather comprehensive list of Apple’s and Google’s digital healthcare milestones on their website. Even if you aren’t going to use or purchase all of them, it’s worth considering as we gain traction on the ever-changing healthcare landscape. For sure, it’s exciting. Startups are rushing to the market, both disrupting existing products — our Atlas.md EMR could definitely be considered a disruptive technology — and reifying existing problems e.g. digital EMRs that help doctors navigate exponentially crippling ICD-10 codes.
Either way, big players are preparing the necessary infrastructure to capitalize on this digital health revolution. Our opinion is that you shouldn’t be blindsided by the reality: healthcare can improve and happiness can increase when we see the majority of healthcare scale down. We’ve seen it in effect. However, it’s a delicate balance. We love using an iPad in the office. We get excited when new apps help us connect more effectively with our patients. We also want to be careful that as behemoths like Apple and Google become more integrated into our localized efforts, that we don’t wind up with billion dollar corporations cozying up with the same massive insurance companies that have addled the U.S. healthcare system with Red Tape.
Thankfully, Apple and Google are not the only heavyweights entering into the healthcare arena. Stephen Davies of Bionic.ly does a great job of summing it up. His highlights include:
- Sony’s partnership with M3, a Japanese medical company, as well as Illumina, a genetics company based in Silicon Valley. They’re creating a ‘genome information platform business’.
- Samsung’s recent FDA approval for S-Health, a fitness app.
- Xbox Fitness, Xbox One’s fitness service, and its 1.5m users. MobileHealthNews reports there are talks about expanding it to mobile.
- Nintendo’s announcement in January that it too wants to enter the healthcare market.
However, these events pale in comparison to what Apple and Google have been doing in the digital healthcare space. Davies created a comprehensive list of their milestones here. Noteworthy announcements from Google include:
- April 2012 – Google Glass project i.e. that head-mounted wearable technology device. Immediate speculation arises that Glass can – and will – integrate with digital health related activities. Philips, the Dutch tech company, is exploring how it can be used in the operating room.
- Sept 2013 – Calico, a newly formed company, will focus “on health and well-being, in particular the challenge of aging and associated diseases,” says Google co-founder, Larry Page. Oh, and Calico’s led by Arthur D. Levinson, chairman of Genentech and Apple.
- Dec 2013 – Acquisition of Boston Dynamics. They developed BigDog, that freaky, dog-like robot that can walk over difficult terrain and interact with objects and looks like a precursor to Robocop’s ED-209 Enforcement Droid. Watch this thing in action here.
- Jan 2014 – Acquisition of DeepMind Technologies, a UK startup valued $400 million – $500 million. No joke, this company works on artificial intelligence and ‘deep learning’ machines that are capable of exhibiting a human-like understanding of our environment. Wow!
- Jan 2014 – Smart contact lens capable of measuring glucose levels. Google’s blog said, “It’s still early days for this technology, but we’ve completed multiple clinical research studies which are helping to refine our prototype.” This is pretty dang cool and a definite game-changer in managing Type-1 and -2 diabetes.
- Jan 2014 – Acquisition of Nest Labs. This company makes a learning thermostat and smoke detector. Could home monitors be used to encourage healthy behaviors? Only time will tell.
Noteworthy announcements from Apple include:
- Feb 2013 – Patent filing for wearable technology. We’ve been reading lately how this trend isn’t looking so promising. Though Forbes questions is wearable tech a fad or the future?
- July 2013 – Hiring of Michael O’Reilly from Massimo, a digital tech company that developed a pulse oximeter for the iPhone. That’s also pretty dang neat.
- July 2013 – Hiring of Paul Deneve, CEO of Yves Saint Laurent. Okay, now we’re getting silly. But then again, if wearable tech is going to make people healthier, it’s also going to have to make people cooler. It’s the nature of the social animal, and part of our survival mechanisms.
- Oct 2013 – Announcement of Angela Ahrendts’s hiring. She is the former CEO of Burberry, brought on board mid-year as head of retail and e-commerce. Is she going to assist with making wearable technology a must-buy item?
- Nov 2013 – Acquiring of PrimeSense, a motion sensor company based in Israel, for $360 million. PrimeSense designs technologies a range of clients, some in healthcare. They even made Microsoft Kinect, a proto technology that’s encouraging living room athleticism.
- Jan 2014 – Hiring of Nancy Daugherty from digital health company, Sano Intelligence. She is coveted hardware engineer.
- Jan 2014 – Apple executives meeting with the FDA regarding iOS 8. Allegedly they discussed something called Healthbook which is supposed to monitor things like health, fitness and workout information via that iWatch.
- Feb 2014 – Hiring of Roy J.E.M Raymann, an expert on sleep. He used to work at Philips who might be helping with the introduction of the iWatch.
Bionic.ly points out Apple’s movements and their alignment with the anticipated iWatch. Google, though, has diversified their investments, so who knows what direction they’re heading. It turns out they hired famed futurist Ray Kurzweil to work on machine learning and language processing. And after their $3.2 billion acquisition of Nest, it looks like Google doesn’t want us to just carry them around. They are gunning for our homes, and our bodies, too. As for us docs still working in the office (which, by the way, is already merging the physical and digital space e.g. digital visits via wireless devices), we’re going to have to stay on our feet. As long as the machines help us do our job better, and run our businesses more effectively, agile doctors are in a great position. Our only concern would be if companies like Apple and Google, instead of clashing over innovation and technology, wind up wedded to the red tape of bureaucracy. In that case, we might feel like Davids working against a Goliath, the very technology in our hands and in our pockets that was supposed to help us.