How big tech companies can have a real impact

Technologists can’t disrupt healthcare without a complete understanding of the operating model; it’s time for them to focus efforts and collaborate.

The healthcare industry in the US is a $3 trillion market, and despite big tech companies like Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook trying to take over various aspects of it for years, they've failed miserably.

The reason? Without a complete understanding of the operating model, healthcare can't be disrupted by technologists, specifically on the health system side.

The new CEO of Cerner, David Feinberg, came from Google and oversaw Google Health. According to Business Insider, a letter stated that the Google Health division was disbanding. The employees are transitioning to different parts of the company.

Meanwhile, Apple is shutting down its HealthHabit app to focus on Apple Watch development. This is a significant health initiative developed inside of Apple's clinics. Employees used the software to track fitness objectives, control high blood pressure and communicate with doctors via the Internet.

David Chou

There were hints that HealthHabit's early success in a small trial with 500 patients showed that more than 91 percent of patients lowered their blood pressure through lifestyle treatment.

So what should big tech do?

Open the wallet

Technologists cannot disrupt healthcare without a complete understanding of the operating model, specifically on the health system side. Big tech companies must look past the partnership model. They must buy a few hospitals to get further involved with understanding healthcare operations.

This is an alternative approach for companies like Google and Apple to tackle their healthcare strategy. How cool would it be to be an Apple hospital if your parent company is Apple? 

Apple and Google have the resources to buy a few distressed hospitals. Do you think big tech will continue its disappointing run into healthcare, or will it finally get involved with purchasing a facility?

Tackle a specific segment

Let's use Apple in this use case, Apple has a clear opportunity on the messaging platform, and this platform can be vital for clinical communications. I have always said that if Apple decides to make iMessage HIPAA compliant, it will instantly pick up market share for secure texting.

Let's take the Apple ecosystem a step further with Facetime. Facetime can be used for virtual care in tandem with iMessage making it a strong player in clinical communication.

Creating a health cloud is NOT a solution.

There are many different healthcare interoperability clouds on the market offered by every big tech vendor right now. Which one should you choose? The answer is not so easy, because each company promises to be better than the next. Some offer pipelines for information management, and others focus on digital imaging communications in medicine (DICOM).

This approach is complicated because of one reason. You need to establish trust with the health system to capture all of the data for insight. Many organizations are still hesitant with this approach, unfortunately.

Co-creation is the way of the future

Healthcare institutions must think creatively with new affiliations and partnership models to meet the current evolving market environment's strategic needs and financial demands. I recommend the co-creation framework outlined below.

Big Tech and hospitals must align on the joint model. This gives a vendor the ability to test its solution in an operational organization with live patients. The hospital can focus on the core mission of patient care while benefiting from a customized solution tailored for its operating model. Investments of either time or money by both the vendor and hospital are crucial for success.

Co-creation means sharing and opening up. Focus on determining the intellectual property management structure upfront and accelerate the discussion until agreement. The value-creation model must focus on the outcome of the solution and the impact that the potential effect may have on the industry. While the IP discussion is just one major topic, it can potentially become a great asset for both parties. After you have determined the IP, please keep an open mind and view the venture as a joint partnership in which both parties address their weaknesses by combining their strengths.

What's next

Big tech must understand that healthcare is complicated and the industry needs innovative ideas, but many factors often kill them. Many fresh ideas die out because they're unproven and have limited value. On the other hand, there may be a tremendous creative notion that delivers benefits to patients and hospitals, but the political bureaucracy slows the process down, and the idea fizzles out as a result. Healthcare organizations must figure out the best way to fast-track their ideas from concept to product.

David Chou is Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer of Harris Health System and founder of

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